By Gareth James
Tom Lockyer admits Luton Town had to be “horrible and dirty” in order to stand just one game from reaching the Premier League.
The Wales international scored the vital second goal as the Hatters beat Sunderland 2-0 in the second leg of their Championship play-off at Kenilworth Road.
It earned Luton a 3-2 aggregate victory and means that Lockyer and his Welsh manager Rob Edwards are just a Wembley win away from being in the Premier League next season.
Lockyer said: “Commiserations to Sunderland, it was an absolute battle over the two legs. We had to mix it up against them today, be horrible and dirty and that’s how we won the game.
“To see Luton in the Premier League would be massive. Near on 10 years ago in non-League and to have that journey, it’s almost a bit of a fairy tale.
“The fans deserve their day out at Wembley and hopefully we can send them home happy.”
The Hatters delighted a noisy crowd as first-half goals from defenders Gabe Osho an Lockyer gave them victory over the Wearsiders.
It proved enough for Edwards’ team to overcome a 2-1 first-leg deficit and seal a 3-2 aggregate success.
A Wembley final against Coventry or Middlesbrough awaits on May 27, with Luton targeting a return to English top-flight football after a 31-year absence.
Lockyer said: “I thought over the two games we deserved it.
“They (Sunderland) had their moments and they’ve got some really good players.
“We could have been better (on Saturday), they won the game but we limited them to few chances there. But tonight we were exceptional.
“We’ve got to stick to what we’re good at and we did that tonight. I’m so pleased for the supporters and everyone at the club.
“To do it here (Kenilworth Road) is really special. We knew where our advantages lay, we scored a couple of good goals but I think we could have had a lot more as well. It was a really strong performance.”
The Hatters can look forward to a Wembley showdown against Coventry or Middlesbrough on May 27, with a place in the Premier League the prize to the winner.
Luton have not played top-flight football since 1992 and Edwards continued: “It wasn’t about us doing a job on Sunderland, it was about us being really good.
“We limited them to shots from distance, one save Ethan (Horvath) made over the 94 minutes.”
Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray was frustrated a season of such promise ended in defeat.
The Black Cats were promoted to the Championship via the play-offs last May and Mowbray said: “I’m frustrated but very proud of the players, the team and the city of Sunderland. We’ll get stronger and we’ll be back next season.
“I’ve only been here nine months and these players have given everything they’ve got.
“I’m proud of these young lads who week in, week out have given what they’ve got.
“We came out of League One and maybe consolidation is what people were thinking about.
“We’ve managed to punch above mediocrity. We’ve come close but unfortunately we’ve fallen short tonight.
“I think the league will be stronger next season. We have to keep building and growing and get better.”
Mowbray acknowledged that his quest for a second successive promotion was not helped by injuries.
“We’ve had huge losses of some very, very important footballers,” he said. (Captain) Corry Evans, the centre-forward who scores all the goals (Ross Stewart) and three centre-halves.
“They’ve performed really well and I’m proud of them.”