Southampton 3 - West Bromwich Albion 1

Date: Friday 17th May 2024 Live on Sky Sports
Competition: Sky Bet Championship (Playoff SF L2)
McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Harwood-Bellis, Bednarek, Stephens, Smallbone (Rothwell, 90), Downes, Aribo (Charles, 90), Brooks (Edozie, 74), Armstrong, Fraser (Manning, 66)
Unused subs: Lumley, Stewart, Bree, Mara, Sulemana
(4-2-3-1) Palmer 5.4, Furlong 5.1, Bartley 5.0, Kipré 5.9, Townsend 5.6 (Reach, 73 3.8), Yokuslu 5.0 (M'Vila, 64 3.6), Mowatt 4.8 (Weimann, 82 3.4), Fellows 6.1, Diangana 2.8 (Swift, 64 4.1), Johnston 5.6, Wallace 4.7 (Thomas-Asante, 64 4.1)
Unused subs: Griffiths, Ajayi, Phillips, Chalobah
Manager: Carlos Corberán  4.2
Scorers: Smallbone (49), Armstrong (78, 86 pen); Kipré (97)
Referee: Tim Robinson 5.6
Submit your ratings for this game by clicking here: Ratings submitted so far: 14

Brendan Clegg:

Heartbreak at the final hurdle as we took it to the last 25% of the tie before being undone.

We can’t have any complaints- the better team won. But we can regret that unfortunately for us, we just weren’t able to perform on the ball well enough on the night.

We knew and Corberan pretty much said it needed to be a game where every player hit their maximum and whilst we undoubtedly ran hard and executed the defensive game plan so well for so long, too many players lost it cheaply and frequently.

CC made the one change with Wallace in for BTA. Completely understandable but I think with hindsight we missed BTA’s ability to get us out sometimes, to hold it a bit better and to get others into it. We’ll never know, and it mightn’t have made a difference because we got to HT goalless but in terms of physical relief and giving them more to think about, it could’ve.

To summarise the first half, our shape was excellent but we were very deep and negative. It took the sting out of the game but it meant MJ and Fellows only ever got the ball in our half under pressure. Grady was probably the worst culprit - his touch not there, decisions poor and slipping over. I also thought he missed a big headed chance when Southampton went to sleep, a better chance than it first looked.

Having got to HT we should’ve been happy and there will have been temptation to hook Grady for someone stronger.

CC opted to give it time and actually I felt we managed to work the ball a bit better for the opening spell. Unfortunately we blinked first with the first big error. Grady made an awful pass after we’d worked a good position. As he tracked back to atone I felt Kipre came across too early, opening the pitch for their player to stride onto a pass. We allowed him a split second too long but his finish was brutal into the top corner.

The rest of the half is a bit of a blur for me in sequence, but some recollections.

I remember thinking that CC hooked Okay too early and it weakened us. I’d have just tried BTA and Wallace up top together for 10 minutes and hooked Grady.

I think they probably should’ve had a penalty before one was given, Kipre getting lucky.

I thought their 2nd goal was another great finish, again that EPL quality with us missing the necessary close down by a split second.

I thought the 3rd was a penalty and it was tired naivety by Fellows who will get fitter and better.

And in all of it I thought 3-0 was harsh and there were marginal moments that at various stages of the game that didn’t go our way and perhaps showed the quality gap - the goalbound Mowatt effort that hit their defenders head, the save of the tie from Furlong’s thumper, the Reach volley that having got there was a decent chance for a pro footballer, the Bartley headers he should’ve done better with. The Kipre goal at the end, possibly his last touch for us, was at least deserved and reflected the scoreline fairer.

The nonsense at the end with the Southampton fans was totally classless and unnecessary, and our players remained calm to their credit.

The biggest summer in maybe 25 years or more awaits us because the player turnover will be massive and the FFP constraints extremely challenging. We may have to cash in on one or two of our few assets or allow free transfers for remaining high earners. Off the pitch, hopefully our new owners bring some exciting thoughts and plans that build momentum.

