Edwards reveals Luton have been practicing on a bigger pitch as he jokes Town beat Sunderland by just ‘booting it’
Luton boss Rob Edwards revealed the club have been training on a Wembley-sized pitch in preparation for Saturday’s play-off final against Coventry City, while joking that they only reached the showpiece event by ‘just booting it’ during their semi-final second leg success over Sunderland.
The Hatters’ head to the home of English football this weekend to go up against a Sky Blues side on a playing surface that measures 115 yards by 74 yards, or 105m by 68m.
It is just one yard smaller than the vast expanses of the Stadium of Light, that Luton struggled to get to grips with at times in the second half when beaten 2-1 by the Black Cats in their first leg encounter.
That day they were coming up against tricky opponents such as Jack Clarke, Patrick Roberts and Alex Pritchard though, who made the pitch as big as possible for the hosts, stretching Luton’s midfield and back-line at every attempt.
Back on home soil and in the tighter confines of Kenilworth Road, which at 110 by 72 yards is some way smaller than the north east venue, Town were simply too hot to handle for their opponents, powering to what was a 2-0 victory that flattered the visitors on the night.
Although Luton have adjusted their training sessions to get used to the size of Wembley, Edwards didn’t think it was anything to unduly focus on, pointing to the Hatters’ 12-match unbeaten run on the road prior to that loss, including triumphing on a Bramall Lane pitch which is 110 by 72 yards.
He said: “We have changed the size of the pitch to the same as Wembley’s, but we’ve not made a massive thing of it as we’ve had the second best away record in the Championship this season.
“We’ve gone to loads of big pitches and done well, so it’s not a big issue for me.
“We’ll go there and try and be what we are and try and be the best us.
“We’re going to run, we’re going to try and press, going to try and do the things that we do well and at times you can’t do it every single minute of the game, but we don’t see a few yards wider or longer too much of an issue.”
Going into the Sky Blues’ clash on the back of that 2-0 victory will be a huge boost for the Hatters too, as they managed to put their run of three games without a win, which came after knowing they were assured a top four finish, behind them in emphatic fashion.
It led Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray to state afterwards: “They play very, very direct, they’ve got two huge centre forwards, they boot it up there, and just push right in behind with lots of bodies.
“It’s hard to release the pressure really, so you have to give them credit.
“They play to their strengths, it’s not how we would ever want to play, but they finished third in the league, so we’re not the only team who’s suffered here by what they bring and what they do, so congratulations to them.”
Discussing the victory and making a thinly veiled reference to this, Edwards continued: “It gives us some good confidence.
“It was nice to see I felt, our team back and back at our best.
“I think the three games leading up to the play-off games were difficult, we had loads of discussions about it, that mentality, how do we manage it?
“We already know we’re in the play-offs, we’ve known for quite a long time, but then it was confirmed with three games to go.
“Middlesbrough the same, the two teams, then we both played each other, weird.
“They made some changes, we tried to keep consistency for the Middlesbrough and Blackburn game, made changes for Hull, it felt it made sense going into the Sunderland game to look after players then.
“So I felt we weren’t necessarily ourselves for those few games, but I could understand it.
“I thought first half against Sunderland we were good, second half we weren’t as good.
“They’re going to have their moments, they’re at home in front of 40-odd thousand, they’re good, they’re supposed to have a period in the game.
“But even when we weren’t great, they didn’t have many opportunities and we limited them to pretty much nothing here and fully deserved it in the end, by just booting it.”
When asked if he thought Luton were wrongly getting the reputation of just being a long ball side, Edwards added: “I’m not going to elaborate on it now.
“We try to play to our strengths, I think a job as a manager is to try and help develop players and try to play at their best level.
“To try and ask them to do what they’re good at and maximise their strengths and then try and expose the opposition’s weaknesses.
“That’s probably our role as a manager and that’s what we try to do, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”