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Sunderland v Luton Town: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg

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Two Up, Two Down: Amad and Hume strike to give Sunderland a crucial first leg lead!

Sunderland will take a 2-1 lead into the second leg of their Championship playoff semi-final after rallying impressively on Saturday. What did our writers make of the game?

Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says…

Finding a way

We scored two very different goals but both were superb and for a team shorn of so many regulars to continue looking this fluid is nothing short of amazing.

I keep thinking that injuries will eventually catch up with us, but somehow we’re getting better and better all the time.

Putting a shift in

The heat and the atmosphere could’ve drained us but there was little evidence of tired legs on Saturday.

In fact, the second half was almost perfect. Anthony Patterson had little to do and those in front of him worked thier socks off defensively, but were also very dangerous with the ball.

Some of those lads rarely complete a full ninety minutes but they kept going and for Niall Huggins to come on and make such an impressive cameo told us everything we needed to know about how hard the players are working.

Each and every one of them deserves to be pulling on a Sunderland shirt right now and I think that’s why the fans are giving them plenty in return.

Injury concerns

Patrick Roberts is brilliant to watch.

He was superb before coming off and he’s bang in form right now, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that his substitution was either tactical or preventative, and nothing more worrying.

I think he took a knock just beforehand and if he ends up being injured, I’ll be gutted.

Expecting the worst?

This is all a bit too good to be true, isn’t it?

Against all odds and all expectations, things are falling our way, but being a typical Sunderland fan, I can’t stop thinking in the back of my mind that it could still go horribly wrong.

It’ll be a nervy few days now and obviously I wish we had a better cushion, but no matter what happens next, I think we’ve seen a Stadium of Light classic.

I’m currently on a high so I might reevaluate once I’ve calmed down, but right now it feels as if that was one of the best days we’ve had in years.

The buildup and atmosphere were both spot on, and the cheer at full time suggests people believe we could be about to do something special. Now let’s see if we can build on it and get the job done!

Sunderland v Luton Town: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dan Harrison says…

Sunderland’s team spirit

If the performance at the Stadium of Light wasn’t the very definition of ‘team spirit’, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example.

Despite fielding a patchwork eleven that included Patrick Roberts as a wingback, we showed a degree of team spirit and togetherness that can’t be understated.

The commitment and desire to chase every loose ball and close down every Luton attack mustn’t go unnoticed and it was in many ways the story of our season.

Niall Huggins is back!

Having only featured a handful of times this season, Huggins made the bench on Saturday and was called upon following an injury to Roberts in the closing stages.

Although his time on the pitch was short, his presence at right back was welcomed. It relieved much of the pressure that Roberts had to absorb during the game and it’s an option that Tony Mowbray might utilise heading into the second leg on Tuesday night.

Set piece issues

Although it’s totally understandable, set pieces were expected to be our downfall and it ultimately cost us one goal heading down to Kenilworth Road.

Failure to pick up second balls could be costly in the second leg as Luton look to exploit the lack of height in this young Sunderland side.

Injury concerns ahead of Tuesday

With our squad already being held together with sellotape and plasters, seeing both Roberts and Alex Pritchard limp off is never a good sign.

Hopefully neither are serious and are simply impact injuries, but with a threadbare squad, we can hardly afford any further absences come Tuesday evening.

Jon Guy says…

Trai Hume stands tall

I thought Hume was immense yesterday.

He was at the heart of things as we weathered a real storm in the first twenty five minutes and his block was key as we took the game to Luton in the second half, before he came up with a great header to give us the lead.

A young player who’s grown so much this season.

Resilience in abundance

How many times have we seen this side absorb everything thrown at them before coming back to dominate the game?

Tony Mowbray clearly talked team at half time, and they listened and implemented the changes needed.

It was another great performance and it sets us up for a brilliant night on Tuesday.

An injury for Alex Pritchard

My heart sank when he went down towards the end.

He could be out for the final two games of the season, which is a massive blow as so much of what we did well came from him.

The injury curse keeps on going.

No third goal

Given our dominance in the second half, we could and should’ve got a third goal, which would’ve calmed a lot of nerves.

However, our away form has been brilliant and we must be quietly confident that we can see the job out on Tuesday night.

Sunderland v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship - Play Off - Semi Final - First Leg - Stadium of Light Photo by Will Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Matt Smith says…

Sunderland’s ‘bouncebackability’

A key characteristic of this team, especially over the last month and in complete contrast to sides of our recent past, has been their refusal to let their heads drop.

Conceding an early goal no longer feels as ominous as it once did but yesterday, it looked like it may be a game too far. Luton’s physicality appeared to give them the edge we feared it would, as they dominated the first half.

However, moments of individual brilliance have defined our season and with the backing of a raucous Stadium of Light, it was a familiar story as Amad’s wonder strike shifted the momentum in our favour.

Immense Ekwah

Tony Mowbray has spoken about the intention to aid our younger players’ development by giving them game time once our future was settled. The unlikely extension to our season has largely scuppered such plans, yet Pierre Ekwah has continued to thrive.

His performance was always likely to prove pivotal to our hopes and to represent our best chance to outmuscle and make life uncomfortable for Luton, and he did this and so much more.

With Declan Rice almost certain to leave West Ham this summer, the Hammers’ decision to let a ready made future replacement leave seems ever more bewildering.

Running down the clock

In recent weeks, we’ve shown impressive game management in running down the clock and keeping our opponents at arm’s length.

On Saturday, with four minutes remaining and the ball in the corner, we had the opportunity to do just that.

However, an attempted through ball squandered possession and left the door slightly ajar for Luton when it should’ve been slammed shut. Defensive resilience saved us on this occasion, and it’s a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things.

One game nearer the end of the season

Not since the end of the last millennium has a season being so enjoyable and given us such pride in our club. The quality of football has been a joy to watch, but all good things come to an end.

Wherever we may end up next season, the prospect of more of the same is mouth watering, and the summer will feel like a cruel interruption before we can enjoy the next stage of this amazing journey.


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