Sky Bet Championship Play-offs - The Final

Wembley - 3 pm

Leeds Utd 0

Southampton 1

  • A Armstrong, 24'


IBO Reporter: channonite

|There was not much time to think about the fixture at Wembley after the euphoria of overcoming West Bromwich Albion in the second leg of the semi-final just nine days before. The last time Saints played at Wembley was the FACup Semi-Final against Chelsea in 2018, which ended in a 2-0 defeat, and the whole match seemed to be an anti-climax. Hopefully this would not go the same way.

Uncharacteristically, I was upbeat and confident all week long. We started off the journey from home at 9am, stopping for a leisurely brunch just outside Hungerford before setting off for Northwood, where one of our number had arranged parking on the drive of a friend's house no more than 100 yards from the Underground.

Seven stops down the Metropolitan line, and we piled off at Wembley Park. thousands of good-humoured fans of both clubs were making their way up Olympic Way (Wembley Way in old money!). That was the first surprise, Leeds fans who were a good laugh. Who would have thought?!

We decided to get inside the ground early and have a drink. The higher prices inside were more than made up for the lack of time queueing.

Next was to find out where our seats were and we were delighted to find that they were better than we were expecting. Our seats were on the end of a row, right next to the media, and on the other side of the gangway was the Saints media team, who were happy to have a chat and explain what they were doing. The implied message was, 'Now we have had a chat, let us get on with our work'. So we did. Two rows further back, we saw Adam Blackmore and Jo Tessem broadcasting on BBC Radio Solent already.

Team News

|When the team was announced, the big surprise was that the team personnel were exactly the same as in the second leg of the semi-final. Ché Adams was back on the bench at the expense of Mara. The feelgood factor got better, but this is Saints FFS, We just don't do things the easy way. No, banish those negative thoughts.

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When the final whistle went, the red half of the stadium turned into a massive party, while the white half emptied in record time.

Photo Gallery

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A very happy Adam Armstrong, scorer of the games only goal, holding the cup after the game

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Yes, that IS Ross Stewart in the yellow shirt to the left of the Cup. He was an unused sub on the day

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Flynn Downes on loan from West Ham has been the glue that held the team together

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Taylor Harwood-Bellis celebrating. With the win he becomes a permanent signing on payment of £20M

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Will Smallbone - one of our own! Got the crucial assist for the goal

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Team Captain, Jack Stephens

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The goal. Priceless!

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On the final whistle, Fraser and Edozie (He was subbed at 85'!) go mad

Match Report

|The build-up was impressive, with equal time given, firstly to Leeds, whose fans had filled their end already and then to Saints. Leeds had given each of their fans a white scarf, while Saints fans had either a red or white plastic flag. While I would have rather had a scarf as a souvenir, there was no denying that Saints flags were way more effective. When waved, the Leeds scarves made them look more like a Morris dancers convention. 35,000 Morris dancers? It doesn't bear thinking about...

The two teams came out to a deafening roar from the 85,962 crowd, which was 1,148 more than attended the FACup Final the day before between Manchester City and Manchester United! As the players came out, the heavens opened, and it poured down, but only for a brief few minutes.

At last, the game got underway after a seemingly interminable build-up, with Leeds the first to settle, and they came forward aggressively, with Gray finally shooting just wide right. However, the Saints defence looked calm and were effectively marshalling the Leeds forwards away from the danger areas.

Stephens made a mistake near the penalty area, but his fellow defenders were very quick to cover. Harwood-Bellis played one of his trademark long, accurate passes to the feet of Aribo. He found Russell out on the left wing, and suddenly, Adam Armstrong was in behind the Leeds defenders. He tried to cut back to Will Smallbone, but he couldn’t quite reach him, and after a couple of panicky attempts, the defenders managed to clear the danger.

The next notable moment was when Joe Aribo won a free kick just outside the area and Will Smallbone took it, sending a wicked curling shot heading for the top nearside corner. Meslier just got to it, making a spectacular finger-tip save to push it around the post for a corner.

