Southampton reach play-off final – but pitch invasion prevents lap of honour

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Southampton fans on the pitch with flare smoke
Southampton fans took to the pitch to celebrate – PA/Adam Davy

Twelve months after finishing at the foot of the Premier League table, Southampton’s hopes of making an immediate top-flight return are still alive.

Two goals from Adam Armstrong and a Will Smallbone strike ensured Russell Martin’s side eased their way past West Bromwich Albion to set up a Wembley meeting with Leeds United in the Championship play-off final.

“The players deserve that,” said Martin, the Southampton manager. “They have to make the most of the night, with a beautiful moment. But we have the chance to make an even bigger and better moment next week.”

Adam Armstrong (R) of Southampton celebrates with team-mate Ryan Manning
Adam Armstrong and Ryan Manning celebrate their second goal – Getty Images/Matt Watson

Martin and his players were unable to complete their planned post-match lap of honour, however, following a pitch invasion at the final whistle.

Scuffles appeared to break out when home supporters confronted visiting fans and had to be separated by police and stewards.

“For those that did do that, if it tarnishes the win we’ve had and the night we’ve had and getting to Wembley in any way then they’ve let themselves down,” said Martin.

Police and ground staff attempt to separate the Southampton fans from the West Bromwich Albion away stand
There were some tense scenes at the end between rival fans – PA/Steven Paston

Saints had finished 12 points ahead of their opponents but after a goalless first leg, the tie remained deadlocked until Smallbone scored early in the second half.

rmstrong wrapped up the win with two late goals, the second from the penalty spot, that meant Cedric Kipre’s headed reply in added time counted for nothing as West Brom were forced to contemplate a fourth successive season in the second tier.

Martin was full of praise for his players’ efforts but also suggested some credit should go to an unnamed member of staff who suggested moving the advertising hoardings closer to the pitch to limit the impact of West Brom right-back Darnell Furlong’s long throw.

“You do everything you can,” he said. “The pitch at West Brom was really dry and tonight Darnell didn’t have as long a run to throw it. It’s within the laws of the game. It wasn’t my suggestion but it was a great suggestion and it maybe played a part.”

Carlos Corberan, the West Brom manager, refused to be drawn on the move. Instead, he said simply: “I think they were better than us in the game.”

Smallbone scores
Will Smallbone opens the scoring – Reuters/Paul Childs

There was a sense of urgency in the way Southampton started the match, yet it was a measure of West Brom’s defensive efforts that they created only a limited number of openings before the break.

That good work, however, was quickly undone soon after the restart when Smallbone made the 49th-minute breakthrough after the visitors had lost possession in midfield.

Momentum was then with Southampton and Armstrong added a well-struck second in the 78th minute before converting from the spot after Ryan Manning had been brought down by Tom Fellows eight minutes later.


Southampton see off West Brom: As it happened


10:29 PM BST

Carlos Corberan speaks to Sky Sports

We couldn’t avoid some of the losing of the ball. In general we didn’t feel as comfortable with the ball and with good teams in front of you, you make mistakes, you suffer. The discipline to defend was excellent but we couldn’t show our [other] strengths. Now is the moment to feel the pain. We wanted to go to Wembley. This is the moment to finish the season. Tomorrow we start work again. The fact we achieved the play-off with [our] situation, to compete at the maximum level … I feel very proud of my team.


10:22 PM BST

Post-match scenes

Southampton fans
Southampton fans invade the pitch at the final whistle – Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Southampton's Jan Bednarek remonstrates to a pitch invader after the match
Bednarek tells a fan to get off the pitch – Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Southampton message on the big screen
Southampton urge their fans to get off the pitch but the club will almost certainly be facing a fine for losing control – Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

10:17 PM BST

Russell Martin speaks to Sky Sports

There were some good bits I liked but there were some things I wanted them to do more at half-time. The players had such a good understanding of what we want. When anyone’s singing his name [Smallbone] I feel emotional for him. H’es an amazing human being. He’s selfless, growing in confidence. He has the capacity to be a top player.

We can enjoy tonight for a little bit and then [focus on Wembley].

It will be a tough game. I’ll sleep tonight but then after that … this week has been tough. When you love what you’re doing and care so much, you keep waking up [worrying] …


10:11 PM BST

The pitch has been cleared

The stewards and police have managed to seize back control at least inside the stadium.


