Southampton beat Leeds in the Championship play-off final to secure an immediate return to the Premier League and the £140m to go with it.

Saints’ 11-year spell in the top flight came to an end after a wretched campaign last time out but, despite finishing one place and three points behind Leeds in fourth, it is they who join Leicester and Ipswich in going up.

Adam Armstrong scored the decisive goal with a clinical finish after being put clear by Will Smallbone.

Leeds substitute Dan James clattered a bouncing ball against the crossbar late on as they pushed for an equaliser but Russell Martin’s men saw out almost 12 minutes of time added on.

Defeat for Leeds consigned them to another season in the Championship and meant they have now lost their past three finals at Wembley without scoring and been unsuccessful in all six of their play-off campaigns.

Saints’ promotion means that all three play-off finals this year were won by the team who had finished lower in the league table, with the team who had finished higher failing to score in all three.

Both teams came into the game off the back of comprehensive second-leg wins in the semi-finals, Leeds beating Norwich 4-0 and Southampton easing to a 3-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion.

There was nothing between the two sides for the first quarter of the game before Armstrong put Saints in front with his 24th goal of a prolific campaign.

Chances were few and far between thereafter, an oddly off-colour Crysencio Summerville shooting wide for Leeds and Samuel Edozie wasting a fine chance on the break for Southampton.

James twice came close to sending the match to extra time but Alex McCarthy made an excellent full-length save from his low 20-yarder after the bar had earlier denied the Welshman.

The win gives Martin, who had been discarded at Norwich as a player in Leeds boss Daniel Farke’s spell at Carrow Road, his first promotion in management.

Vindication for Martin as Saints bounce back

Southampton boss Russell Martin lifts the Championship play-off final trophy
,Russell Martin took over as Southampton boss following their relegation from the Premier League last summer

Martin left Swansea to take over at Southampton last summer after a season which had seen Saints sack both Ralph Hasenhuttl and Nathan Jones and end up finishing bottom under Ruben Selles.

He had built an excellent reputation during his spells in charge of MK Dons and the Swans for playing attractive football but had not managed to finish in a play-off spot, much less win promotion prior to this season.

Things did not get off to a great start as skipper James Ward-Prowse was sold after featuring in the opening-day win at Sheffield Wednesday and a run of four straight defeats in September, including a 5-0 shellacking at Sunderland, left some wondering if Martin’s spell at St Mary’s would be a brief one.

A 3-1 win over Leeds on 30 September sparked a complete turnaround in their form as they embarked on a 25-game unbeaten run that propelled them into automatic promotion contention.

They were still well in the chase in April but three successive losses against Cardiff, Leicester and Stoke put paid to that.

After a goalless draw at West Brom in the first leg of their play-off semi-final they cruised through in the return leg and although not at their sparking best in Sunday’s final, they had more than enough to see off Leeds.

Kesh Awefada

Kesh Awefada

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