Owls’ caretaker boss Sean McAuley continued his unbeaten run in charge of the Owls as an injury time winner from super-sub Steve Maclean secured all three points for a rejuvinated Owls team in an entertaining clash with Peter Taylor’s Crystal Palace at Hillsborough on Tuesday night.
The near 20,000 Hillsborough crowd were treated to some fine, although uncommon, football on a freezing October night against a poor Palace team lead by former Owls favourite Shefki Kuqi.
The Owls came flying out of the blocks after picking up an encouraging 2-2 draw at Wolves on Saturday with Deon Burton and Marcus Tudgay both testing Palace stopper Scott Flinders in the early exchanges.
Owls winger Wade Small was giving the Palace defence a hard time and saw a long-range effort over his own fly just wide of the Palace goal while Chris Brunt also tested the former Barnsley stopper.
But the breakthrough went to Palace – and who other than former Owl Shefki Kuqi to open the scoring. Left-back John Hills completely mis-judged Ben Watson’s throughball leaving the flying Finn to power home by Brad Jones to give Palace the lead against the run of play.
The rejuvinated Owls team kept their heads up and continued to press for the equaliser as Marcus Tudgay, Hills and the impressive Kenny Lunt all had chances on goal.
The former Crewe man was making his third consecutive start for the Owls and his magic soon became apparent to the Wednesday faithful with his inch-perfect long-balls and his hard-work in the midfield of midfield alongside the tireless Yoann Folly.
And the Owls finally found the breakthrough on the stroke of half-time as Tudgay’s neat turn inside the Palace box allowed him the time to stretch and slot home in front of the Hillsborough kop.
Wednesday could have turned the game on its head going into the break as Deon Burton had a golden opportunity tom make it 2-1 as he broke free of his marker in first-half stoppage time but he chose the wrong option and the Palace defence manager to scramble the ball to safety.
Half-Time: Wednesday 1-1 Palace
Wednesday made a slow start to the second half and were almost made to pay as Madjod Bougherra failed to read the danger and allowed Tom Soares to race towards goal. Bougherra almost brought Soares down but the referee allowed the advantage and the Algerian defender raced back to put in a timely tackle and make amends for his error.
But it wasnt long before Soares got his revenge as he leapt on to a Clinton Morrison ball and worringly raced through the middle of the Wednesday defence before slotting a cool finish by Brad Jones to regain the lead for the Eagles.
The Wenesday of old may have struggled to come from behind once never mind twice in the same game, but Sean McAuley’s attacking Owls side continued to put pressure on the Palace goal as the dominated the final 20 minutes.
The electric Wade Small continued to cause problems for Palace as he saw a long-range effort go just over the bar before Madjid Bougherra saw his goalbound header cleared off the line from a Kenny Lunt corner.
The Owls set-pieces were proving frustrating for McAuley and the Owls fans alike but Kenny Lunt finally found the right ball for the equaliser on 74 minutes as Graham Coughlan raised highest to head home and give the Owls a sniff of victory.
Wednesday pushed forward for victory but the Hillsborough stands started to empty when Chris Brunt lashed his close-range effort in to the Palace fans in the Leppings Lane end a minute from time.
But the Owls were to have the last say as sub Steve Maclean was in the right place at the right time to net the winner from Frank Simek’s long throw – and get booked for his wild celebrations with the Owls fans in the North Stand.
The result sees Wednesday make it three wins on the spin at Hillsborough – an unthinkable achievement weeks ago. Wednesday are now unbeaten in three matches going in to the crunch clash with Leicester City at Hillsborough on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).
Sean McAuley told BBC Sport:
‘I can’t fault the performance of the players at all so far.
‘When I got this job I talked about having the right mentality. I wanted them to be free and to concentrate on the performance above anything else.
‘We have managed to focus solely on the performance. We have more belief and the results have helped with that.’
Peter Taylor told BBC Sport:
‘It was totally unprofessional for us to lose that game.
‘I can’t understand why our players don’t sense danger from set-pieces. It is something we work on in training but it just didn’t happen for us today.
‘It was an unprofessional performance. We should have been 1-0 up at half-time but we just could not hold on.’