10:10 PM BST

Man of the match Adam Armstrong speaks

We were gutted we didn’t make the top two but if we go up this way …

Leeds are a top opposition. The game up there was a bit hit and miss. Maybe a few beers tonight but we’ve got a week to rest and recover.

It’s one game away now, the Premier League. Massive game, I’m sure it’s going to be an unbelievable atmosphere.


10:07 PM BST

Sky is reporting that fights have broken out between rival fans

Fans of both persuasions are on the pitch and the broadcaster is reporting that missiles have been thrown as well as the usual argy-bargy.


09:56 PM BST

Full time: Southampton 3 West Brom 1

The referee blows for full time as soon as Saints kick off.

Southampton are heading to Wembley to play Leeds United next Sunday, having beaten Leeds home and away in the 2023-24 campaign. No doubt that they deserved it. It’s not so much that West Brom were toothless. It was irrelevant whether they had teeth at all as the few times they had an opportunity, they messed up the final pass. Southampton pounced on Diangana’s mistake and then Armstrong demonstrated the value of a gold standard finisher.


09:55 PM BST

GOAL!

Southampton 3 West Brom 1 (Kipre) Headed in at the back post from a corner. Looping finish.


09:54 PM BST

90+5 min: Southampton 3 West Brom 0 (agg: 3-0)

Don Goodman says he has never heard St Mary’s as loud as this. Must be their top boy, Rishi Sunak.


09:52 PM BST

90+5 min: Southampton 3 West Brom 0 (agg: 3-0)

M’Vila is booked for something I didn’t see. The free-kick went his way so it could have been something he said.


09:50 PM BST

90+3 min: Southampton 3 West Brom 0 (agg: 3-0)

Swift crosses after his corner comes back to him and Weimann meets it but can’t steer it past McCarthy who dives to his right to smother.


09:49 PM BST

90+1 min: Southampton 3 West Brom 0 (agg: 3-0)

Furlong’s cross is deflected out for a corner by Manning.


09:49 PM BST

90 min: Southampton 3 West Brom 0 (agg: 3-0)

West Brom will have seven more minutes to score three …


09:48 PM BST

89 min: Southampton 3 West Brom 0 (agg: 3-0)

Southampton have been the better, more ambitious side and deserve to win.

Aribo departs to the sound of Gary Kemp’s second most successful song. Smallbone departs too:

Rothwell ⇢ Smallbone

Charles ⇢ Aribo.


09:43 PM BST

GOAL!

Southampton 3 West Brom 0 (Armstrong, pen)  Palmer guesses right but can’t get there as Armstrong smashes it in by the right post.

Adam Armstrong scores their third goal from the penalty spot
Armstrong converts the penalty – Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

09:43 PM BST

Southampton penalty

Stephens strolls forward after a foul on Armstrong, plays Manning down the left of the box and he is tripped by Fellows.


09:41 PM BST

82 min: Southampton 2 West Brom 0 (agg: 2-0)

Guess what Southampton fans are singing? Bullseye!

Weimann ⇢ Mowatt.


09:40 PM BST

80 min: Southampton 2 West Brom 0 (agg: 2-0)

Corberan may be a master defensive coach but he needs more quality at the other end of the pitch to make rope-a-dope work. Mowatt drifts a crossfield pass to the left of the box. Reach has made the run and slashes a volley wide of the left post. Very hard to master that technique when the ball arrows across the body.


09:35 PM BST

GOAL!

Southampton 2 West Brom 0 (Armstrong)  Left-foot shot from 15 yards through Furlong’s legs and into the bottom right corner. Downes had carried the ball 30 yards and timed the pass perfectly.

Armstrong scores
Armstrong fires the second through Furlong’s legs – Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

09:34 PM BST

76 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

Manning takes with his left … and floats it into outer space.


09:34 PM BST

74 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

Edozie ⇢ Brooks.

Reach ⇢ Townsend.

Walker-Peters and Smallbone are fouled withing two seconds after the ref played advantage following the first. Mowatt is booked for the second swipe. Southampton free-kick, 20 yards out, right of centre.


09:30 PM BST

72 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

Some penalty box pinball in the Saints area as West Brom ping short passes between them. Thomas-Asante cannot reach the cross when it eventually comes in.


09:28 PM BST

70 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

Harwood-Bellis protests being penalised for a foul 30 yards out. Swift whips it to the far post for Kipre to hammer a left-foot volley wide … and from an offside position.


