FOR an hour Wednesday looked on course to end their run of away misery last night but a disastrous five-minute spell sent them spinning towards a seventh successive League defeat on the road.
First their hopes of a clean sheet were dashed by a header from striker Lateef Elford-Alliyu.
Then Giles Coke was sent off four minutes later, and from the free kick given for his foul Tranmere made it 2-0 through defender Ian Goodison.
Former Wednesday loan centre forward Enoch Showunmi sealed it in with a third goal in the 81st minute.
After that goal, and after the final whistle, many away fans chanted “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” as their team’s slump continued.
The Owls have taken only three points from their last nine games and it has become commonplace for them to concede two or three per match.
Gary Megson made another five changes to follow those of the 2-1 defeat at Rochdale.
Without the injured Lewis Buxton (hamstring), he brought in Tommy Spurr at right back, Reda Johnson at left-side centre half, Isaiah Osbourne into central midfield, Gary Teale on the right flank and Gary Madine up front.
Giles was on the left side of a 4-4-2, with the manager reverting to this system after starting at Rochdale with 5-3-2.
Daniel Jones, Mark Beevers and Neil Mellor were dropped to the bench and there was no place at all for Darren Potter.
Tranmere were unchanged after their 3-1 win at Plymouth and almost snatched an early goal.
Wednesday were teased by a great cross to the far post by left back Aaron Cresswell and midfielder Ash Taylor jabbed the ball into the side netting.
Spurr twice set up attacks with accurate forward passes, one of which gave Teale a first-time cross which was destined for the head of Madine until centre back Ian Goodison intercepted.
Teale beat his marker in another penetrating run and pulled the ball back to Clinton Morrison, whose goalbound shot was blocked.
In the first half neither side made a clear-cut chance.
Much of the football was scrappy and the ball seemed to be in the air a lot. But the Owls showed the workrate and determination that Megson had demanded.
They competed strongly with tackles and headers all over the park and were in no trouble defensively in this period.
Fluency going forward was missing but their all-round sturdiness was a start, after the calamities of recent away games, and the conceding of two first-half goals in each of Megson’s first two games.
Debut-maker Osbourne went about his job steadily, and earned applause from the massed away fans behind Nicky Weaver’s goal for one classy pass to Coke with the outside of his foot.
It was a rare shot from either side when Coke let from 30 yards just after half time and saw the ball fly yards past the angle.
But Wednesday were doing a sound job up to now in shackling Tranmere, who had ex-Hillsborough loan man Enoch Showunmi as the central striker in a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 formation.
Suddenly the Owls might have had a penalty, in the 56th minute.
Morrison, a defender and keeper Tony Warner converged on a through ball by James O’Connor. The ball was kicked against Morrison and rebounded towards goal; the striker gave chase and had his shirt held by Warner.
But Wednesday ended up with only a corner, from which they were inches away from taking the lead. Coke’s kick was met by Madine and his header sped low past the keeper’s left-hand post.
Four minutes later came the opening goal: John Welsh crossed from the right, under no pressure, and his excellent ball saw Lateef Elford-Alliyu, on loan from West Brom, outjump Spurr at the far post to head down into the net.
It went from bad to worse for the Owls four minutes later when Coke saw red.
He dashed into a tackle on Welsh and caught the midfield player slightly late. The degree of contact seemed debatable and I thought it was nothing more than a booking.
But with Coke sent off, Cresswell whipped the free kick in from the right and Goodison steamed into the six-yard box unchallenged to head home.
Just after that it looked as if Madine may have been brought down by Goodison in the Tranmere box but nothing was given, and it just was not Wednesday’s night.
The third goal was more than Owls fans could take.
Showunmi, who failed to score in two months on loan at Hillsborough three years ago, found a yard of space in the box to volley into the bottom corner for his eighth goal of the season.