PETERBOROUGH piled on the home misery for Wednesday last night in a contest swayed by a mixture of typically suspect first-half defending by the Owls and typically slick finishing by League One’s top scorers.
Posh led 3-0 at half time and by the end took their tally to 19 goals in their last five games, and it was scant consolation for Gary Megson’s men that a second-half revival narrowed the gulf between the teams.
Substitute Paul Heffernan became the first man to score against the promotion-chasing visitors in five matches.
But a late fourth goal ended all hope, and the Owls are still without a home League win since December 11.
Megson shook up the side again in an attempt to find a winning home formula, making five changes to the one that began Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Notts County.
Megson recalled Mark Reynolds, Richard Hinds, Giles Coke, Jermaine Johnson and Gary Madine, and switched from 4-4-2 back to 4-5-1.
There was no sign of Reda Johnson, Chris Sedgwick - who was expected to be fit after an ankle injury - and Tommy Spurr, while Clinton Morrison and Neil Mellor were dropped to the bench.
But the best laid plans came unstuck in the seventh minute when Mark Beevers and Posh midfield man Charlie Lee clashed heads accidentally in going for a header just inside the Owls half.
Both needed attention but the defender had clearly come off worst. After a three-minute hold-up Beevers was able to walk and was led down the tunnel, looking groggy.
Daniel Jones came on at left back and Reynolds took Beevers’ left-side centre half spot.
Peterborough, fielding the team that thrashed Carlisle 6-0 on Saturday, produced some instances of solid defending at the Leppings Lane end in the early stages.
The Owls were equally solid in this period, so there were no alarms around either penalty area until Posh snatched the lead in the 25th minute.
Striker Lee Tomlin - impressive in the 5-3 defeat of Wednesday at London Road - played a through ball down the inside-right channel and Craig Mackail-Smith sprinted in behind Reynolds, who is no slouch, to find Nicky Weaver’s bottom right-hand corner from the edge of the box and bag his 27th goal of the season.
It could have been 2-0 four minutes later: Lee was allowed a free header which he glanced wide from free kick by captain Grant McCann.
But the 35th minute did bring a turning point.
Wednesday sprang a three-against-three break: Johnson played a fine ball out to Gary Teale; he tried to pick out Madine in the middle but the ball was intercepted and turned for a corner.
Gary Teale’s left-side kick failed to clear the near post area and the ball was cleared. Any hopes that the Owls had of fighting their way back into the game suffered a devastating blow in the 41st minute when the visitors made it 3-0.
Mackail-Smith drove the ball in from the right and the Owls were unlucky as it was deflected to the feet of George Boyd, who drilled a shot into the bottom corner for his 14th goal of the season.
Megson made just one change at half time, with Paul Heffernan replacing Johnson up front.
The home crowd were desperate for something to cheer and were encouraged by a neat ball from Heffernan which led to a shot over the bar by Coke. Only a brilliant block by right back Gabriel Zakuani kept out an effort by Tommy Miller, and two minutes later the Owls found a glimmer of hope.
Isaiah Osbourne headed the ball forward; Madine got away down the left and played a perfect low ball into the six-yard box where Heffernan was running in to slide home his third goal for the club, in the 52nd minute.
An offside goal at each end kept things interesting, and the game might well have taken a fascinating turn had Wednesday scored again as they should have done, in the 70th minute. Osbourne, impressive all night, sent Jones away down the left; the cross was good and low, and somehow Teale missed it, in between the posts.
Peterborough seemed content to hold what they had but the Owls were doing a decent job of forcing them back.
A chance driven off target by midfielder Tommy Rowe was a rare threat from Posh in this half, so it was a pity that the wind was taken completely out of Wednesday’s sails by a fourth goal in 80th minute..
Boyd struck a shot from the corner of the box, Weaver was behind it and raised his hands but the ball slipped past them and carried on into the net.
The keeper stood with his hands on his hips. Many fans began to stream from the ground. But Weaver has been in top form so often this season that he should not be the victim of hard feelings.
OWLS: Weaver 6, Hinds 7 (Potter 75), M Morrison 7, Beevers (Jones 10, 6), Reynolds 6; Teale 6, Osbourne 8, Miller 7, Coke 6, J Johnson 6 (Heffernan ht, 7); Madine 7. Unused subs: O’Donnell, O’Connor, C Morrison, Mellor.
POSH: Lewis 7; Zakuani 7, Little 6, Bennett 6, Kennedy 7; Lee 7 (Basey 87), McCann 7, Rowe 6 (Wesolowski 87); Boyd 6; Mackail-Smith 8, Tomlin 7 (Ball 74). Unused subs: Langmead, Mendez-Laing, Davis, Jones.
Goals: Mackail-Smith (25), Tomlin (35), Boyd (41), Heffernan (52), Boyd (80).
Referee: Karl Evans (Gr Manchester).
Bookings: Bennett (27) foul.