09:27 PM BST

68 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

Armstrong beats Palmer with an 18-yard shot but the flag had gone up moments before. He’s a fine finisher but not a natural No9 in the way he times his runs.


09:24 PM BST

66 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

Manning ⇢ Fraser,

Fraser refuses to leave by the far touchline and West Brom protest his attempt to kill some time. The referee seemingly reassures them that he will add it all back on.


09:22 PM BST

64 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

West Brom corner on the left that eventually falls to Furlong who creams a half-volley towards the top left and McCarthy slaps it over. Nothing comes from the corner.

M’Vila ⇢ Yokuslu

Thomas-Asante ⇢ Wallace

Swift ⇢ Diangana.


09:20 PM BST

62 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

Aribo’s cross is deflected too close to Palmer who picks it off comfortably. West Brom are readying three substitutes.


09:19 PM BST

60 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

Martin is rightly questioning the referee over that call. Kipre won the ball but only after he kicked through Brooks’ right leg. Armstrong is stranded offside when Southampton attack promisingly again.


09:16 PM BST

58 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

Southampton should have a penalty when Brooks is scissored by Kipre in the six-yard box but the ref waves play on. Poor decision.

Brooks hurt
Brooks is scythed down by Kipre – Steven Paston/PA Wire

09:13 PM BST

56 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

Harwood-Bellis makes a brilliant if inadvertent block when struck on the back of the head by Mowatt’s rasping left-foot shot.

Smallbone celebrates
Smallbone scores – Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

09:12 PM BST

54 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

Bednarek matches Wallace step for step as the West Brom captain combines with Johnston to attack down the left and earns a goal-kick when his block rebounds on to Wallace.


09:10 PM BST

52 min: Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (agg: 1-0)

‘He’s one of our own,’ sing the Southampton fans in honour of Will Smallbone, proving they do have a second song, too.


09:07 PM BST

GOAL!

Southampton 1 West Brom 0 (Smallbone) Diangana in the centre-circle plays a lazy pass that Smallbone picks off and knocks out to Brooks on the right. The winger takes it 15 yards and then feeds it back to Smallbone who strides into the box as Diangana chases forlornly and sweeps a right-foot shot unstoppably past Palmer and in off the near post.

Smallbone scores
Smallbone opens the scoring – Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

09:06 PM BST

48 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Aribo dribbles 15 yards down the left then knocks it up to Fraser. Fellows gets back to help out Furlong and blocks the cross at the cost of a throw-in.

Southampton work the ball across to Walker-Peters by the right of the D and he takes on the shot, scudding it past the left post.


09:04 PM BST

46 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

No changes as Southampton kick-off. The commentators said that West Brom switched the home side around at the coin toss, making them attack their most fervent end in the first-half. But West Brom also kicked off. Which seems strange. West Brom earn and early free kick and Johnston is caught offside almost as soon as it’s taken.


08:50 PM BST

Half-time: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

A bore so far. Pure eunuch football. No chances, lots of misplaced passes and some diligent defending. The magnitude of the occasion has paralysed both sides.


08:48 PM BST

45+1 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Aribo is closely marked when he receives the ball on the right of the West Brom box and darts one way then back to the left to hit a left-foot shot wide of the left post. More urgency and less dawdling required.


08:46 PM BST

45 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Johnston briefly dazzles against Smallbone and Walker-Peters but messes up the pass and Southampto come back up the left as West Brom retreat into a compact 4-5-1.

Only one minute of stoppage time is signalled.


08:44 PM BST

43 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Albion hold their nerve by their own left corner flag, playing sort passes when pressed until Townsend cracks a pass at short range into Armstrong to earn a goalkick.


08:42 PM BST

41 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Downes is fine now and works the ball out for Fraser who crosses deep. Townsend heads out and West Brom have a chance to counter if Johnston puts Wallace through. But he hangs on to the ball too long and invites the tackle.

Corberan and Martin
Tactical stalemate so far at St Mary’s – Steven Paston/PA Wire

08:38 PM BST

38 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Brooks runs up the right, finding space and driving at Townsend to earn a corner. Brooks takes and he ref whistles before the ball lands for a Southampton foul as the players jostled.


08:37 PM BST

36 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Smallbone picks off Mowatt’s pass and sparks a counter that could have hurt West Brom but for a poor pass. Bartley holds off Armstrong. Mowatt is mugged again 20 seconds later but thumps his shot straight into a West Brom defender. They’re far better at thwarting than actually playing tonight, West Brom.


