Unlikely hero Liam Palmer celebrates his ‘collector’s item’ for Sheffield Wednesday

Liam Palmer celebrates his Sheffield Wednesday winner.       Pictures: Steve EllisLiam Palmer celebrates his Sheffield Wednesday winner.       Pictures: Steve Ellis
Liam Palmer celebrates his Sheffield Wednesday winner. Pictures: Steve Ellis
The last time Liam Palmer scored a goal, Game of Thrones launched onto our TV screens, David Cameron was Prime Minister and Corona was just a bottled lager.

It’s fair to say in the 3,430 days since the Sheffield Wednesday defender netted in a 3-1 League One win over MK Dons on September 10 2011, plenty has happened.

As a barometer, nine permanent managers have been hired and departed at Hillborough – Alan Irvine, Gary Megson, Dave Jones, Stuart Gray, Carlos Carvalhal, Jos Luhukay, Steve Bruce, Garry Monk and Tony Pulis.

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So when Palmer netted in front of the Kop, just before half-time on Saturday, in what turned out to be the match-winning strike –and secure the Owls’ fourth consecutive Championship victory at Hillsborough – it was a goal which had been a long time coming.

Owls' Liam Palmer.Owls' Liam Palmer.
Owls' Liam Palmer.

Callum Paterson’s long throw was flicked on by Tom Lees, Elias Kachunga nodded it back towards the penalty spot, and Palmer – who usually gets a nose bleed when he is so high up the pitch – calmly slotted the ball beyond Preston goalkeeper Daniel Iversen.

It was a special moment for Worksop-born Palmer, the Owls’ longest serving player, who has been at the club since he was seven years old.

Now 29, Scotland international Palmer has seen the good times and the bad at S6.

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“It’s been a long time, I am obviously delighted to have scored,” said Palmer.

Owls caretaker boss Neil Thompson.Owls caretaker boss Neil Thompson.
Owls caretaker boss Neil Thompson.

“I was meant to be staying back, to be fair. I don’t know what happened I ended up in the box and got lucky. My (usual) job is to keep the back door shut.

“I just had a look on my phone and I have had quite a few messages, it’s a bit of a collector’s item. I am delighted.

“It’s a bit cliched, but it was a team performance today and more the reaction from a disappointing outing last time (2-0 defeat at Coventry City).

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“We wanted to bounce back quickly and the Championship allows us to do that.

Owls' Matt Penney.Owls' Matt Penney.
Owls' Matt Penney.

“(At Coventry) we weren’t as competitive as we would have probably liked. Today we attacked, we fought, on the front foot and that’s what we need to do for the rest of the season to get results.”

If Wednesday could bottle this gritty performance, it would certainly go a long way to helping them escape the Championship relegation scrap.

They are four points adrift of safety – Nottingham Forest in 21st place – with a game in hand, but face back-to-back away games this week at Bournemouth tomorrow and Millwall on Saturday.

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“Collectively as a team, scrappy, the pitches this time of year aren’t great, but everybody dug in and showed that fight,” said Palmer. “We are going to have to show that another 21 times, from now until the end of the season.

“We can take a lot of heart from today, how we dug in, and sometimes you have to do that away from home too.

“You might not have a lot of the ball, you have to stay switched on and pick our moments, be more clinical when you get the chance.”

While Palmer’s goal deservedly earned the plaudits, this was a win based on a superb defensive display.

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Many Owls supporters questioned the wisdom in re-signing Sam Hutchinson last week – after he was released in the summer and ended up playing in Cyprus.

But the 31-year-old answered any critics on the pitch, marshalling a back three, alongside outstanding rookie Osaze Urhoghide and Tom Lees, and leading by example with a series of headers and last-ditch tackles.

“I look in the dressing room, and there’s boys I have been here with for a long time,” said Palmer. “I know the quality that is in there, and it’s about sticking together as a group.

“I have no doubt in my mind that we are more than capable of pulling ourselves out (of trouble),” added Palmer, who also shrugged off reports some Owls players had not been paid their full wages for January.

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“That’ll get resolved, we can appreciate that it’s a really tough time for businesses, and as players we’ve got a lot of compassion for that,” he said. “We’ll keep doing our job as best we can.”

Against Preston, it was a scrappy contest with chances at a premium.

Patterson fired just wide for the Owls, while Ben Whiteman – the former Doncaster Rovers midfielder who tested Keiren Westwood from long range – should have done better but blazed over the crossbar.

Westwood tipped a long-range effort from Brad Potts wide, while Barry Bannan brought an even better save from Iversen with his fierce shot.

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Like the puzzle of Hutchinson’s omission last season, Westwood has also proven why he is the best goalkeeper on Wednesday’s books.

Brought back by Pulis, Westwood’s last five games have seen the Owls pick up 10 points from a possible 15, including big wins over Coventry, Middlesbrough and Preston.

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Urhoghide, Hutchinson, Lees, Palmer Pelupessy, Bannan, Reach (Luongo 80), Penney, Paterson (Rhodes 83), Kachunga (Windass 71). Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Harris, Marriott, Borner, Green, Dele-Bashiru.

Preston: Iversen, Browne, Huntington, Davies, Hughes (Rafferty 78), Ledson (Johnson 67), Whiteman, Sinclair, Molumby (Bodin 78), Potts (Barkhuizen 67), Jakobsen (Cunningham 78). Unused substitutes: Bayliss, Storey, Evans, Hudson.

Referee: A Mariner (West Midlands).

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