Strafford confident Sheffield Wednesday can stay up

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The Independent Online

Sheffield Wednesday chairman Lee Strafford has backed his side to "take control of their destiny" on Sunday in their one-off relegation decider against Crystal Palace.

Palace - who, after having 10 points deducted for going into administration, lie just two points ahead of the final relegation place occupied by the Owls - could have ensured their survival had they beaten promoted West Brom last night.

Their 1-1 draw means Wednesday can retain their Coca-Cola Championship status should they beat the Eagles on Sunday, and Strafford is optimistic.

"Last night was Palace's big chance," he told Sky Sports News, "and Sunday becomes our opportunity to make our mark and control our destiny.

"Our home form has not been good at times but when we turn up in large numbers we deliver performances. It's a one-off game, effectively it's just like the play-off final four years ago."

Wednesday fans were put through an emotional wringer during last night's clash at Selhurst Park - not least in stoppage time, when Palace substitute Stern John missed a clear chance before Albion full-back Marek Cech cleared Darren Ambrose's effort off the line.

"In my case, it was literally agony," Strafford said. "As a gastric band patient, stress equals heartburn, equals pain - and last night was a stressful match."

On the potential impact of relegation, he added: "It's not like last time, when we went into a complete free-fall and had no assets, but it would be a massive opportunity missed.

"The feeling is that next season's Championship will be the biggest opportunity in years, given the quality of the clubs coming down and the financial restructuring."

The consequences could be more severe for Palace, with speculation that their imperilled financial situation could see the club cease to exist should they drop out of the second tier.

And Chris Waters, of the Crystal Palace Supporters Club, said: "I think there is that concern, we have been told there is no money to run the club beyond next weekend.

"If it happens, then you ask what happens next - do CPFC2010 (consortium) take over, do we have to sell players?"

But he expressed optimism that they can get a result on Sunday to negate the risk, adding: "Our away form has been excellent, we've only lost five away and only two since Christmas.

"We tend to draw a lot of away games, and a draw is all we need. It's going to be close."

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