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

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Roker Roundtable: A sour ending or a brave effort? Thoughts on Sunderland’s playoff campaign

Despite falling short at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night, should the loss overshadow our efforts over the course of the season? We asked our writers for their thoughts

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says…

Definitely the latter, for me.

I’m upset of course to see this part of the ride end, but given everything that went on before it and the hurdles they had to jump, I’m just proud of the Lads for taking it this far.

Some of the cold facts make for frustrating reading: I don’t think Luton Town had won a Football League playoff tie before, and this was the first time in months that we conceded more than one goal on the road.

I also think it was the first time in a while that we failed to score, but if you look at it a bit deeper, the truth is that we played with one hand tied behind our back and came up against an team who’ve produced good results all season and performed very well. There’s no shame in that at all, I wouldn’t say.

A couple of decisions went against us and that was annoying, but in general I’m still pretty upbeat.

Some of the players will’ve learned a lot from the match and there’s still work to be done, but given our expectations going into the season, you’d now argue that Sunderland are ahead of schedule.

2022/2023 will hold a lot of good memories when we look back, and whilst it ended on a low point, I don’t think the defeat to Luton will define it.

Luton Town v Sunderland: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final Second Leg Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says…

I think Tuesday night was perhaps just a game too far and yes, we ran out of steam.

Much has been said about how we didn’t quite get going. Our passing wasn’t at its best, refereeing decisions didn’t go our way and we couldn’t find a goal on the night. Had we done so and levelled the tie, it could’ve been a different story.

We know about our injuries and were therefore well aware that Luton would exploit our lack of height and physicality, whilst doing everything possible to restrict our creative players in possession.

We simply can’t expect our young side to score in every game, and therefore our incredible run, one which greatly exceeded all expectations, was never going to last forever.

We hoped to get to Wembley, but even then there would’ve been another enormous challenge to overcome in pursuit of promotion.

Let’s keep things in perspective. We finished sixth in the league against all odds, and winning the playoffs as the lowest ranked team was always going to be a long shot.

However, our players did us proud in trying to achieve that mission. We ran out of steam, but here’s to next season!

Malc Dugdale says…

For me, the playoff loss was the end of a dream that nobody really dared imagine, ahead of it actually coming about.

In the second leg, we weren’t at our best and our weaknesses were exploited well by Luton.

There were lots of direct balls and aerial challenges on a tight pitch that we didn’t have the (match fit) personnel to defend. We’ve got to accept that but we can do so without being overly critical or negative.

It’s clear that we can build from here, and the whole experience was very worthwhile in readying the young squad we have to go again next time.

Reflecting on the campaign, this was always going to be a season where we aimed to settle and consolidate in this league.

With the injuries we suffered and the change of head coach that was forced upon us, we did remarkably well. I’ve said it before - teams new to a division such as ourselves have suffered rapid relegation with far fewer issues than we had, and to flip that around into a playoff challenge is fantastic.

Look where our fellow promoted teams ended up and it’s easy to see how hard it is to do what our lads did. Wigan fans may be lucky to have a club if their financial situation continues as it is, and we weren’t far from that scenario ourselves a few seasons ago.

Put it this way, if we go up next season and the one after that we finish sixth in the premier league and qualify for the Europa League, will that be a success?

Will we be negative if we don’t win the Europa League at that point? Of course not. That would be absurd.

We’ve made huge strides in two seasons and we can make more in those to come. Let’s take the positives from what’s been a cracking effort from all involved and regroup ready for the summer.

I’ve never been more excited to be a Mackem and I’ve never been as OK with a playoff loss either, but maybe they won’t be the case come next May.

That said, my view is that we can win automatic promotion next year if we build correctly.

Enjoy your break, lads. We go again soon!

On This Day (9 June 2007): Midfielder turns down Sunderland return – and heads to Bolton instead


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