Southampton star’s incredible performance in West Brom win with most duels won

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MAY 17: Will Smallbone of Southampton celebrates scoring during the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final 2nd Leg match between Southampton and West Bromwich Albion at St Mary's Stadium on May 17, 2024 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Isabelle Field/Southampton FC via Getty Images)

After the reverse fixture finished 0-0 at The Hawthorns on Sunday, Southampton were favourites to secure a spot in the final on 26th May.

Russell Martin‘s side were impressive from the off, as they pinned a West Brom with limited attacking ambitions into their own half.

The Saints could find the breakthrough until Will Smallbone fired a stunning strike into the near post just minutes into the second-half.

The lead was doubled on 78 minutes as Adam Armstrong scored his 22nd of the season, before the striker scored again on 86 minutes from the penalty spot.

West Brom scored in the 97th minute through Cedric Kipre, however it was then too late to have any material impact and it is Southampton who now face Leeds United for a Premier League place.

 

Will Smallbone of Southampton scores a goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final 2nd Leg match between Southampton and West Bromwich...

Photo by Isabelle Field/Southampton FC via Getty Images

Will Smallbone imperious in West Brom win

St Mary’s was in full voice, with the atmosphere arguably the best ever seen at the stadium Southampton moved into in 2001.

Playing in a game of this magnitude for Southampton will have been everything Smallbone had ever dreamed of as a local lad who has come through the academy and he certainly stepped up to the occasion.

As well as his crucial goal to break the deadlock, the 24-year-old made one key pass and had a pass success rate of 90% according to Sofascore.

The Ireland international appeared to be everywhere as he was equally impressive defensively, helping Southampton really assert their dominance on the Baggies.

Smallbone is sometimes accused of being a little timid in his out of possession work but against West Brom the midfielder won a remarkable ten of his 13 duels, more than any other player on the pitch.

He also made eight tackles and one interception, as well as being fouled twice, in what was one his best performances for his boyhood club.

Smallbone proving doubters wrong

Will Smallbone of Southampton celebrates scoring during the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final 2nd Leg match between Southampton and West Bro...
Photo by Isabelle Field/Southampton FC via Getty Images

Having spent last season on loan at Stoke City whilst Southampton were getting relegated from the Premier League, this season has been the first of Smallbone’s career where he has been a regular for the Saints.

Martin is a big fan of the skillset Smallbone brings to the side, but he has endured some tough times this season alongside the highs.

The Saint found himself badly out of form in February, following up a poor performance against Hull City with a disastrous cameo against Liverpool in the FA Cup fifth round.

However, he bounced back from those woes and has proved in the last three games that he is a really important player in Martin’s side.

Now, the man from Basingstoke will walk out at Wembley for the club he has been at since the age of eight.

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