CC has done an amazing job but next season will be even tougher. I think there’s genuinely a challenge to him in his own development and a question mark - can his brand of controlled, conservative, tactically clever but lower risk football yield a points total that would ever deliver promotion, compared to an Ipswich style win every game approach? I’m not sure it can, so with freedom to bring in half a team or more - can he come up with a plan b and gel a side quickly?

For the game and the season:

  • Palmer - 6 Might he have stopped the first? 8 overall, has been a real positive. I think there will be a temptation to cash in but I feel his story here isn’t done.
  • Furlong - 6 Did okay but should’ve closed the 2nd. 7 overall, probably his most consistent season for us.
  • Barts - 6 Okay defensively but ropey on the ball. 6 overall, has put in some big performances but has also coasted sometimes and needed dropping. A good servant and I’d give him a year on a lower wage as cover.
  • Kipre - 7 Strong although judgement poor once or twice. 8 overall. CC got him to perform at his absolute maximum. I’d obviously keep him but think he’ll go, and if he does I don’t think he’ll repeat this form.
  • Townsend - 6 One of our better performers on the night, but no out ball. Overall 6 - We need to try and sign someone better but he’s a great pro, improved over time, a great servant who was only ever signed as a backup and doesn’t deserve the criticism.
  • Okay - 6 started slow but tactically important. 7 overall, I think has been consistently good.
  • Mowatt - 6 Couldn’t get hold of it and we suffered as a result. 8 overall, so many good games where he’s run the show via his short game. Would keep him but has lacked goals.
  • Fellows - 6 Did a defensive job, created our best chances, stamina faded. 7 overall, has come on massively and looking forward to seeing what he can do next season although if a silly offer comes in I expect we’ll take it.
  • Grady - 4 No sugar coating it, was poor when we needed a big game. Effort was there but weak and sloppy. 7 overall, has been reinvented in this role and can still improve there.
  • MJ - 6 Had that spark but we couldn’t get it to him in areas to do damage. 8 overall. A great loan I’d make permanent and I’d convert him to a 10… I think he’d do a Dorrans there. Expect he’ll be out of our range.
  • Wallace - 5 Ran hard but very little to show for it. 7 overall. A class act, being dropped will have hurt him but he’s a top guy who gives everything in every game in any role.
  • M’Vila - 5 Couldn’t keep the ball better than anyone else and looked leggy. 6 overall, understandable signing due to Molumby injury but probably got more minutes than he ever should’ve
  • BTA - 5 Difficult to get in the game. 7 overall as he’s over achieved and we’re going to need a few more like him. Can still improve, think he could play off the left too.
  • Swift - 5 tough game to get into. 6 overall as he’s got quality and strength but he either needs to work a lot harder or he’ll probably need to move on.
  • Reach - 5 Little time but had a decent chance. 6 overall and clearly CC loves his versatility and professionalism. We’ve got to try and do better though.
  • Weimann - 5 had a decent headed chance. 6 overall, I still think it was shrewd short term move given our situation at the time, still seems to always get chances even if he didn’t finish them.

And on to the rest for the season:

  • Ajayi - 6 underused in my view, has generally played well. Would Bartley get in the Nigeria team?
  • Chalobah - 5 Probably the player in the squad who frustrates me the most, can see why CC didn’t trust him.
  • Pipa - 6 Absolutely fine for cover but we need better
  • Phillips - 7 Another great servant who up until his injury was our most consistent player. Did well to get back at all. It’s not just sentiment, I’d give him a year on lower wages.
  • Pieters - 7 Just a top pro to perform as he did with everything else going on in his life. Has given us 2 great years of cover.
  • Molumby - 5 Can’t believe how long he’s been out. Will be useful next season if fit.
  • Dike - 5 Not sure he’ll ever be the same again
  • Maja - 5 a lot of promise. I’m not sure we’ve got the full story but I do understand CC’s logic, although I’d have had him on the bench over Chalobah.
  • Griffiths - 5 If we do get an offer I think we should cash in.

I don’t think anyone else has played enough to judge fairly but we’ve got some youngsters who have a chance and some others who need to move on. Is Corberan good enough to make a player out of Karlan Grant? Unlikely but having seen him do it with Kipre and Mowatt in the last years of their contract, anything is possible right?

It wasn’t to be but have a good summer everyone!

