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Luton’s third place finish counts for little ahead of Sunderland play-off clash labelled a ‘different beast’ by Hatters chief

Luton’s terrific third place finish in the Championship will count for little when going into their play-off semi-final first leg affair with Sunderland that boss Rob Edwards expects will be a ‘different beast’ on Saturday.

Following 46 games, Town amassed 80 points in the second tier for the first time since the 1981-82 campaign, when under David Pleat, they won promotion to Division One, going on to enjoy a decade in the top flight.

The Hatters’ tally was enough for them to finish just one place out of the automatic spots, and 11 points in front of the Black Cats, who snuck into sixth position on the final day by beating Preston North End 3-0 at Deepdale, edging out Blackburn on goal difference.

Hatters boss Rob EdwardsHatters boss Rob Edwards
Hatters boss Rob Edwards

However, Edwards’ own play-off success at Blackpool during the 2009-10 season came when the Tangerines finished sixth themselves, beating a Nottingham Forest side who they had trailed by nine points, 6-4 on aggregate and then defeating Cardiff City 3-2 in the final.

With that in mind, the Town chief said: “The time where I was part of a successful team, we finished sixth and we beat Nottingham Forest in the semi-final who finished a number of points ahead of us.

“That was a long time ago, but I’ve experienced that side of it, so I think where we’ve finished probably hasn’t got a part to play now.

“It has been a fantastic season and the players deserve a lot of credit.

“To finish third in this league is really good, really good, but we’re not done and we don’t want it to end here now.”

Looking at the last six games of the season, then it is Sunderland who were the form team out of the play-off sides, which also include Middlesbrough and Coventry City, winning four and drawing two.

However, if you go cast your eyes back further, the Hatters ended the season in far better shape, with a 14-match undefeated sequence, the same as back in that 1981-82 promotion-winning season.

Again, that stat also doesn’t count for much over the course of the two games according to Edwards, who continued: “We’re in really good shape, we’re confident, we’re in good form, but so are the other teams as well and that’s why they are where they are.

“I’m not sure whether form and momentum and all those things, how important that is.

“We’ve tried to talk about it and keep it and we’ve been able to do that, but the play-offs are something else as well.

“They’re a bit of a different beast and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the lads handle it as well.”

With Luton having been in this exact same position 12 months ago, only to fall to a cruel 2-1 aggregate defeat to Huddersfield, then with a number of players still at the club from that crushing loss, Edwards hopes they can use it to their advantage this time.

He added: “A number of them have had the disappointment of last season that they can really draw on as well.

“They don’t want that again, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what we’re capable of doing on the big occasion.

“Again, you can’t guarantee you’re going to win football matches.

“You can learn from that experience, we can talk about it, but the one thing I’m looking for is a performance, our basics, doing those things really, really well, as that’s what’s served us well throughout this season so far.

“If we do those things right then you give yourself a chance of getting a result, but you can’t guarantee that win.

“So I can’t say, ‘yeah, we’re going to go one step further.’

“I feel we’re in good shape, we’ve got a pretty healthy squad to choose from, which is great at this stage of the season.

“We’re in pretty much as good a shape as we could be, but we’ve got to go and do it.”

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