Football: Warhurst's tally rises

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday. . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Crystal Palace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

THE statisticians will dwell on Paul Warhurst's opening goal in this match of fluctuating fortunes. It was his eighth in six games since his conversion to striker for the injured David Hirst. And he became the first Wednesday player to score in six consecutive matches since Redfern Froggatt in November 1958.

But the purists will remember Chris Waddle's contribution to the goal and the game. Nigel Worthington burst down the left and held off defenders long enough to find Waddle, who looked up and stroked a cross with the outside of his left foot for Warhurst to volley home from eight yards.

Waddle's mesmeric footwork, pin-point delivery and positional sense gave Wednesday the edge in a first half in which they should have overwhelmed a Palace bent on swamping the midfield and spoiling at the back. Peter Shirtliff had the ball in the net from Waddle's cross but was offside, Nigel Martyn acrobatically saved Waddle's 30-yard free-kick, and Warhurst put a raking shot inches wide with Waddle again the supplier.

But when Roland Nilsson scooped Robert Bowry's chip off the line on the stroke of half-time we glimpsed the shape of things to come. Palace abandoned their containment policy and started to run the game. Richard Shaw hit the post, Chris Woods saved spectacularly from the substitute Chris Coleman, and Chris Armstrong equalised, tapping in Simon Rodger's free-kick. Simon Osborn hit the bar with a curling cross before Wednesday regained their lead and their composure.

Eddie McGoldrick played the ball back to Martyn, who muffed his clearance and Wednesday's substitute, Nigel Jemson, rolled the ball across the edge of the box, Waddle dummied and Danny Wilson struck the winner. In the final minute, Warhurst was flattened by Andy Thorn but John Sheridan hit the penalty high and wide.

To end, as we began, with statistics: this was Wednesday's seventh consecutive League and Cup victory and their 14th match without defeat. And it is almost two years since Waddle played for England.

Sheffield Wednesday: C Woods; R Nilsson, N Worthington, C Palmer, J Harkes, P Shirtliff, D Wilson, C Waddle, P Warhurst, C Bart-Williams (N Jemson, 58 min), J Sheridan. Subs not used: K Pressman (gk), V Anderson. Manager: T Francis.

Crystal Palace: N Martyn; J Humphrey, R Shaw, R Bowry, E Young, A Thorn, S Osborn, P Williams (C Coleman, h/t), C Armstrong, S Rodger, E McGoldrick. Subs not used: A Woodman (gk), G Southgate. Manager: S Coppell.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).

Goals: Warhurst (1-0, 27 min); Armstrong (1-1, 63 min); Wilson (2-1, 71 min).