Date: 11th February 2006 at 7:25pm
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Going into the clash with Iain Dowie’s promotion hopefuls, Paul Sturrock would have been happy with a point, but on reflection the Owls could have come away with all three but for a number of missed chances.

Loanee Leon Best was the main culprit and could have left Hillsborough with the matchball. Palace also had their chances but never really got out of first gear in a frustrating match for the Londoners.

Chris Adamson was making his first start between the sticks this season after the injury to David Lucas. Graham Coughlan passed a late fitness test and partnered Richard Wood in the centre of defence, while Drissa Diallo filled in for Frankie Simek at right-back. Lee Bullen has now played in every position for the Owls after filling in on the left-wing. Deon Burton continued up front alongside Barry Corr. Steven Maclean made the bench.

Palace went with Andy Johnson and Dougie Freedman up front despite the return of Clinton Morrison – who only made the bench. Experienced midfielder Michael Hughes returned to the side in the middle of the park, replacing Ben Watson. Fitz Hall was serving the second of his three match ban so Mark Huson continued alongside Emmerson Boyce in the centre of the Palace defence. Mikele Leigertwood was also recalled to the team following his midweek suspension.

Wednesday knew how difficult the game would be against arguably the best attack in the Championship, and it was Andy Johnson who created the first chance of the game after getting the better of Graham Coughlan. Johnson tried to put partner Dougie Freedman through on goal but Richard Wood was well placed to clear the danger.

The Eagles were to find their chances few and far between though, as Wednesday took the game to their visitors in the hope for a vital three points.

Set-pieces seemed to be a problem for the South Londoners, who couldn’t cope with inswinging corners from Chris Brunt – playing on the right-hand side of midfield, and Lee Bullen who was proving himself to be somewhat of a set-piece specialist following his goalkeeping antics at Millwall last week.

A Brunt corner was heading straight for the back of the net before Mark Hudson scrambled across the goalmouth to head the ball over the bar, but to the Owls dismay the referee pointed for a goal kick.

Corners from the other side were proving just as dangerous for the Owls, through the unlikely source of Lee Bullen. One of the Scot’s corners resulted in a goalmouth scramble but Richard Wood failed to take advantage shooting over from just five yards out.

Deon Burton seemed desperate to open his account with the Owls, but limped off just before the break with Leon Best – a target for Palace in the transfer window – his replacement.

Best could, and should, have put Wednesday ahead minutes later. A flick on from the impressive Barry Corr found Best one-on-one with the Hungarian international Gabor Kiraly but he was unable to take advantage, forcing a good save from the Palace stopper.

Despite Wednesday looking the better side, the visitors could have gone in at half-time with a 1-0 lead. Similar to Best’s chance at the other end, Dougie Freedman this time found himself clear of the Owls defence, but Chris Adamson produced an excellent save in just his third start for the Owls.

Palace didn’t look like a team pushing for promotion to the Premiership, and manager Iain Dowie made a change at the break. Tom Soares was brought on to replace Aki Riihilahti.

The second half continued in much the same way the first had ended, with Wednesday having the better of the play. Some sloppy Palace defending saw Leon Best attacking the Palace goal, but his effort was deflected over the bar for what seemed to be a corner to the Owls, but the referee caused uproar amongst Owls fans by pointing for a Palace goal-kick.

Best was once again the centre of attention when he missed probably the best chance of the match . A cross from fellow loanee Yoann Folly was flicked on by Barry Corr. Best just had to make a connection to put Wednesday ahead, but his tame effort fell in to the arms of Kiraly.

Dowie was again forced to change his hand just after the hour mark when Andy Johnson fell foul to a tough challenge from Drissa Diallo. Even from the stands you could see the stud marks on Johnson’s leg, and he was replaced by Clinton Morrison in attack. Marco Reich was also forced off and replaced by Jon Macken.

The biggest cheer of the game came when the Hillsborough faithful saw Steve Maclean jogging to the bench ready to make his first appearance of the season. Last season’s top scorer got a standing ovation when he came on to replace Barry Corr with 20 minutes remaining. Corr himself was impressive, again linking well with Burton and Best in attack.

Maclean looked sharp and creative despite his long absence from the team, and his first contribution of the game came when he put Best through on goal. His neat pass also found Marcus Tudgay at the edge of the box, but the substitute could only find ‘keeper Kiraly in his way.

Palace had a decent chance late on but Dougie Freedman could only drag his shot over the bar from the edge of the box. The Palace faithful made their feelings known with chants of ‘What a load of rubbish’ towards the final whistle.

It seems like a point gained for Wednesday, and despite dropping a place in the league table they move a point further from trouble. Had the Owls taken their chance, it could have been even better for Paul Sturrock – who now faces a tough trip to in-form Coventry City on Wednesday evening.

Player Ratings

Adamson 7
Played well in his first match of the season between the sticks. Made a crucial one-on-one save from Dougie Freedman late in the first half which could have changed the game.

Diallo 6
Sometimes looked like a liability at times. His slip in the second half, and his mis-understanding with Adamson in the first half nearly cost the Owls. Competed well physically with the Palace attack though.

Wood 9
Never gave the Palace strikers a sniff of goal, and Johnson look liked he had enough of Woody when he limped off on the hour mark. Only let down was his first-half miss, but we’ll let him off…

Coughlan 8
Done for pace in the first half from Johnson – but his leg’s won’t be getting any younger. Him and Woody have certainly formed a good partnership in the centre of defence.

Gilbert 6
Has struggled for form in the last two matches – but it doesn’t help when his left-sided partner changes every week.

Brunt 5
The one let-down from today’s match. Unless the ball’s at his feet he can be a liability, and frustrated Wednesday fans with his lazy attitude. He certainly turned up as Beckham’s missus today!

Folly 7
Looks like he’s finally gelling in the team – his best performance today. Get’s stuck in and has a good engine.

O’Brien 6
Can be frustrating at times with his inability to use his right foot. May be the one to miss out when Glenn Whelen returns from suspension.

Bullen 7
Has now played in all positions in an Owls shirt after being used on the left-wing for most of the match. Surprisingly produced some fine corners.

Burton 6
Didn’t make much of an impact for the Owls and may be the one to miss out when Maclean returns to full fitness.

Corr 7
Some people may love him, so may hate him, but he certainly gives his all and contributed well today. Has a great first touch for a big lad, and held the ball up well today.

Best 7
Missed a hatful of chances for the Owls but I’m sure once he gets one more will follow. Looks to be in the right place at the right time – something the Owls have been lacking recently. Linked well with Maclean later on.

Maclean 6
Didn’t have much time to impress but looked good saying he’s bveen out so long. Made a couple of chances for Best and Tudgay. Here’s hoping he’s fit for the derby!
Only had one chance as a sub but failed to find the back of the net.

Paul Sturrock told BBC Sport
‘With the disruption with the flu, injuries and suspensions, if somebody had offered me a point at the start of the day I would have taken it.

‘But by the end of the day we were disappointed we didn’t nick something.

‘We had to cancel training on Friday and sent home anyone with symptoms, we couldn’t afford to train in case we picked up injuries.’

Iain Dowie told BBC Sport
‘It’s a strange world you’re in when you’re in an entertainment sport and you try to take a quick free-kick and get booked for it.

Palace’s Andy Johnson was hurt by a tackle – which did not appease Dowie.

‘Someone can cut your thigh in half and it’s nothing, although I’m not apportioning blame on the tackle.’