Then, with just over 20 minutes gone, it happened. A patient build-up began with McCarthy playing it out from a goal-kick. It reached Harwood-Bellis at walking pace just inside the Saints’ half, then almost before you could blink, it had gone to Downes, Smallbone, and finally, Adam Armstrong, who had sprung the Leeds offside trap, moved right, drawing Meslier across and shot beyond him. GOAL!!

That was almost a carbon copy of the goal he scored at Elland Road in the last Championship game of the season!

The noise in the western half of Wembley went from loud to mind-damagingly loud. The release of tension was palpable. Not only did the crowd settle, but when the match restarted the players were clearly playing with more freedom.

Not long after McCarthy cleared from a Leeds attack to Brooks on the right touchline. He controlled the ball and turned but was caught by Firpo. Unfortunately, he fell awkwardly on his left, and it was immediately clear that he had hurt himself, rolling on the ground, clutching his left shoulder. After some treatment, he tried to play on, but he was clearly in a lot of pain, holding his left arm close to his chest and eventually collapsed on the pitch. He went off, looking visibly very upset, to be replaced by Sam Edozie. We later heard that Brooks had dislocated his shoulder and it was a sad way to end his loan period with Saints. It would be nice to keep such a skilful player, but I think he only came to us to get playing time and will stay at Bournemouth now.

There was still time in the dying moments of the first half for Edozie to be fouled some way outside the penalty area. Will Smallbone took the resulting free-kick and found Armstrong in almost the same position that he had just scored from. This time Meslier managed to push it away, but right into a pack of players from both sides. Leeds were panicking again but just managed to clear it upfield. It broke to Gnonto, who was promptly and unceremoniously dragged down by Fraser, which earned the Scot a yellow card.

So, half-time and 1-0 to the Saints. We decided to go and get a drink after all that but managed to find the one server who was slower than a slow person’s slow bits. By the time we got back to our seats, the second half had started.

When we did start paying attention again, Leeds were on the attack, but I always felt the Saints’ defence was in control. The nearest Leeds came to anything in this period was when one attacker burst through but then contrived to almost collide with one of his own players. They certainly had their feet mixed up.

Following that piece of light entertainment Saints had a really good chance to score. Following a period of pressure from Leeds, Joe Aribo intercepted a sloppy pass and, in one movement, sent Edozie clean through. With Firpo and several other defenders closing on him, Sam chose to try a curling shot towards the top right corner past the keeper. Unfortunately, he not only beat Firpo and Meslier but also the corner of the net, and it went sailing high, wide and not at all handsome.

Fraser had run himself into the ground chasing everything, and at 70’, Martin took him off, replacing him with Ché Adams. Still 20 minutes of normal time left. Had somebody stopped the clock?!

Another Harwood-Bellis pinpoint pass saw the ball drop in front of Aribo, and with Archie Gray in close attendance, he tried to chip the keeper but hit his shot way too hard. Meslier just watched the shot sail past the post.

James had come on for Leeds in place of the ineffective Gnonto at about the same time as Adams had come on, and he now came as close as anyone to scoring for Leeds. He picked the ball up wide on the left, beat a tackle from the otherwise excellent Walker-Peters and curled a shot which beat McCarthy, but crashed against the crossbar and bounced away.

Again, Leeds came back, and James again found himself in space, drawing a full-length diving save from McCarthy.

To shore up the defence, Martin took off Edozie and sent Manning on for the last seven minutes and whatever time the ref added. Saints were holding firm, however, and we were beginning to dare to hope.

Squeaky bum time - Nine minutes of injury time!

With 101 minutes showing on the stadium clock, the ref blew for a free kick. Adam Armstrong thought it was the full-time whistle and whipped off his shirt, only to realise his error almost immediately! Thankfully, we only had a few seconds to wait, and then all hell was let loose in the Southampton half of Wembley.

Saints are Premier League. Again.

Post Match

I have now been to four Cup Finals of varying sorts and seen them at Wembley in a Semi-Final, but that was the single most exhilarating match I have ever seen Saints involved in, and yes, that does include the 1976 FACup Final. Back then, I was young and believed that anything could happen. Now I am no longer young, I realise that occasions like this are few and far between, except for Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and the like.

