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HomeNewsLuton Town 2-0 Sunderland (Agg 3-2): Hatters power through to play-off final

Luton Town 2-0 Sunderland (Agg 3-2): Hatters power through to play-off final


Tom Lockyer scores for Luton
Tom Lockyer scores his fifth of the season for Luton – and third in their past four games

Luton Town are one win away from returning to the top flight of English football for the first time since 1992 after overturning a first-leg deficit to beat Sunderland and reach the Championship play-off final.

Roared on by a raucous home crowd inside their compact 118-year-old Kenilworth Road home, Luton should have made it three when keeper Anthony Patterson misdirected a clearance and Jordan Clark blazed wastefully over.

Sunderland stuck to their passing principles, but the only serious save home keeper Ethan Horvath had to make throughout was from the head of one of his own players, Elijah Adebayo, when the score was 1-0.

Luton will now face Middlesbrough or Coventry City – who play their second leg on Wednesday with the tie level at 0-0 – at Wembley on 27 May with a place in the Premier League at stake.

Luton benefit from aerial power

The two managers named the same XIs which started the first leg, and Sunderland had reasons for optimism following a 10-match unbeaten run and the knowledge that only champions Burnley had prevented them scoring in a league game since November.

Looking for back-to-back promotions after coming up from League One via the play-offs last term, they had two penalty appeals turned down inside the first 12 minutes, with the referee ruling that Amad Diallo had run into Marvelous Nakamba before tumbling to the ground and Amari’I Bell’s handball was unintentional.

In between, though, they fell behind when Lockyer won a header from a corner and the ball fell for Osho to turn it home for his third goal of the season.

Gabriel Osho scores for Luton
Gabriel Osho reacted quickest to sidefoot the ball over the Sunderland line

Although the Wearsiders showed some nice passes and movement when they encroached into Luton’s half, they were in trouble virtually every time a high ball came into their box.

Trai Hume cleared a Carlton Morris effort off the line from Alfie Doughty’s cross but the ball rebounded back towards the goal off Pierre Ekwah and Luke O’Nien had to hack it away to prevent an own goal.

Morris went close again with a header from Clark’s free-kick which keeper Patterson pushed away at full stretch, but was powerless seconds later as Adebayo returned the ball into the box and Lockyer glanced it inches wide.

The pressure was relentless and, after his initial corner was played back to him two minutes before half-time, Doughty produced an inviting inswinging cross which Lockyer met with an unstoppable header.

Cook and Pleat watch Hatters make final

Luton finished 11 points clear of Sunderland in the regular season and Doughty’s dead-ball deliveries continued to cause panic in the Black Cats’ defence and Adebayo should have done better when he headed a corner over from five yards.

The home support included ex-England cricket captain Sir Alastair Cook and former Luton manager David Pleat, who led them to the second-tier title in 1982 and is hoping to see current head coach Rob Edwards add another promotion to his success with Forest Green in League Two a year ago.

With the tie slipping away, Sunderland pressed forward and Patrick Roberts dragged a shot wide before attempting a left-footed curler as he cut in from the right, again off target.

Tony Mowbray was a member of Ipswich’s winning Championship play-off final team in 2000, but the Sunderland boss could only watch as his side struggled in vain to breach a committed Luton defence.

Patterson was sent into the Luton box for a corner in added time but was stranded upfield as Luton broke away. But instead of squaring for an easy tap-in, Cody Drameh put his side-footed effort into the side-netting.

It did not matter, however, as the Hatters kept the door shut to secure a trip to the national stadium, having lost to Huddersfield at the semi-final stage of the play-offs 12 months ago.

Non-league to Premier League in nine years?

Victory at Wembley would cap a remarkable change in fortunes for a club that dropped out of the English Football League in 2009 and only reclaimed their place five years later.

They took the next two steps under Nathan Jones, achieving back-to-back promotions in 2018 and 2019 before he moved on to Stoke City.

Jones returned 16 months later to help secure their Championship status and then guided them to play-offs by finishing sixth last season.

After strengthening the squad with signings such as top scorer Morris, they looked well placed to match that run, but had to make a change of manager mid-season when Jones was appointed by Southampton and Edwards was brought in as his replacement, having begun the campaign with Home Counties rivals Watford.

It did not halt their momentum and a 14-game unbeaten run secured third place in the table and a home second leg in the play-off semi-final, an advantage Edwards’ side made count.

Line-ups

Luton

Formation 3-5-2

  • 34Horvath
  • 32Osho
  • 4Lockyer
  • 29Bell
  • 2Drameh
  • 18ClarkBooked at 18minsSubstituted forCampbellat 83′minutes
  • 13Nakamba
  • 17MpanzuBooked at 90mins
  • 45Doughty
  • 9Morris
  • 11Adebayo

Substitutes

  • 1Shea
  • 3Potts
  • 8Berry
  • 16Burke
  • 22Campbell
  • 23Onyedinma
  • 25Taylor

Sunderland

Formation 4-4-1-1

  • 1Patterson
  • 10Roberts
  • 32Hume
  • 13O’NienBooked at 30mins
  • 11GoochSubstituted forHugginsat 77′minutes
  • 16Diallo
  • 24NeilSubstituted forBaat 77′minutes
  • 39Ekwah
  • 20Clarke
  • 21PritchardSubstituted forAleseat 57′minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 28GelhardtSubstituted forMichutat 64′minutes

Substitutes

  • 2Huggins
  • 12Bass
  • 17Ba
  • 22Lihadji
  • 25Michut
  • 42Alese
  • 45Anderson

Referee:
Simon Hooper

Attendance:
10,013

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