Saturday 13th May 2023
Sunderland v Luton Town
Stadium of Light
Tickets & Match Coverage
Tickets: Tickets are sold out.
TV/Stream: Full live match coverage is available via Sky Sports.
Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Radio Newcastle (not online)
Don’t forget to follow the blow-by-blow account of the game on the Roker Report Twitter feed (@RokerReport) and check out the player ratings after the full-time whistle at www.RokerReport.com!
Being our fourth play-off appearance in five years, this is almost becoming a habit. Five of those came in the level below of course and this is our first appearance at this level since 2003-04 - which ended in defeat over two legs to Crystal Palace in the semi-final.
Last year’s victory over Wycombe Wanderers at Wembley got the monkey off our back in terms of our poor record in the extension to the season, where we were finally successful at the eighth time of asking (if we count our 1990 campaign as a defeat). Hopefully this experience will be taken into today’s game.
We head into this semi-final in good form - unbeaten in the last ten and unbeaten in the last five on home turf, with a 3-0 win at Preston on the final day of the season. However, focusing on our home form over the course of the season, only three sides (Blackpool, QPR and Wigan) have conceded more than the Lads this season and keeping a clean sheet today could be key when our form away from home comes into play.
Compared to this time last year, the pressure is of a different kind. Last year the whole club was desperate to take advantage of another opportunity to return to the Championship via the play-offs, but this year we know the club is heading in the right direction regardless of the outcome... still feeling the nerves though.
Luton Town have now finished in a higher league position in every season since 2015-16 after improving on their 6th place finish last year with their 3rd place finish this season.
Exactly one year ago to the day, Luton were beginning their play-off campaign last season at home in the first-leg to Huddersfield Town. After drawing at home 1-1, they lost out at the John Smith’s Stadium to a late Jordan Rhodes goal that was enough to see Huddersfield progress to the final to take on Nottingham Forest.
It’s fair to say their form going into the play-offs is impressive. Unbeaten in their last 14 games and unbeaten in their previous 12 games on the road with a run that stretches back to a defeat at Middlesbrough on the 10th December.
They won five and drew two of the last seven games of the season and away from home they boast the best defensive record in the division with only 18 conceded from the 23 games on the road - where almost half ended in Luton taking a clean sheet.
However, Luton’s relationship with the play-offs isn’t good. Six appearances in their history has not seen one successful campaign and on four of those six occasions, they didn’t reach the final.
The bookies have the Lads as slight favourites this afternoon at 6/4, with Luton priced at 15/8 to take an advantage into the second leg and the draw is around 21/10.
Head to head... at Sunderland
- Sunderland wins: 19
- Draws: 9
- Luton Town wins: 3
- Sunderland goals: 57
- Luton Town goals: 21
Last time we met... at the Stadium of Light
Saturday 18th March 2023
Sunderland 1-1 Luton Town
[Diallo (pen) 86’ - Doughty 51’]
Sunderland: Patterson, Hume (Pritchard), Ballard, Batth, O’Nien, Neil (Bennette), Michut (Gooch), Roberts, Ba (Diallo), Clarke, Gelhardt (Ekwah) Substitutes not used: Bass, Lihadji
Luton Town: Horvath, Drameh, Doughty (Onyedinma), Osho, Lockyer, Bell, Nakamba, Campbell, Morris, Adebayo (Woodrow), Berry (Clark) Substitutes not used: Shea, Burke, Lansbury, Taylor
Played for both...
After struggling to become a first team at Tottenham Hotspur under Terry Venables, David Pleat took the former Northern Ireland international to Kenilworth Road in 1991. Two years later, Gray was part of Terry Butcher’s spending spree in the summer of 1993 when he joined the ranks at Roker Park along with Luton Town teammate Alec Chamberlain.
A contract dispute during Sunderland’s title-winning season under Peter Reid in 1995-96 (which you can hear Phil Gray discuss on our podcast here) resulted in the striker taking advantage of the relatively new Bosman ruling by signing for Nancy in France and Fortuna Sittard in the Netherlands, before returning to Luton.
Spells at Burnley and Oxford United in the early-2000s before retiring in 2005 after a number of years in non-league.
Chamberlain started out at Colchester in the 1980s, before finding a home at Luton Town via Everton in 1988. After four years as the No.1 between the sticks at Kenilworth Road, Terry Butcher brought him to Sunderland on a free transfer to fight it out with Tony Norman for the keeper position at Roker in the summer of 1993.
He made over 100 appearances for the Lads in three years before moving to Watford as a 32-year-old in 1996 and incredibly played for another eleven years before retiring in 2007.