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Monday, May 03, 2010

Big Match Review - Sheffield Wednesday 2 Crystal Palace 2

Sheffield Wednesday 2-2 Crystal Palace
Sunday May 2, Hillsborough, (Att: 37,121)

Crystal Palace earned the draw which was enough to keep them in the Championship and condemn Wednesday to League One football next season.

Going into the game the scenario was clear - anything less than a win for the hosts and they would be relegated. If they did collect all three points, it would be the Londoners playing in League One from August.

In front of a full and passionate house at Hillsborough, the first sight of goal went to the visitors. The influential Darren Ambrose pulling the ball back for Shaun Derry.

His shot was well saved from close range by Lee Grant as Wednesday survived an early scare.

Palace, only still involved in the relegation fight after being deducted ten points for entering administration, were showing the greater composure and quality on the ball.

At the heart of that was Ambrose, and he forced Grant into action again with a free kick beaten away by the Owls goalkeeper.

It was no surprise then when Palace took the lead after 24 minutes. Ambrose's corner catching out a static home defence and Alan Lee had space to crash a header home.

Wednesday were stung into action, however, while it may have been Paul Hart in the technical area, Palace were still showing the kind of grit and determination associated with their former boss Neil Warnock.

Their physicality and strength in the air at both ends was clearly on show. Time after time, hopeful balls lofted up by the Owls were meat and drink to Palace centre halves Matt Lawrence and Paddy McCarthy.

Just when it seemed the Eagles would head into the break ahead though, Wednesday grabbed an equaliser.

Danny Butterfield failed to deal with a long ball forward and, instead of clearing, he was robbed by Leon Clarke who made his way into the box and curled the ball past Julian Speroni from the tightest of angles.

It was the lift Alan Irvine's side so badly required, and set up a pulsating second half where Wednesday knew a goal would be enough.

In torrential rain over the Steel City, the home side ratcheted up the pressure with a succession of set plays and balls into the box causing trouble for a nervous Palace defence.

It was a game which was quite literally putting the 'blood' into the 'blood and thunder'. Wednesday's James O'Connor and Darren Potter both suffering cuts to their head after challenges from Palace skipper Derry.

Luke Varney then had a fantastic opportunity to put the Owls ahead - however, his one-on-one effort was thwarted by the excellent Speroni.

Despite their pressure, it was the away side, having ridden the early storm from Wednesday, who re-established their lead with their first attack of the second half.

Darren Ambrose celebrates the goal which kept Palace in the Championship

Wednesday failed to deal with a throw-in and Sean Scannell was able to wriggle away and pull the ball back for Ambrose to drive the ball home from inside the box.

It was a crucial goal from Palace's top scorer and knocked the stuffing out of the home side's survival hopes.

The Yorkshire side responded though, and only a last ditch tackle from McCarthy stopped ex-Palace man Tom Soares when he was through on goal.

With time running out, and Palace dropping deeper, Wednesday threw on Francis Jeffers and began to pump the ball forward in hope.

And it was the substitute who missed a great chance to level with ten minutes remaining - failing to connect to Jermaine Johnson's inviting cross from the right.

However, with just three minutes left of normal time, Wednesday did pull level. A long throw from Tommy Spurr was flicked on by Varney and captain Darren Purse crashed the ball in at the back post.

It set-up a grandstand finish as Wednesday piled forward in five minutes of stoppage time - looking for the goal which would mean salvation.

Open at the back, Palace almost sealed the deal as a two-on-one breakaway saw Stern John denied by Grant and Wednesday scramble the ball off the line.

It would only prove to be a temporary reprieve for the Owls though as seconds later Mike Dean blew the final whistle to confirm Palace were safe and Wednesday doomed.

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