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Peterborough United 4-0 Sheffield Wednesday: Posh crush Owls to take control of play-off tie


Jonson Clarke-Harris scores Peterborough's fourth
Jonson Clarke-Harris took his tally to 29 goals for the season after heading in Peterborough’s fourth

Peterborough United belied a 19-point regular-season gap to take a staggering 4-0 first-leg lead over Sheffield Wednesday in a remarkable League One play-off semi-final.

Jack Taylor’s early opener put the hosts on the front foot before Joe Ward’s long-distance second flew into the top corner after clipping Marvin Johnson.

Kwame Poku headed Posh’s third soon after the restart as Wednesday contemplate play-off defeat for a second successive season.

It got worse for the visitors late on as the league’s joint leading scorer Jonson Clarke-Harris nodded in a fourth from close range.

The Owls had a number of good chances throughout the game but a combination of good goalkeeping by Will Norris, last-ditch defending and poor finishing leaves Darren Moore’s side with a Herculean task in Thursday’s second leg if they are to make the final at Wembley later this month.

The Owls came into the tie on a four-game winning streak, having finished the regular season on 96 points – the highest-ever tally by a side not to have won automatic promotion in the EFL.

Meanwhile the hosts only made the top six thanks to Wednesday’s final day win over Derby, which allowed them to sneak in after a win over fourth-placed Barnsley under returning manager Darren Ferguson.

Wednesday should have been ahead inside seven minutes when Ollie Norburn was dispossessed by Michael Smith on the edge of the centre circle, allowing the striker to bear on goal, but his low shot from the edge of the box was palmed away by Will Norris.

Having survived that mistake it was two errors that led to Peterborough’s opener – Will Vaulks’ poor clearance from a cross fell to Taylor, whose low near-post shot from 15 yards squirmed through Owls keeper Cameron Dawson when he should have saved it.

Wednesday almost levelled three minutes later when Callum Paterson’s goalbound volley from a corner smashed against his team-mate Windass, as both sides tried to assert their control on the tie.

It was the hosts who did take control and it was a good spell with the ball that saw Ward unleash a powerful strike from 25 yards, that spun off Johnson and spectacularly into the top corner after clipping the underside of the bar.

Norris produced another fine save from Windass from the corner of the six-yard box soon after, having seen the striker get the wrong side of his marker thanks to a precise Michael Ihiekwe through ball.

And the Owls should have pulled a goal back four minutes after the restart when Barry Bannan’s wonderfully-floated free-kick was headed wide at the back post by Ihiekwe.

Barry Bannan has his head in his hands
Sheffield Wednesday seem set for a third season in the third tier after this heavy defeat – they were beaten at the same stage by Sunderland 12 months ago

But a minute later it seemed as though Wednesday’s hopes were over – Ephron Mason-Clark’s cross from the left found an unmarked Poku and his powerful header ended a fine counter-attacking move.

Peterborough top scorner Clarke-Harris headed a free-kick just over the bar soon after as Posh took control, but with 20 minutes left the Owls thought they had a way back.

First Johnson’s shot hit Ronnie Edwards’ arm on the line, but the referee did not see it – a decision you felt would have been overturned had there been VAR at the Weston Homes Stadium – before two Ihiekwe efforts were cleared off the line.

Any hopes that Wednesday might have of heading to Wembley were all but extinguished with nine minutes to go – Dawson acrobatically pushed a Taylor shot from close range on to the post, but the scorer of the opening goal did well to recover and clip a cross to Clarke-Harris, who nodded home from a couple of yards at the far post.

It could have been 5-0 had Dawson not saved well from Poku from inside the area in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

All over for Wednesday?

Sheffield Wednesday players leave the field dejected
No side has ever overturned a deficit as big as the one facing Sheffield Wednesday in the EFL play-offs

History suggests Sheffield Wednesday’s hopes of making Wembley are over – but it does not mean Peterborough are guaranteed promotion either.

This is only the fifth time since the play-offs began in 1987 that a side has lost by four or more goals in the first leg – the previous four all went out.

Chesterfield beat Stockport County 4-0 in the old Division Four play-offs in 1990 and went on to win 6-0 on aggregate before losing to Cambridge United in the final.

Crewe were 5-1 winners over Walsall in 1993’s fourth-tier play-offs – they won 9-3 on aggregate but lost out to York City on penalties at Wembley.

Barnsley’s 4-0 win at Birmingham City in what is now the Championship play-offs in 2000 sent them through 5-2 on aggregate, but they lost 4-2 to Ipswich for a place in the top flight.

Dagenham and Redbridge beat Morecambe 6-0 in the 2010 League Two play-offs and are the only side to register such a first-leg scoreline and go on to gain promotion – they were 3-2 winners over Rotherham at Wembley.

The biggest first-leg deficit overcome in the EFL play-offs is two goals, although only five teams have ever reached Wembley after being that far behind after the first leg.



Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Norris
  • 23Ward
  • 6KentBooked at 15mins
  • 4Edwards
  • 16Burrows
  • 22Kyprianou
  • 18Norburn
  • 11PokuBooked at 64mins
  • 8Taylor
  • 10Mason-ClarkSubstituted forJonesat 90+4′minutes
  • 9Clarke-Harris


  • 3Butler
  • 5Knight
  • 17Jones
  • 24Thompson
  • 26Randall
  • 28Blackmore
  • 39Tshimanga

Sheff Wed

Formation 3-4-1-2

  • 25Dawson
  • 6Iorfa
  • 44FlintBooked at 54mins
  • 20IhiekweBooked at 55minsSubstituted forJamesat 86′minutes
  • 2Palmer
  • 4Vaulks
  • 10Bannan
  • 18Johnson
  • 13PatersonSubstituted forGregoryat 59′minutes
  • 11Windass
  • 24SmithSubstituted forAdeniranat 62′minutes


  • 8Adeniran
  • 9Gregory
  • 17Dele-Bashiru
  • 19Bakinson
  • 31Stockdale
  • 32Hunt
  • 33James

Anthony Backhouse


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