SHEFFIELD Wednesday striker Leroy Lita’s late goal was enough to beat Crystal Palace in the Championship at Hillsborough.
Wednesday made two changes from the side which drew 0-0 at Birmingham in midweek.
In came captain Anthony Gardner and Kieran Lee for Martin Taylor and Jeremy Helan who dropped to the bench.
There was no place for Manchester United-bound Wilfried Zaha, the £15m winger ruled out for the visitors with a dead leg.
The Owls came close to opening the scoring on 21 minutes, Kieran Lee’s right-wing cross picking out Leroy Lita but his header was too close to goalkeeper Julian Speroni.
Lewis Buxton and David Prutton also had long-range efforts that flew over the crossbar.
Lee’s volley, from Michail Antonio’s back-post cross, was blocked in a packed Palace box and Connor Wickham was unable to react quick enough to stab home the loose ball.
At the other end, David Prutton was left winded after throwing himself in front of Scott Dobbie’s 25-yard drive.
Dobbie forced Chris Kirkland into a fine save at his near post at the start of the second half, before Buxton threw himself in front of Glenn Murray’s effort.
Dave Jones introduced Jeremy Helan and Gary Madine as substitutes to try and force a goal, but Palace broke away and Yannick Bolasie toe-poked an effort which Kirkland did well to save one-handed.
But the Owls finally broke the deadlock in the 80th minutes, Antonio’s cross picking out Lita whose header crashed into the net off the underside of the bar.
And Lita should have wrapped up victory in stoppage time when Madine sent him scampering away, but he could not beat Speroni in a one-on-one.
Dave Jones praised his side’s defensive performance saying: “It was a hard-earned win from a dogged performance.
“I thought we were solid, we protected Chris Kirkland really well and I think we deserved the win in the end.”
“I was really pleased with the goal, it was a fantastic ball in from Antonio and you know what you get from Leroy, it’s what he’s all about.
“He was hardly in the game for long spells but when he gets the chance he usually puts the ball in.”
Jones also praised his new additions, saying: “I am really happy with the squad we have now. We have strength in depth and it’s really the first time we have had that since I have been here.
“Signings like Lita and Wickham mean we now have the players to bring on to make a difference. I’m really pleased we got the three points today.”
Palace manager Ian Holloway was disappointed with his side’s inability to battle.
Holloway said: “We struggled to get our game going and they seemed to have a bit more belief about them than us.
“The second half was better and I thought we looked the team more likely to grab a goal but it just wasn’t to be.
“The defending for the goal was poor, we let them get a cross in and Leroy did what Leroy Lita does and put the ball in the back of the net.
“I don’t think we deserved to lose, but did I think we did enough to win it? Probably not, I felt a draw would have been a fair result.”
When asked whether the pitch affected his side’s performance, Holloway said: “I saw one of the greatest players I have ever seen play football on a beach with a grapefruit and that was Pele.
“These players are here to entertain and we can’t use the pitch as an excuse.”