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Southampton V West Bromwich Albion The Play Off 2nd Leg Verdict
Sunday, 19th May 2024 10:39

Perhaps the most atmospheric atmosphere ever at St Mary's Stadium as Saints stormed to a Wembley play off final against Leeds United in fine style. A true team performance from both players and supporters.

There was no real shocks in the starting line up before kick off, Che Adams was still absent through injury and Jack Stephens stayed in the side at left back, in came David Brooks for Sekou Mara and Ryan Fraser for Ryan Manning.

Southampton supporters turned up in their thousands before the game to welcome the team coach, a spectacular sight with day turning into night as the air was filled with red smoke, even the biggest sceptic of such behaviour could not have failed to be impressed.

But if the home fans were hoping this would be the catalyst that sparked a rout of the Baggies they would be wrong, the atmosphere in the ground was electric with a sea of red & white all around and noise from all four stands, but on the pitch it was rather cagey, neither side managing to really impose themselves on the game as they would wish.

It was Saints who had the best chance of the half with David Brooks almost scoring, but at the break it was all even.

It was a nervous atmosphere in the concourses during the break and a fair few might well have missed the opening goal shortly after the restart, Will Smallbone started and ended a fine move as he firstly intercepted a West Brom pass, slipped it to Brooks who carried the ball and rolled it back to Smallbone who took it in his stride and with his 3rd touch smashed the ball past the keeper from what was a much tighter angle than it looked.

Cue massive celebrations and you felt that Saints were now in the driving seat, but it would be a while before the game would be finally put to bed.

Saints had a cast iron penalty appeal turned down when David Brooks was brought down by a scissor kick sliding tackle from Kipre, tv replays showed that the West Brom man did not play the ball but took Brooks legs from him, but with no VAR there was no second chance.

We were now in control but whilst there was only a single goal in it, there was always the danger of a slip up.

The nerves were settled with 12 minutes or so left, Flynn Downes carried the ball forward and slipped it to Adam Armstrong who fired it home from the edge of the box across the keeper just inside the post.

St Mary's went wild again and now there was a barrage of constant noise with not a single Southampton supporter staying silent or thinking of leaving early., West Brom's travelling army were now slowly heading to the exits and the trickle was about to become a stream.

They saw the game well and truly put to bed with 4 minutes to go, Ryan Manning being brought down in the box, I have to say that if VAR had been watching this one, then it might well have been overturned, but the truth was justice was served.

The home crowd knew that the game was now won, you sensed this was a Saints team with a mission and resolute, they were back to the form that saw them go 22 games unbeaten in the League during the middle part of the season.

Even 7 minutes of injury time coming up did not phase the team or the crowd, although the Baggies did silence the crowd for a few seconds when they headed home unchallenged in the final seconds.

The final whistle sparked much celebrations and the crowd soon poured onto the pitch, some on social media have been moaning about this saying we have won nothing yet, they are right, but for many years starting in 1976, it was traditional for Saints supporters to pour on the pitch after the game and the team acclaim their support from the directors box, nothing was won for almost 30 years after that, it is more about being at one with the team than celebrating a trophy.

In the directors box in 2024 there was just as much celebrating as in the other parts of the ground with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joining the Sport Republic owners in celebration of the win.

This was truly a team performance, yes there were a couple of dodgy moments, but to be blunt few teams go a whole game without the odd chance against them being missed.

I would have given 9/10 for everyone who played, whether it was the goalkeeper, the back four, the midfield or the attack, we were well drilled with everyone knowing their job, as I implored in the preview, keep it simple and we did.

The substitutions were well made and meaningful, fresh legs when needed both as the game came into it's final stage with the score at 1-0 and also in the dying minutes when at 3-0 Shea Charles and Joe Rothwell came on for Joe Sribo & Will Smallbone to make sure that we didn't concede a goal to give West Brom hope, although that did happen, by then there were seconds left, there was no danger.

So a great display both on and off the pitch and now Southampton fans need to repeat the same at Wembley, in 1976 we made the old Stadium a sea of yellow & blue at one end, now we need to do as we did last night make it a sea of red & white.

We can go there with confidence, we know what this side can do and now they have to do it again for the final time this season.

I like many of you reading will already have our tickets, like last night this is the latest biggest game of the season, time for another day of colour and noise, Leeds fans will be up for it and we have to match them.

Photo: Action Images

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jameshill added 12:01 - May 19
In all the euphoria of of that magical Friday night I wonder if we are going to hear from all those who have spent so much time and energy moaning over the course of what has already been an astonishing and entertaining season and isn't finished yet.
Yes you - the football experts who know Russel Martin doesn't know what he's doing and you - the cod psychiatrists who know we haven't got any leaders and you the talent spotters who know Jack Stephens is no good.
All together now:
'You're not singing, you're not singing.............'
Criticism is valid, moaning is bad for you and more importantly in this context the team!

