West Bromwich Albion 0 - Southampton 0

Date: Sunday 12th May 2024 Live on Sky Sports
Competition: Sky Bet Championship (Playoff SF L1)
(4-2-3-1) Palmer 7.7, Furlong 6.7, Kipré 6.9, Bartley 6.7, Townsend 7.1 (Reach, 91 4.8), Mowatt 6.7, Yokuslu 6.7 (Ajayi, 80 6.4), Fellows 7.5 (Wallace, 80 6.2), Diangana 5.8, Johnston 7.2 (M'Vila, 81 5.2), Thomas-Asante 5.5 (Swift, 81 5.7)
Unused subs: Griffiths, Phillips, Chalobah, Weimann
Manager: Carlos Corberán  7.1
(3-5-2) McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Manning (Fraser, 72), Stephens, Bednarek, Harwood-Bellis, Smallbone, Aribo, Mara (Brooks, 71), Armstrong (Stewart, 72), Downes
Unused subs: Lumley, Bree, Rothwell, Sulemana, Edozie, Charles
Referee: Samuel Barrott 6.3
Attendance: 25,367   Home Fans 8.2   Away Fans 6.0

Brendan Clegg:

I think we got everything we could've asked for from that apart from not quite nicking a goal.

The atmosphere was fantastic, the tactics and gameplan were spot-on, the starting 11 made sense and the players turned up and gave it everything.

We started really quickly, no doubt energized by the crowd and got Southampton on the back foot enough to get at them, put them under pressure and win some corners. We created some half chances and situations but didn't find a way to get the early goal and then Southampton managed to slow the pace down a bit and come into it.

Our shape was pretty good and we pressed at the right times, although they did create a couple of chances themselves and there was one moment when Fellows was robbed too easily, they burst through for Palmer to make a solid save and then Armstrong had a dropping volley at the back post that could've gone anywhere.

I thought we managed to swing momentum back our way and there were probably 3 opportunities where we looked like we had them in big trouble but it didn't quite come off - MJ getting in down the left with players in the box but him mis-trying an on the run dragback instead of just crossing it with his left; Okay breaking 3 the middle when we were 3 on 3 but making a really poor choice of pass and then finally the chance of the half with Diangana somehow getting up above everyone else and heading down well (too well) and their keeper saving well - a poorer header might well have gone in.

Overall it was tight but pretty good, and we roared them off at half term.

Second half and the tempo was a bit slower but we controlled it well and kept them largely at bay although they had more of the ball.

A couple of times we broke out resulted in a half chance for Furlong who did well to get in and stab a volley just wide, before the chance of the game came after great work by Fellows down the right. His cutback to Diangana was perfect and with the time to touch it out of his feet he really had to score but drilled it hard and low at the keeper. I think he scores that 7/10 times and the pass finish into the far corner was on. Whilst we were still in those post chances seconds of agony Southampton went up the other end and from a nothing chance a wicked deflection required Palmer to save with his feet.

We looked tired and with around 10-15 to go including added time, Carlos freshened it up, going to a back 3 with Ajayi coming on, and then shuffling the pack with M'vila, Wallace and Swift coming on.

I thought it worked well and Wallace's running and pressing surprised them as we finished the game strongly... one passage of play saw them cough up the ball in their own box and Townsend had a wallop at goal when perhaps squaring it for a tap-in was the option. There was time for a last minute penalty appeal when Grady ghosted past their player in the box and went down with minimal contact when really he should've stayed on his feet and cut the ball back, and our final effort was the scene set for the Reach 30 yard screamer... I think he hit the top of the stand.

Overall not a terrible result. It's still a big ask but it always was. We proved we can match them, will have got some belief from it and I think we can go down there and edge it. The danger signs are also there - with Armstrong, Adams and Wallace you have to wonder how they didn't finish second, and they can play worse than us and win it. Game on overall though!