08:35 PM BST

34 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Flynn Dowes is down on all fours, giving both sides the opportunity to have a drink and a word from the managers. Downes receives treatment to his lower right leg and is given the OK to carry on.


08:33 PM BST

32 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

West Brom’s negativity is going to cost them, thinks Don Goodman. Because all it takes is one mistake to shred their gameplan.


08:31 PM BST

30 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

West Brom give the ball away for the umpteenth time. They are a better side without the ball than with it. Brooks pounces to hit a left-foot daisycutter from 25 yards that Palmer gathers with a headlong dive to his left.


08:30 PM BST

28 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Southampton have a longish spell of possession, probing down the right but are finding it hard to pierce West Brom’s banks of five and four. Brooks eventually finds some space behind Townsend to whip over a low, bouncing cross but Armstrong can’t do anything with it.


08:27 PM BST

26 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Fraser is picked out on the left with a diagonal, having ghosted between Furlong and Fellows but he miscontrols it.


08:26 PM BST

24 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Johnston’s run into congestion earns the Baggies a corner on the left. Mowatt, who took the corner, races in from the left to hammer in a low cross that hits Bednarek and goes behind. A very late offside flag stops West Brom having another go.

‘One song, you’ve only got one song,’ sing the Baggies fans. Southampton inevitably respond with their greatest hit.


08:22 PM BST

21 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Palmer punches the second corner after Kipre sent the first behind and West Brom force Southampton all the way back to McCarthy with some disciplined triggering of the press. It has to be said, this is about as unimpressive as the Hawthorns leg so far.


08:21 PM BST

19 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Southampton pick off West Brom’s corner which was cut back to the left of the spot and send Brooks off on a solo counter. It’s one v four as he makes 70 yards but reinforcements come far too late and he ends up crashing a shot into Kipre. Harwood-Bellis knocks the ball back into the box but West Brom hustle it behind for a corner


08:19 PM BST

17 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Two daft fouls by Fraser on Fellows allow Albion to kill some time. From the free-kick they feed Fellows up the right and he diddles Stephens with his step-over again before hanging up a deep cross that drifts menacingly towards goal. McCarthy reads the flight and slaps it behind.


08:17 PM BST

15 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

West Brom are playing with caution and discipline in their shape, Fellows tucking in to make five at the back when Saints have the ball. Harwood-Bellis strokes a cute, long pass up the right to pick out Armstrong’s run and the captain pulls a pass back to Brooks, 10 yards out and he crashes his shot into the outside of the post.

Flynn Downes battles with Jed Wallace
Flynn Downes battles with Jed Wallace – Adam Davy/PA Wire

08:14 PM BST

13 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Big penalty shout from the crowd when Brooks goes down like a bag of hammers in the box when touched by Townsend. It may well have been a foul as Townsend scrambled to get across him from the wrong side. The replay shows that Townsend had hold of his arm but the dive was ridiculously exaggerated. No penalty for ham acting even though he had a better case than his performance suggested.


08:12 PM BST

11 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Mowatt goes short, receives the ball back to change the angle then floats a cross to the far post that takes far too long to come down, forcing Diangana to put all the power on it. He can’t and heads tamely wide. West Brom are happy sucking up the pressure.


08:10 PM BST

9 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

West Brom build slowly after a shonky moment for Palmer with ball at feet. Again their touches are booed. Corberan stalks the touchline. Furlong slips a pass outside Stephens for Fellows who does the full-back with a step-over and then earns a corner when his cross is turned behind.


08:08 PM BST

7 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Fraser gives the ball away to Wallace who hogs the ball as he drives up the inside-right  before cautiously laying it off and West Brom go backwards. Johnston screams for a long diagonal but caution wins out. Every Albion touch in that phase was booed.

The prime minister is in the crowd.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak roars on Southampton – Paul Childs/Action Images via Reuters

08:05 PM BST

5 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Walker-Peters back on the right takes the ball and shifts it across to Fraser who goes on a penetrating run up the left but he doubles back and feeds it infield. West Brom defend the cross but Diangana wastes an opportunity to set Fellows free on the right with Stephens caught upfield.


08:03 PM BST

3 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

Walker-Peters is covering left-back momentarily and has a foray upfield, cutting in on his right to thump a shot into Bartley. St Mary’s is uncommonly loud.


