Under-23s win PL2 Play-Off Final

By SFC Media Mon 13 May Saints v Newcastle
Photo by James Bridle
Mon 13 May 7PM
Premier League 2 - Division 2
Southampton
2
Newcastle United
1
N'Lundulu [39'] Johnson [54']
Bailey [81']
Referee: Sam Purkiss | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 1,552

Southampton Under-23s capped off an incredible season with victory in the Premier League 2 play-off final, as they were promoted back into Division One of the competition.

Radhi Jaïdi’s side beat their Newcastle United counterparts 2-1, at St Mary’s, to spark scenes of jubilation and ensure they finished their 2018/19 campaign with a richly-deserved success.

Saints, who were also Premier League International Cup semi-finalists this season, had missed out on the Division Two title by the narrowest of margins, finishing second behind Wolves only by virtue of goal difference.

However, despite that disappointment, they made no mistake in the nail-biting, end-of-season play-offs.

Victory over Aston Villa ten days previously had sent them through to the final, and they again made home advantage count in this winner-takes-all tie, as goals from Dan N’Lundulu and Tyreke Johnson proved enough to settle the contest and fire Saints back into the top-flight, despite a late response from Newcastle’s Owen Bailey making it a nervy end to the night.

The Premier League 2 Play-Off Final trophy was up for grabs at St Mary's

Saints made only one change from their 2-0 semi-final win, as Dare Olufunwa dropped to the bench and Kayne Ramsay came into the side.

As they did against Villa, Saints started well, and they so nearly went in front on ten minutes with what would have been a sensational solo goal from N’Lundulu.

Tom O’Connor had cleared a ball from deep in his own half down the right touchline, where N’Lundulu was waiting. The striker produced a brilliant touch and turn of pace to beat his man and race into the Newcastle half, before driving towards the area, cutting inside two retreating defenders, and taking aim at the far corner with the outside of his right foot, only for Magpies keeper Nathan Harker to make a tremendous save.

It turned out to be a rare moment of goalmouth action in the first half, though, with neither goal coming under any further threat until the 30th minute.

On that occasion, it was Newcastle’s turn, as Elias Sorensen wriggled free in the left half of the penalty box, before spinning back from the byline and sending in a fierce strike from a tight angle, with Jack Rose diverting the ball clear with his body.

It sparked the game back into a little more life, and, shortly afterwards, O’Connor, who scored a stunning free-kick in the semi-final, took aim with his left foot as the ball rolled across him 25 yards out, but his effort deflected wide.

The game then swung back down the other end, as Aaron O’Driscoll made a fine block from Thomas Allen’s crisply-hit shot, after a corner had been cleared into his path on the edge of the area.

It seemed as if a goal could finally be on its way, and so it proved on 39 minutes, as Saints made the all-important breakthrough.

Dan N'Lundulu wheels away after putting Saints in front

It came via a Johnson corner, with the winger curling his delivery in towards the back post, where Harker made a poor effort with his punch clear, looping the ball only as far as the edge of the six-yard box and into the path of N’Lundulu, who calmly headed home.

It sparked wild celebrations from the Saints youngsters in front of the Itchen Stand crowd and gave Jaïdi’s side a strong platform from which to head into the second half.

They put it to good use, too, doubling the lead in the 54th minute through a slick move.

O’Connor slid a beautiful pass for Jake Vokins down the left, and, having raced onto the ball, the full-back produced a delicate chip towards the back post, where Johnson had peeled into space, and although his header back across goal looked like it may have been going wide, it hit defender Kelland Watts on the way and deflected into the back of the net.

Radhi Jaïdi celebrates his team's second goal of the night

With a two-goal lead, counter-attacking opportunities were now a big source of possible success for Saints, and they threatened to add another on 64 minutes, as N’Lundulu concluded a break by slipping a pass to his right for Ramsay, whose shot from the edge of the box took a deflection and was well held by Harker.

N’Lundulu was then withdrawn for Marcus Barnes with 20 minutes remaining, receiving a big ovation from the crowd and high-fives all round from the bench after what had been a telling contribution.

Slattery then tested Harker with a powerful drive from 20 yards, before Saints’ second change saw Harry Hamblin come on in place of the midfielder with ten minutes left on the clock.

The hosts were looking comfortable, but then, from almost nowhere, a nervy finale was set-up, as an angled ball into the box was nodded down to substitute Callum Roberts, who laid it back to captain Bailey, with his left-footed strike taking a deflection and flying past Rose to make it 2-1.

But Saints weren't to be denied, as Christoph Klarer made an incredible block deep into added time from Sorensen, with the final whistle greeted by scenes of joyous celebration from the hosts, who were able to end their memorable campaign by holding the play-off final trophy aloft.

Southampton

Head to Head Stats

Newcastle United
  • Possession (%)
    44
    56
  • Shots
    8
    18
  • Shots on target
    5
    3
  • Corners
    3
    4
  • Passes Complete
    296
    383

Southampton PL2

1
Jack Rose (GK)
4
Alfie Jones
6
Christoph Klarer
5
Aaron O'Driscoll
7
Callum Slattery
Harry Hamblin (81′)
10
William Smallbone
2
Kayne Ramsay
8
Thomas O'Connor (C)
3
Jake Vokins
11
Tyreke Johnson
Oludare Olufunwa (97′)
9
Daniel N'Lundulu
Marcus Barnes (71′)
15
Will Ferry
16
Marcus Barnes
12
Oludare Olufunwa
13
Alex Cull
14
Harry Hamblin

Newcastle United PL2

1
Nathan Harker (GK)
6
Kelland Watts
2
Jamie Sterry
3
Oliver Walters
4
Owen Bailey (C)
5
Lewis Cass
11
Rosarie Longelo
Yannick Toure (56′)
7
Thomas Allan
Callum Roberts (56′)
8
Matthew Longstaff
10
Mohammed Sangare
Luke Charman (65′)
9
Elias Sorensen
16
Yannick Toure
12
Liam Gibson
13
Otto Huuhtanen
14
Callum Roberts
15
Luke Charman
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