It was just sheer, unadulterated joy, and I now have “Freed from Desire” on permanent replay in my head. Thanks to social media, I think I must have watched dozens of video clips of about 37,000 Saints fans of all ages going absolutely bonkers to that song and all with a haze of red smoke hanging over us! Thank goodness the chorus to the song simply consists of going Na, na, na, na, na, etc!

One of our number had been to the FACup Final the day before when Manchester United beat Manchester City and according to him, not only was the crowd bigger for the Championship Play-off, but the atmosphere was way better as well.

As for the team, I have to say they surprised and delighted me in equal measure. Every single one of them delivered on the day. Standouts for me were: McCarthy - I have never been a fan, but he was great. Walker-Peters - Good grief, is he good? He had Summerville in his pocket all match. Harwood-Bellis - Apart from his superb defending, his long, accurate, raking passes to players way up the pitch forced their defenders back or risked a Saints player being clean through. Bednarek - Outstanding in defence, his crunching tackles ensured the keeper only had shots at a distance to worry about. Stephens - A real leader, and even though he is still prone to the odd mistake, he always had an eye for pushing forward. Fraser - Playing wing back again, and he was really good at it. With him, you know he is going to give his all. And with a smile on his face. Smallbone - Probably the single most improved player in the side this year, he is always a goal threat. Downes - The absolute glue that holds the side together, he pops up everywhere on the pitch, but always going forward. PLEASE, West Ham, let him sign for us! Aribo - At long last, after arriving from Celtic, where he was a fan favourite, he has shown why since returning from AFCON. He was superb. Adam Armstrong - That goal will make him a club legend in the same breath as Bobby Stokes. Finally Brooks - The dislocated shoulder was so cruel, as he was playing really well until that point.

Yes, the entire starting line-up were standout...





Na, na, na, na, na! - And repeat.


Leeds Utd

  • 1, I. Meslier
  • 22, A. Gray
  • 3, J. Firpo (Mateo Joseph 83')
  • 8, G. Kamara (C. Roberts 73')
  • 14, J. Rodon
  • 4, E. Ampadu (c), Captain - Booked 90'+12
  • 29, W. Gnonto (D. James 66')
  • 44, I. Gruev
  • 7, J. Piroe
  • 24, G. Rutter
  • 10, C. Summerville - Booked 43' (J. Anthony 74')


  • 6, L. Cooper
  • 12, J. Anthony
  • 17, J. Shackleton
  • 20, D. James
  • 25, S. Byram
  • 28, K. Darlow
  • 30, J. Gelhardt
  • 33, C. Roberts
  • 49, Mateo Joseph


  • 1, A. McCarthy
  • 2, K. Walker-Peters
  • 26, R. Fraser - Booked 45' (C. Adams 70' - Booked 79')
  • 5, J. Stephens (c), Captain
  • 35, J. Bednarek - Booked 39'
  • 21, T. Harwood-Bellis - Booked 51'
  • 16, W. Smallbone
  • 7, J. Aribo - Booked 90'+12
  • 9, A. Armstrong
  • 36, D. Brooks (S. Edozie 35' (R. Manning 83'))
  • 4, F. Downes - Booked 85'


  • 3, R. Manning
  • 10, C. Adams
  • 11, R. Stewart
  • 13, J. Lumley
  • 14, J. Bree
  • 19, J. Rothwell
  • 20, K. Sulemana
  • 23, S. Edozie
  • 24, S. Charles

Match Stats

  • Leeds / Southampton
  • Overall Possession: 57.4% / 42.6%
  • Shots: 12 / 7
  • Shots on target: 2 / 3
  • Shots off target: 5 / 1
  • Blocked shots: 5 /3
  • Total touches in the box: 25 / 11
  • Goalkeeper saves: 2 / 2
  • Aerial duels won: 5 / 11
  • Fouls: 18 / 13
  • Corners: 4 / 4


  • Referee: John Brooks.
  • Assistant referees: Simon Bennett & Dan Robathan.
  • Fourth official: Tony Harrington.
  • Reserve assistant referee: Akil Howson.
  • VAR: Jarred Gillett.
  • Assistant VAR: Darren Cann.
  • Attendance: 85,962

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Adam Armstrong scores the games only goal

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