08:02 PM BST

1 min: Southampton 0 West Brom 0 (agg: 0-0)

West Brom kick off in a haze of red smoke, attacking from right to left. Albion take the knee first and then move the ball back to Bartley and Kipre. Yokuslu is slow into a challenge and concedes a free-kick 40 yards out. Downes calls up the centre-backs but chips the free-kick too short.


07:57 PM BST

Out come the teams

Southampton in their red and white 1988 throwback and West Brom also in their home kit of navy and white stripes.


07:45 PM BST

Southampton tactics

From 3-5-2 on Sunday, it looks like 4-3-3 today with Stephens at left-back, Aribo in a midfield three and Fraser as a left winger with Brooks on the right of Armstrong.


07:43 PM BST

A brief word with Carlos Corberan

Nothing that happens today will surprise our team [in terms of Southampton’s two changes]. They have been aggressive in the season. The confidence is important, the resilience too and our strong mentality will be key. We must be mentally cold, focused on the game.


07:35 PM BST

Your teams in the trad style

Southampton  McCarthy; Harwood-Bellis, Bednarek, Stephens; Walker-Peters, Smallbone, Downes, Fraser; Aribo, Brooks; Adam Armstrong,  
Substitutes  Lumley, Manning, Stewart, Bree, Mara, Rothwell, Sulemana, Edozie, Charles. 

West Brom  Palmer; Furlong, Bartley, Kipre, Townsend; Yokuslu, Mowatt; Fellows, Diangana, Johnston, Wallace.
Substitutes  Griffiths, Reach, Ajayi, Phillips, Chalobah, Weimann, Swift, Thomas-Asante, M’Vila.

 Referee Tim Robinson (West Sussex).


07:21 PM BST

Turning the town red

Southampton fan with a flare
Southampton set the scene – Steven Paston/PA
Ted Bates statue
Ted Bates is mobbed – Adam Davy/PA
Southampton fans
Southampton fans amid the flares – Michael Steele/Getty Images

07:06 PM BST

Russell Martin talks to Sky Sports

The last few days have been really good. Same process as normal. The group has been really focused but relaxed and they will enjoy themselves. We’ve prepared them for what’s to come, emotionally and mentally. It’s a balance between logic, detail and feeling. And they’ll feel a lot tonight. There’ll be some tough moments but they have to stick together. The formation gives us flexibility. We’re at home and have to attack the game as much as we can.


07:02 PM BST

One change for West Brom

Captain Wallace comes in for Thomas-Asante:


07:01 PM BST

Two changes for Saints and no Adams

In come Brooks and Fraser for Mara and Manning:


06:56 PM BST

Saints fans in good voice amid the smoke


06:22 PM BST

Preview: One win from Wembley

Good evening and welcome to live coverage of the Championship play-off semi-final second leg between Southampton, who finished the season in fourth place, and West Bromwich Albion, who were fifth. The match to decide who plays Leeds United at Wembley a week on Sunday starts all-square after Sunday’s goalless draw at the Hawthorns, a turgid match on the hottest day of the year dominated by the goalkeepers, Alex Palmer for the Baggies and Alex McCarthy for Saints.

Both sides have similar records over the five games preceding tonight, three defeats followed by victory on the last day of the season proper plus Sunday’s draw and neither would claim to be in vintage form. Yet, as we saw last night, it can suddenly click again and that is certainly the hope of Russell Martin, the Southampton boss, as he searched for the fluency of autumn and winter that sustained them on their club record run. At their best – and without wishing to offend Messrs Chiles, Skinner and Clapton – Saints look the superior side (and did the league double over Albion) but Carlos Corberan is a master of drawing ostensibly better sides into a dogfight, a scenario that is most effectively stymied by an early home goal.

And Martin may have Che Adams back to enhance his chances of setting the tone early tonight and Ross Stewart, who still looks as if an hour would be a stretch, can be saved for impact later on. Jed Wallace could come into contention for West Brom but the likelihood is that they will remain unchanged as Corberan tries to take them back to the play-off final for the first time since their defeat by Derby in 2007. For Southampton, victory would give them a debut appearance at that stage, a return to Wembley for the first time since that FA Cup semi defeat by Leicester in 2021, a possible grand day out ruined by the pandemic … and a suitably damp squib performance.

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