Rob Edwards believes Luton Town’s play-off disappointment 12 months ago will spur them on against Sunderland this time around. Under Edwards’ predecessor as manager Nathan Jones, Luton finished sixth in the Championship last season but lost in the play-off semi-finals against Huddersfield Town, drawing the home leg 1-1 but then losing 1-0 at the John Smith’s Stadium.
This time round the Hatters finished third in the table, 11 points short of automatic promotion but 11 points clear of Sunderland who finished sixth, and the clubs meet in the play-off semi-final, with the first leg at the Stadium of Light tomorrow tea-time and the return at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night. Asked whether Luton’s experience 12 months ago would provide additional motivation this time around, Edwards said: “We hope so.
“You can’t guarantee that you are going to win football matches, but we can learn from that experience, we can talk about it. The one thing that I’m looking for is the performance, doing our basics and those things really well because that’s what has served us well throughout the season so far.
“If we do those things right you give yourself a good chance of getting a result, but we can’t guarantee that win so I can’t say ‘yeah, we’re going to go one step further’. I feel that we are in good shape.
“We’ve got a pretty healthy squad to choose from, which is great as well at this stage of the season. We’re in as good a shape as we could be, but we’ve got to go and do it.”
Sunderland secured their place in the play-offs on the final day, with a 3-0 win at Preston – along with Blackburn Rovers’ 4-3 win at Millwall – enough to see them finish sixth. There was no such nervy finish for Luton, who went into the final day not only knowing that they were guaranteed a play-off spot but also that they were assured of third place.
That means Luton will be at home in the second leg but Edwards says they will not be content to play for a draw in the North-East and rely on winning the tie on home soil. Edwards said: “We’ve known for a few weeks [Luton would be in the play-offs], but this week there’s been a shift in the focus and I’ve seen that out on the training pitch, that’s really encouraging.
“We always try to keep the game tight in any game. The game is all about scoring one end and keeping the ball out at the other so we always try and keep it tight.
“But we’ll always try to win the game as well. We’ve got our way to do it and Sunderland have theirs.
“I’m sure it will be an exciting couple of games, but we’re not going up there to just sit, wait and let them come onto us, that’s just not how we play. If a draw is a good result, only time will tell, but we’re not going up there looking for that at all.”
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