WEDNESDAY’S luck was out again last night as they slipped out of the Capital One Cup despite a battling performance.
Another harsh penalty decision sealed their fate in the closing stages after they had taken the tie to Saints and fought to try to get back on terms in the second half after going behind to a 30th-minute strike by £7 million forward Jay Rodriguez.
Referee Mark Halsey ruled that Joe Mattock had fouled winger Steve De Ridder - but contact appeared to be accidental and to have begun outside the box after the full-back slipped.
Then Stephen Bywater so nearly saved Rodriguez’s spot-kick after taking the sting out of it with a fine stop.
The penalty incident came after the recent penalty controversy at Crystal Palace and last week’s hotly-disputed award to Huddersfield.
Wednesday made chances for Michail Antonio and Nejc Pecnik last night and did enough to earn applause from their fans after the final whistle.
Although it was a fifth successive defeat, their display softened the blow and few will lament their exit from the competition as they turn their attention to more important matters in the league.
Wednesday made seven changes, Southampton nine.
Dave Jones’ selection was no surprise as he made five for the previous round against Fulham and this time had to cope with injuries and players being ineligible.
But the formation was a surprise: Michail Antonio started on the left, Chris Maguire on the right, and Nejc Pecnik was in an advanced midfield position behind Gary Madine.
The most notable alteration was a debut for Irish centre-midfield player Paul Corry.
Jones only recently said that the 21-year-old who was signed from University College Dublin would soon be knocking on the first-team door as his general fitness improved.
Others called up were Stephen Bywater, Miguel Llera, Mark Beevers, Jose Semedo (as captain), Madine and Maguire.
Out went Chris Kirkland, Anthony Gardner, the ineligible Martin Taylor and Ross Barkley, injured Rhys McCabe, Rodri and injured Jay Bothroyd.
The only two survivors of Saints’ 4-1 win against Aston Villa were keeper Paulo Gazzaniga and centre-half Maya Yoshida.
Wednesday set about their task with some gusto and forced set-pieces in the Saints’ half which came to nothing.
Bywater kept them level by winning a one-on-one against Jay Rodriguez thanks to an excellent block as the striker raced through the middle after 16 minutes.
Rogriguez also put a free header yards wide from a left-wing cross but it was from long range and would have had to be spot-on to beat Bywater.
The Owls had sniff of a half-chance in the 22nd minute: Gazzaniga fumbled a high ball from Kieran Lee under pressure from Llera, and Antonio, off balance and with little time to react, shot off target from just inside the box.
But Antonio had a golden chance, in the 25th minute; put though and needing only to lob the ball past the keeper from six yards, he lifted it over the bar.
A minute later it was Bywater to the recue again: striker Guly Do Prado - who a little earlier volleyed wide from 12 yards - dashed clear and the keeper made another fine block.
But it was not third time lucky when Saints broke into the box in the 30th minute: Rodriguez received the ball with his back to goal and turned expertly past Llera before smashing a right-foot shot into the net.
Saints left winger Steve De Ridder and their front two were threats, and the home side dictated play enough to prevent the Owls gettinbg their forwards into the game; nor did Corry have much chance to get on the ball and show the ability he is said to possess.
De Ridder beat Lee to hit a cross that was headed against a post by Do Prado.
It became Joe Mattock’s turn to have ago at subduing De Ridder after he took over from Lee at half time - but it was Do Prado whom the sub right-back thwarted with a solid block.
Wednesday need to get the ball in the oposition’s box more often but when they did so via a free kick and a corner from Corry the home side defended competently - as did Llera and Beevers several times.
But in a counter-attack the Owls made their second clear opportunity: Maguire broke well and sent Pecnik away down the inside-right channel: the midfielder maybe should have shot earlier from just in the box but delayed, which allowed defenders to get back, and when he did unleash a firm effort Gazziniga beat it away at his near post.
Jones sought extra attacking thrust by sending on Chris O’Grady to give closer support to Madine and replacing Corry with Jermaine Johnson, pulling Pecnik further back in midfield and adopting more of a 4-4-2.
Wednesday took the game to Saints and were well in it - until the penalty decision.
Joe Mattock lost his footing and slipped to the ground. De Ridder fell over him, and even if it was foul - which was debatable - initial contact seemed to have occurred outside the box, though the winger ended up inside.
Still the Owls’ luck was out after Rodriguez struck the spot kick hard and straight: Bywater stopped it, but the power of the shot was just enough to send the ball squirming past him into the net.
The Owls signed off with with a thunderbolt of a shot from Jermaine Johnson, well saved by Gazzaniga and virtually the last kick of the game.
SAINTS: Gazzaniga 7, Richardson 7, Yoshida 7, Hooiveld 7, Seaborne 6, De Ridder 8, Cork 6 (Robinson 82), Ward-Prowse 6, Chaplow 6, Do Prado 7 (Reeves 71), Rodriguez 7 (Hoskins 85). Unused subs: Davis, Butterfield, Gape, Sinclair.
OWLS: Bywater 8, Lee 6 (Mattock ht), Llera 7, Beevers 7, Jones 7, Antonio 6, Semedo 7, Corry 6 (J Johnson 66), Pecnik 6, Maguire 6 (O’Grady 66), Madine 6. Unused subs: Jameson, Mayor, Rodri, Lavery.