Kev Buckley:

Southampton 3 Albion 1: Seasonal shortcomings on show on South Coast

In the end, this one had a 'one game too far" feeling about it, both the players and the manager running out of ideas, and so going down to a side that always looked as in control as a side that finished the regular season twelve points ahead would have been expected too look, and although three goals flattered them, our two shots on target in regular time and the consolation of a set-piece goal in the seventh minute of stoppage time flattered us, and pretty much tells this season's story too.

Corberan put out his best starting XI, Thomas-Assante dropping to the bench so that Wallace could be the "false number nine", though the fact that our best starting XI contains a "false number nine" also tells a tale in itself.

Albion certainly didn't start the game with the intensity with which they'd started the first leg, with Yokuslu caught napping on the edge of the eighteen-yard box within 30 seconds, and Palmer almost being dispossessed inside his six yard box within ten minutes, although he just about dribbled free of the two pressing attackers.

A short corner, as ten passed, was completely wasted with the ball merely lumped into the box and a minute later, at the other end, Townsend not only nudged his man in the back but also had two hands on the player's arm to stop him falling, but survived the shouts for a penalty.

Kipre was caught ball-watching on the quarter-hour, allowing the through ball to be pulled back from the bye-line, resulting in a shot that just went wide of the post.

Fellows, almost playing as a second right-back, did get forwards a couple of minute later, and delivered a cross that the keeper had to touch onto the bar but that was about it for our attacking attempts, as the home side either fashioned their own chances, or tried to benefit from our mistakes, but were unable to convert, at regular intervals thereafter

A simple ball over the top of our back line on twenty five was miscontrolled; Mowatt coughed up the ball on thirty and the shot was saved, doing similar five minutes later although no shot resulted from that mistake.

Johnston finally has a bit of dribble as the half drew to a close but it came to nothing, the half ending with Kipre slipping over as he tried to clear from inside out box, the ball looping straight up, and although Bartley was well placed to clear, he headed it straight to their player, but again we weren't punished and so made it to half time without conceding.

Within just five minutes of restart we went behind though, Diangana horribly misplacing a pass out to the left wing which mean that Soton then had space in which to drive forwards unchallenged, the shot from the edge of the box curling around Palmer at his near left post.

Five minutes later and Mowatt got a similar chance to the one that Diangana failed to convert in the first leg, with time to control the shot from near the spot, only to see the goal-bound ball hit a defender who knew nothing about it.

Still didn't feel that going behind had really altered the Albion's approach and a couple of minutes later, Palmer gifted it straight back to them, and Kipre brought down the player about to tap-in, from behind, inside the 6-yard-box, but the referee saw nothing untoward.

Furlong had a snap shot straight at the keeper, following a corner, tipped over, though had it been half a yard either side, it would have seen us draw level just after the hour.

The triple substitution just after that baffled me - three like for like swaps with BTA replacing Wallace, Swift on for Diangana, and M'Vila for Yokuslu - no change in formation, nor approach?

Worse still, for me anyway, given that the triple substitution changed nothing with the next ten minutes, was another like for like swap. Surely Corberan must have had a Plan B, for being a goal down with 15 to go, that wasn't just swapping his left-back, Townsend, with Reach?

Five minutes later though and it was all over, as our central midfield seemed to disappear as a Southampton player ran sixty yards from just outside his own box to just outside ours, and with our back four still retreating into our box, the attacker he slipped the ball too, drove it through Furlong's legs, across Palmer and into the far side of the goal.

Reach made a good run to get onto a ball over the top with ten to go but shot off-target, after which we finally saw a change in formation as Weimann replaced Mowatt. It didn't bring any change to the result though.

Had the game ended 2-0, the scoreline probably would have been a better reflection, of the season, and the game, but, as it was, Southampton did get a penalty awarded and Kipre headed a goal from a last minute corner, both goals making both sides appear better than they had been on the night: they weren't worth three, and sadly, I don't think our managers approach, nor our players' implementation of it, deserved one on the night. As I said at the start: probably a game too far.

As always, at the end of another season, just want to give a huge thank-you to Brendan for all his reports, especially on the games I didn't get to see, not least as, from what I have seen, Brendan's calls have been spot on all season.