  • Palmer - 8 Big saves when it mattered.
  • Furlong - 7 Pretty good overall, concentrated well.
  • Bartley - 8 Gave one of those performances he's capable of... strong leadership
  • Kipre - 7 Solid beast mode as ever and used the ball well
  • Townsend - 7 As with Furlong, played a very solid sensible game
  • Okay - 7 Looked tired second half in the heat but top quality upstairs... there was just that one break where we needed him to do slightly better but he also won a dangerous free kick second half.
  • Mowatt - 8 I thought he probably grew into it more than any other player... as it went on he really got to grips with it... close with the free kick but he's good enough to hit the target there.
  • Fellows - 7 He did lose the ball cheaply or make the wrong choice once or twice but he also created our two best chances. Did really well.
  • Grady - 7 Could've scored 2 and been the hero. Was too weak and gave it away too cheapy at times, but at other times his footwork and use of the ball was exceptional and the reason he's in the team is because off the ball he works way harder and smarter than Swift, he was crucial in the press
  • MJ - 7 Looked a threat all the time even if it didn't quite come off... I think he's the matchwinner in this tie if we can keep supplying him.
  • BTA - 6 Typically brilliant effort, won loads of 50/50s and pressed them high... held onto it too long a few times. He'll never be a Lukakau but he could be a Fortune... stick with him.
  • Semi - 7 Solid and allowed us to player higher up
  • M'Vila - 7 Good cameo, used it well
  • Wallace - 7 Really ran hard, forced them into mistakes and swung momentum back our way
  • Swift - 7 Looked creative
  • Reach - The 30 yarder wasn't to be this time... but there are still maybe 2 games left!

Kev Buckley:

Two 0-0 draws and two penalty shoot-outs away from the top flight

Managed to watch both of the first-leg semis and, whilst neither of the home teams managed to make use of their home advantage, neither will be too alarmed by what they saw from the other sides, assuming of course that the other sides play the same way in the return legs.

FWIW, there was even less attacking intent in the Norwich vs Leeds game - a mere three shots on target compared to a paltry five in ours - but Leeds should have had a pen in the first few minutes.

Russel Martin sprung a bit of a surprise in switching to a back three, whilst still trying to have those three play the ball out from the back, something that it wasn't clear the re-jigged Soton backline found all that easy to adapt to, as Albion (unchanged, bar the now officially surplus to requirements at Bristol City loanee, Weimann coming in for Maja on the bench) pressed right up from the off.

Within the first six minutes, our harrying of a side who simply refused to knock it long, saw us force four dead-ball situations: three corners and a free-kick, however we failed to register a attempt on target from any of them.

Considering we were playing with a back four the narrowness of those four, that finally allowed the Saints to advance into acres of space in our left back area was worrying, as was the driven shot that flew across the goal and just past the far post.

Albion though were still able to find ways to make space of their own, with a sublime ball inside the wider of the three centre-halves giving Fellows a chance to pull a lovely ball back, only to see no-one in the box.

Three minutes later though, Fellows would lose it and allow Soton to advance down our right, where Palmer made himself wider than the narrow angle the striker eventually shot from.

Not clear how much the "hot weather" drinks break, taken as 24 minutes passed, took any remaining sting out of the game, as both sides kept possession and kept probing, but the only moment of note before halftime was Fellows doing ever so well to stand up a delightful cross that Diangana rose to get above; headed powerfully down, but too close to the keeper, who was able to effect a block.

Shortly before the second-half's drinks break, Fellows would set up Mowatt, who blazed over, before his opposite winger Johnston would deliver a cross that Furlong headed wide.

Even closer to that break, Bartley, running back towards his goal seemed to pull up, clutching a hamstring, but would stay out to take on water, and carry on.

As 70 minutes passed, with no sign of Corberan's usual changes, Martin made a triple substitution, but stuck with his back three.

Fellows, much the better of the Albion wingers on the day would race away after the ball seemed to hug the touchline as three players moved it forwards and this time the pull-back found Diangana, right at the top of the box, but he could only hit it straight at the keeper, straight after which, at the other end, the away side would get off a strike that, in taking a deflection, seemed to have wrongfooted Palmer as he dived in the direction of the original attempt, but then somehow managed to get a trailing leg onto the ball and keep it out.

With 80 minutes approaching, Corberan made a quadruple switcheroo, although whether it was designed to save legs for the second leg or just to try something different, wasn't obvious, as off came both wingers, to be replaced by Swift and Ajayi (yes: Ajayi), whilst more conventionally, Wallace swapped with BTA, and M'Vila replaced Yokuslu.

The last ten minutes thus had a 5-4-1 feel about it, although Reach, who had come on for Townsend as the first of six minutes of stoppage time started, would at least get the commentary team telling anyone still watching by then about the time they'd seen him score an absolute belter, in response to him "having a dig" with a minute left that was probably the highest and widest of the day.

If we had scored when we totally on top in that first five or six, then it might been a completely different game, and indeed, made it into a completely different tie, however, we've failed to score at home again, but at least we didn't concede.

Three nil-nils and promotion via penalties is still very much on the cards!