A full-house at Southampton’s St Mary’s stadium witnessed a game which bought jubilation to both Southampton and the visitors Walsall. Despite a 3-1 defeat, The Saddlers remain in League One thanks to Dagenham and Redbridge’s crushing 5-0 defeat at the hands of Peterborough. However, it was Southampton who were celebrating after securing their inevitable promotion to the Championship.
A bumper crowd of 31,663 tuned out to witness the final day of the League One season. The capacity crowd couldn’t be disappointed with the electric atmosphere on the south coast. Chants of “we are going up” and “Pompey here we come” filled the arena before kick off. As the players entered the pitch, there was a sea of Red and White stripes, as fans held up cards, and a sea of noise to greet the players.
The 30,000 Saints fans could not complain about the start their team had. Within the first ten minutes, they came close on three occasions, with Guly do Prado, Rickie Lambert and Dean Hammond all firing their shots just over the bar. Guly, on-form Irish striker David Connolly and Rickie Lambert continued to attack the Walsall goal, only for Guly to be denied by the legs of Walsall stopper Jimmy Walker.
Early pressure took its toll in the 26th minute after Morgan Schniderlin, returning to the side for his first start since March, brilliantly intercepted to allow Connolly to slide the ball through to the Brazilian Guly who turned his man and tucked the ball into the top corner to give Saints a deserved lead.
Southampton doubled their advantage just three minutes later when David Connolly tucked in his third goal in five games, after linking up with both Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert before tucking the ball past the keeper at his near post. This sent the Southampton fans into raptures.
Despite their side looking to be heading to a defeat, the Walsall fans were equally jubilant as news fed in that Dagenham were losing at London Road. Saints chants of “we are going up”, were matched by the 1,500 travelling supporters with “we are staying up”.
Things got better for the visitors, as on the stroke of half time Saddler Julian Gray cut the deficit in half. Catching Southampton unawares in injury time, he beautifully curled the ball past Kelvin Davis, with what was Walsall’s first shot of the game.
Half Time 2-1.
Connolly had another chance after the re-start, narrowly missing a volley after Lambert’s knock down. However Walsall look like a much more battling side in the second period, with former Manchester City striker Jon Macken crashing a shot into the side netting.
Teenage sensation Alex Chamberlain was introduced in the second half and he nearly scored with his first act in the game. After blistering past the Walsall defence, he was unlucky to see his shot rebound off the post.
Walsall continued to battle and had two chances which they thought had levelled the game up. Striker Grigg hit the post from three yards out, before Macken bundled the ball into the net after Kelvin Davis’ fumble, only to be denied by the offside flag.
Chamberlain made the visitors pay a minute later, curling in a beautiful left footed shot from the edge of the area into the top left corner to absolute perfection. The score could have been much more embarrassing for Walsall, had it not been for Jimmy Walker’s great form to deny Chamberlain, Connoly and Lallana.
Party spirit hit St Mary’s as the full-time whistle was blown and was greeted with a pitch invasion from the Southampton fans, as the runners-up trophy was presented to on-field captain Dean Hammond and club captain Kelvin Davis, before Nigel Adkins got his hands on the prize.
So another exciting season is over in the Football League, we have seen trials and tribulations up and down the country. How have your club done? Are you looking forward to next season? And most importantly… How will Southampton fair in the Championship? Let me know on Facebook, Twitter @naspearing and on the blog itself.