By Rebecca Johnson, PA
Sunderland manager Tony Mowbray admitted his side are in “good spirits” ahead of the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final at Luton.
The Black Cats take a slender advantage into the game after securing a 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light in the first leg on Saturday.
Luton had gone ahead in the 11th minute through Elijah Adebayo’s close-range strike, but Amad Diallo curled in a stunning equaliser before Trai Hume headed them in front after the break.
There are no words 🤯
✨ @Amaddiallo_19 #SAFC | #TilTheEnd pic.twitter.com/Rq4tXET27Y
— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) May 14, 2023
“I think the team are in good spirits. I’ve said all season, we believe we can compete against anybody in the league,” Mowbray told a pre-match press conference.
“This game is against a team who finished 11 points in front of us, finished third in the league, a fantastic season Luton have had, they’ve been growing their club for the last three or four years.
“They’ve got an experienced group of players, very together, and you can feel that. I said at the last press conference, you feel their comradeship.
“I think we did amazing to come out on top in the first game and I’m not anticipating too much difference second game. It’s a tighter environment of course, if anything they might double down on what they do and how they play and we have to try and do the same.”
Sunderland will be aiming to build on their lead at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night and Mowbray urged his side to “enjoy the challenge” of playing against the Hatters.
Trai Hume lifted the roof off the Stadium of Light. #EFLPlayOffs | #StepUp | #SkyBetChampionship
— Sky Bet Championship (@SkyBetChamp) May 13, 2023
He added: “Obviously (we’ve) been there this season, it’s a tight ground, tight dressing room, tight tunnel, it feels a tighter pitch than the Stadium of Light.
“It’s a totally different challenge for us but one that we should look forward to and go with some confidence and enjoy the challenge of trying to play against a team that are very athletic, very physical.
“If they get their game plan right, they could give us lots of problems, of course, but we have to concentrate on what we do well and see if we can give them problems.”
There are more injury concerns for an already stretched Sunderland side, with Mowbray admitting he is unsure whether Alex Pritchard and Patrick Roberts will be involved.
Both players were withdrawn in the final 10 minutes of the first leg, but Mowbray confirmed that Aji Alese could be involved following his return to training.
“Pritchard and Roberts are touch and go, I’d suggest,” the Sunderland boss said. “They might both make it, they both might not make it, one might make it. I sit here today not really knowing.
“Alese trained today, which is good. I discussed with him maybe (being) on the bench.
“A 6ft 3ins kid who can run all day up and down, whether we get him on the pitch if they’re chasing a goal or putting it in our box, it will be good to have someone over the height of six foot in there to try and head it out.
“We’re not too far away from what we were the other day.”