Happy ending for Palace after Ambrose sends Wednesday down

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Crystal Palace 2
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The Independent Online

Sheffield Wednesday have promised full co-operation with any enquiry into the crowd disorder that followed their relegation from the Championship after the Crystal Palace defender Clint Hill alleged that he was punched by Wednesday fans as he tried to leave the field.

Supporters of both sides spilt on to the pitch after the final whistle and there were confrontations between Wednesday and Palace fans while the Palace players were still celebrating at the Leppings Lane end in front of the 5,000 visiting supporters. The result meant that Palace escaped relegation while sending Wednesday down.

Most of the Palace squad managed to run back to the tunnel as police moved to form a barrier between the rival fans but Hill was confronted by a group of Wednesday supporters before stewards managed to usher him to safety. A number of home fans tried to storm the tunnel before police drove them back.

"The stewards dragged me off but once one has a swing at you, everybody gets a bit brave and starts having swings at you," Hill said. "At one point there was maybe seven or eight on me.

"I know they are frustrated but should they be throwing punches at people? A good few landed and I am a big lad and can take them. But should they be throwing them?"

The club issued a statement last night promising to assist with any investigation. "Wednesday will support the authorities accordingly and individuals proven to have behaved inappropriately will be placed on lifetime club bans," the statement said. A police spokesman added that eight arrests had been made in connection with incidents outside the ground but that more were likely.

Palace, meanwhile, face another agonising wait to learn if a proposed takeover by a group of Surrey businessmen will keep them out of insolvency with £30m of debts. The club, which stayed up despite a 10-point penalty for going into administration, had only enough funds to complete this season.

Manager Paul Hart's reward for avoiding relegation is to be unemployed, as of last night, although there are indications that the takeover by CPFC 2010, the consortium headed by businessman Steve Parish, will go ahead and that Hart might be given a chance to continue. "As of now I'm job hunting," Hart said, even before the celebrations in the dressing room had died down. "But the arrangement when Neil Warnock left to become manager of Queen's Park Rangers was always that I would be in charge until now.

"It has been a fantastic experience for me and I'm immensely proud of this group of players. It would be no hardship at all to carry on working for this club.

"But what should happen now is that this takeover should take place – and from what I understand it is progressing – without any interference from prospective managers and the new owners should be allowed to make their own decision."

In a match of see-sawing fortunes, Alan Lee headed Palace in front from a 24th-minute corner before a mistake by Danny Butterfield allowed Leon Clarke to equalise before half-time.

Darren Ambrose shot Palace back into the lead in the 63rd minute but the visitors' fans could barely watch after Darren Purse had put Wednesday back on terms with three minutes of normal time remaining. The referee Mike Dean added five minutes' stoppage time but Wednesday could not find the further goal that would have kept them up at Palace's expense.

Beaten only five times away in the league all season, Palace coped with the absence of the influential Neil Danns, missing after his red card from the draw against West Bromwich last Monday, when Palace might have made yesterday's drama unnecessary. Although they were on the back foot for much of the second half, to which Hart adjusted his tactics by taking off a striker with the score still 1-1, they defended bravely, with Patrick McCarthy, not long back from serious injury, outstanding.

Wednesday, themselves with debts of £25m, fought bravely, with two of their players, James O'Connor and Darren Potter, playing on with bandages after being treated for head injuries. But manager Alan Irvine admitted the team's collective wounds were largely self-inflicted. "We have missed chances and not taken points we should have from a lot of games," he said.

Lack of goals – only 49 from 46 matches – has been Wednesday's biggest problem and the loss of goalscorer Clarke, who had to be carried off moments after his well-taken equaliser, was bizarrely symbolic, the striker having ended his own involvement in the game when he kicked an advertising board during his celebration and dislocated a toe.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Grant; Nolan (Jeffers, 75), Purse, Beevers, Spurr; Johnson, O'Connor (Esajas, 57), Potter, Varney; Tudgay, Clarke (Soares, 45). Substitutes not used O'Donnell (gk), Buxton, Hinds, Gray.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Speroni; Butterfield, McCarthy, Lawrence, Hill; Scannell (Davis, 90), Ertl, Derry, Ambrose; Lee (John, 84), Andrew (N'Diaye, 61). Substitutes not used Mann (gk), Clyne, Carle, Djilali.

Referee M Dean (Wirral)

Booked: Sheffield Wednesday Johnson; Crystal Palace Ertl, Andrew.

Man of the match McCarthy.

Attendance 37, 121.

Winners and losers

Championship
*Champions: Newcastle United
*Runners-up: West Bromwich Albion
*Play-offs: Nottingham Forest v Blackpool (8 & 11 May), Cardiff City v Leicester City (9 & 12 May)
*Relegated: Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth Argyle, Peterborough United



League One
*Champions: Norwich City
*Runners-up: One from Leeds/Millwall/Swindon/Charlton/Huddersfield
*Play-offs: Four from Leeds/Millwall/Swindon/Charlton/Huddersfield
*Relegated: Southend, Wycombe, Stockport and one from Leyton Orient/Gillingham/Exeter/Tranmere



League Two
*Champions: Notts County
*Promoted: Bournemouth and Rochdale
*Play-offs: Rotherham, Aldershot and two from Morecambe/Dagenham & Redbridge/Bury/Port Vale/Chesterfield/ Northampton
*Relegated: Darlington and one from Cheltenham/Barnet/Grimsby

* Leagues One and Two conclude on Saturday

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