Southampton 3-1 West Brom (3-1 agg): Saints produce dominant second-half performance in front of prime minister Rishi Sunak to book their place in the Championship play-off final against Leeds

Like Leeds, Southampton moved a step closer to the Premier League with an emphatic performance that suggested we’re in for a stunner when they meet in the Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium next Sunday.

West Brom were suffocated in the second leg of the semi-final at St Mary’s Stadium, with the visitors hardly ever posing a threat when it mattered most. Darnell Furlong didn’t even get to launch one of his signature long throw-ins; New billboards had gone up on either side of the field in the exact space he would use as a run-up.

Machiavellian? Maybe, if that was the real reason behind their sudden installation, but the vast majority of St. Mary’s didn’t care. This included Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who enjoyed this victory like everyone else as he watched from the stands in his Saints hoodie.

The 30,000 crowd watched as one of their own in Will Smallbone opened the scoring, before Adam Armstrong struck twice in what quickly turned into a play-off celebration, resulting in a full-time pitch invasion.

As if the Southampton supporters needed extra motivation to make some noise, they got it via a pre-match team talk from their former left-back Mark Dennis. “All I’ve heard for the last month is those Skates down the road saying they want to play us,” Dennis shouted into the microphone of newly promoted Portsmouth. ‘Let’s go to the Premier League and show what’s going on.’

Southampton have reached the Championship play-off final for the first time after beating West Brom 3-1

Will Smallbone opened the scoring after putting Southampton ahead at the start of the second half

Will Smallbone opened the scoring after putting Southampton ahead at the start of the second half

Cedric Kipre (right) scored a late consolation goal for the visitors from St Marys on Friday

Cedric Kipre (right) scored a late consolation goal for the visitors from St Marys on Friday

Southampton fan and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wore a Saints hoodie as he watched his side beat West Brom

Southampton fan and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wore a Saints hoodie as he watched his side beat West Brom

Southampton finished the season twelve points ahead of West Brom and threw everything at them, hoping for an early breakthrough, as did Leeds in their 4-0 defeat to Norwich the night before.

They appealed for a penalty when David Brooks was clipped from behind by Conor Townsend while chasing a ball over the top. Referee Tim Robinson dismissed the claim because he felt Brooks had exaggerated the contact – an analysis that conflicted with about 30,000 fans.

After 15 minutes, Brooks should have scored when Armstrong’s pass burst into the six-yard box, but the tight angle saw him hit the outside of the post.

Southampton’s energy was summed up by Flynn Downes, the midfielder on loan from West Ham who never stopped pushing. West Brom goalkeeper Alex Palmer tried to calm things down by wasting time and only picked up the ball when Armstrong approached him.

With the match still goalless at half-time, the closest the visitors came to scoring was when a cross shot from Tom Fellows had to be knocked over by Alex McCarthy.

In the 49th minute, Southampton’s pressure paid off as the score reached 1–0.

The action started when Grady Diangana’s lazy pass was intercepted by Smallbone, who exchanged a one-two with Brooks before hitting a beautiful strike past Palmer. Thanks to one of their own players in Smallbone, Southampton could now see Wembley on the horizon.

As St Mary’s Stadium was bathed in red from smoke bombs, West Brom looked to draw level, with Alex Mowatt’s effort deflected wide by Taylor Harwood-Bellis.

Southampton shouted for a penalty when Brooks was tackled from behind by Cedric Kipre, but again Robinson was unmoved. Kipre had won the ball, but only after it had been kicked by Brooks. VAR may not be perfect, but it is there to catch clear and obvious mistakes like this.

West Brom's players recorded dejected figures as they were comfortably beaten by Southampton

West Brom’s players recorded dejected figures as they were comfortably beaten by Southampton

Saints manager Russell Martin looked delighted as his side secured their place in the Championship play-off final

Saints manager Russell Martin looked delighted as his side secured their place in the Championship play-off final

A full-scale pitch invasion began at full-time as Southampton's victory was confirmed

A full-scale pitch invasion began at full-time as Southampton’s victory was confirmed

Armstrong ran off in celebration in the 68th minute when he had found the corner, but the assistant’s flag came to West Brom’s rescue and replays showed it was the right call.

However, that only delayed the inevitable as Southampton made it 2-0 when Armstrong collected a pass from Downes and aimed for the far corner, finding it via Furlong’s legs.

In the 85th minute, on the third question, Southampton were awarded the penalty. Ryan Manning had gotten to the ball before Fellows, whose sliding challenge was careless. Armstrong stepped up and blasted – 3-0 and Wembley here we come.

Kipre got a consolation header from a corner deep into stoppage time, but by then it was already over for West Brom.