Luton Town v Middlesbrough: The Championship Play-Off Final In Waiting

It's third v fourth on Monday Night Football in the second tier
07:00, 24 Apr 2023

Kenilworth Road plays host to a game that should be a prelude to the Championship play-off final. All of the talk in the second tier this season had focussed around champions elect Burnley and Sheffield United, with the duo having all but sealed the top two places and automatic promotion.

But Luton and Middlesbrough have been by far and away the third and fourth best teams in the second tier this season. As an almighty scramble occurs beneath the duo for fifth and sixth place, in one of the tightest top six finishes we have ever seen, these two are sitting pretty and looking ahead to a play-off campaign that could end in promotion. 

For Luton Town, the end of season play-offs will provide a chance for them to get promoted to the Premier League for the very first time. The Hatters suffered the ignominy of three relegations in a row between 2006 and 2008, a disastrous run on the backdrop of financial issues that saw them plummet into non-league. 

Their rise since then, having spent five seasons in the fifth tier, has been nothing short of remarkable. After back to back promotions, they’ve quickly established themselves in the second tier and Nathan Jones’ second departure hasn’t knocked them off course. 

Both Luton and Middlesbrough have had managerial changes this term. And it's changed both teams for the better. Luton were knocking on the door under the aforementioned Jones before he left for that ill-fated spell at Southampton. In his place they brought in Rob Edwards, who had joined the ever-growing list of managers to be sacked by Watford in September. 

Since coming in, he has taken Luton from 10th to 3rd and they have gone from play-off hopefuls to the third best side in the division. Carlton Morris now has 19 goals to his name in the second tier, a figure only Chuba Akpom and Viktor Gyokeres can beat, while Tom Lockyer has shone at the heart of the back three. Luton might be a relatively small club for this level, but they’ve got big ambitions to become the only club to climb from the fifth tier through to the top flight. 

Meanwhile Middlesbrough were tipped before the season to contest for the automatic promotion spots with the newly-relegated Premier League teams. With Chris Wilder in charge and a squad that is good enough to fight within the top six, many had big hopes. But the season has not been plain-sailing. Wilder simply couldn’t get them going and he was sacked with the club stranded in the bottom three after 11 games. 

In came Michael Carrick, who jumped at the chance to take his first managerial job. It was a risk, but a risk that has paid off emphatically. Under Carrick, Boro have been stupendously good. Akpom is a goalscoring phenomenon while his link up play with Cameron Archer has fired Boro up the division. Five goals against Norwich, five against Reading, three against Sheffield United. You just can’t keep them down. 

For all the talk and justified hype around Burnley and Sheffield United, these two have been clearly the third and fourth best teams in the division. The Championship is impossible to predict but you can say, no matter the opponent, that these two will be heavy favourites to make it to the final - where they will likely meet once again. 

The play-off race is utterly wild. With two or three games to go we are still no clearer to knowing who will occupy fifth and sixth spot. But third and fourth are sorted. Luton Town v Middlesbrough could well be the Wembley finale we see on May 27. 

Suggested Searches:
The Sportsman
Manchester United
Manchester City
Premier League
Sportsman HQ
72-76 Cross St
Manchester M2 4JG
We will not ask you to provide any personal information when using The Sportsman website. You may see advertisement banners on the site, and if you choose to visit those websites, you will accept the terms and conditions and privacy policy applicable to those websites. The link below directs you to our Group Privacy Policy, and our Data Protection Officer can be contacted by email at: [email protected]

All original material is Copyright Β© 2019 by The Sportsman Communications Ltd.
Other material is copyright their respective owners.