Bawdrip added 12:24 - May 19
A brilliant atmosphere and a performance to match. That’s three excellent performances in a row. Just one more needed. Everyone played their part in a great win. I felt we were in control and the better team throughout. Two super goals and a well taken penalty.

Things were spoilt for me by the pitch invasion and especially the unnecessary taunting of the WBA fans. It denied us a lap of honour and as a regular away supporter I would have hated being abused the way the Albion fans were. There were other drink related incidents during the game. I guess being on a Friday night and people arriving early to greet the coach meant hours of drinking for some.

That said it was a memorable night…the best since the win against Inter Milan.

The final is too close to call but we’ve every right to go there in confidence. It’s been an enjoyable season with some great memories.

highfield49 added 13:01 - May 19
I'm still not sure whether it was West Brom's plan to defend and try and score on the break, as the team line up suggests, or Saints domination of the game that negated the tactic. Either way, a top class performance that will surely be giving Leeds doubts about their game plan for the final.
On a personal note I have been a frequent critic of the abilities of McCarthy and Stephens but both have improved their performance level to a point where I would expect them to be in the starting line up. It's nice to be proved wrong and have to admit that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks.

saintpete01 added 13:02 - May 19
Incredible atmosphere magnificent support
We turned up on the night a pat on the back
To the Fans back room staff
And the players a gutsy we won’t be beaten performance

Bowlercow added 13:38 - May 19
Best game this season by the players and the fans. It was why we keep going back for more even in the bad times
Led by our regular travelling fans we must do it again at Wembley

LordDZLucan added 13:39 - May 19
Great performance by both the team and the fans on Friday night. We’re now starting to take risks in the right areas of the pitch. I fully expect Leeds to play in the same vein as West Brom. It is therefore key for us to not lose possession high up the pitch with our defenders over committed. If we manage that risk we should win comfortably.

SaintPaulVW added 15:13 - May 19
Fantastic night, noisy throughout, loved the booing when they had the ball. One of their players got put right off when they came over for a corner. He didn't come back after that!

Although the game was nil - nil at half time we had had the better first half, WBA happy just to sit back and defend deep. Second half took our chances. Great to see the much maligned partnership of Stephens and Manning combine to get the penalty!

As you say I remember running on the pitch at the Dell at the end of a season. Although the 'handbags' in front of the WBA fans wasn't great and could easily have boiled over.

Qué Sera Sera.....


redwight added 17:28 - May 19
Spine tingling atmosphere, the best ever at SMS. Voice just about back to normal.

Colburn added 22:32 - May 19
Solid professional performance. Didn’t panic, knew we were the better team, kept our shape and discipline then took our chances. Only one team went out to win the game. I agree with JamesHill in hoping that there is no moaning or criticism of any individual or the manager this week and that we’re all together as one to take on Leeds. I think it was plain to see that Martin knew the right team line up, set up and changes to make. Whatever happens next weekend, those who dislike Martin and his style should appreciate the turnaround in mentality we have had at the club since he arrived. We are completely different now to a year ago..
Final comment is about McCarthy who has been the right choice to replace Bazunu so far and Martin deserves credit for getting that right. Cool and calm under pressure.
One more push!

YosemiteSaint added 23:31 - May 19
I can only comment on the second half after Smallbone's goal, as that's all I had time to see (was still in Friday meetings out here in California!). It was a bit surreal; from my post-50th-minute perspective it looked as if WBA had never even bothered to show up at all, and we dispatched them accordingly. But it was a playoff semifinal! So I can only surmise that Martin had got our tactics spot on. Credit to him and Saints for carrying out the second half game plan. We'll just have to see if he can, or needs to, pull a rabbit out of the hat against a more dynamic and inventive Leeds side.

Boris1977 added 10:52 - May 20
A game of two halves. incredible opener by smallbone which opened up the game and forced WBA to change their game plan.

The second half was probably the best saints have played all season from the point of view if directness, purpose and end product. Hopefully RM bares this in mind v Leeds and trusts the players to deliver rather than talk them in inhibition going forward and suicide football at the back.

With focus on what the team can collectively achieve being brave and taking risks to score goals rather than over coaching cul-de-sac possession football we'd have had enough to have pushed Ipswich into third.

Please for the fans, the team and for RM but I'm not convinced by the board whilst there have interests in other football teams.

Leeds at Wembley is going to a nervy game and one we have the ability to win - but the players need to be encouraged to be brave going forward as that is the only way we will win.

This is my opinion based on my interpretation of the way we have played all season and where we finished in the table. Feel free to disagree.


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