Although three points escaped Sunderland today in a game they could have won, fans saw their side perform well as they drew at Preston North End. After just one victory this season heading into today’s game, manager Simon Grayson was understandably under pressure.
The side Grayson put his faith in produced a vastly improved performance which everyone desperately wanted. After recent displays, however, this was not difficult. They could not return home with a victory due to two disappointing second half minutes and questionable refereeing decisions.
Sunderland Looking Better in Away Draw
Grayson made several changes to the side that was easily defeated at Ipswich Town in midweek. Amongst the changes was the experienced defender John O’Shea and attacking players Lynden Gooch and George Honeyman. Forward Duncan Watmore, who had been out for nine months with a knee injury, returned to the first team squad and was amongst the substitutes. There was also change to the formation. Grayson reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation with Gooch partnering James Vaughn in attack.
Changes pay off
Sunderland looked far more comfortable in the first half and on 28 minutes George Honeyman put the Black Cats into the lead to give the 3000 travelling fans a chance to celebrate. During the first half it was notable that John O’Shea’s inclusion was having a positive effect on the defence as they looked more organised and confident than of late. At halftime Sunderland led 1-0.
It didn’t take long for the Black Cats to resume normal service. A quick fire double by Preston put them ahead and only one winner looked likely as Sunderland appeared to fall apart and heads dropped. Sunderland looked to be doing what they do best, give teams an easy victory. However, two minutes later Aiden McGeady scored to make it 2-2 and emotions changed once more. The game was becoming an end to end in which either team could win.
Watmore and Controversy
Duncan Watmore made his long awaited return to the first team when he came on as a substitute and he was soon involved in the action. The young forward put the ball past the oncoming Preston keeper who handled the ball outside of the penalty area; however, he somehow escaped being punished. Watmore was lively and was giving the Preston defence problems. He also should have been given a penalty when he was pushed over in the area. James Vaughan was also unlucky not be given the penalty too when brought down. However, once again the referee did not deem the offence worthy of a penalty.
Chances came thick and fast as both teams searched for a winner. However, no one could take the chances that came their way. Full time Preston 2 Sunderland 2.
A point away from home is rarely a bad thing and before kick off many Sunderland supporters would have taken the draw. The Black Cats can take positives out of this game unlike several others that preceded it. A return to a formation that players are obviously more comfortable with, key players returning and a good display will give the Black Cats confidence going forward. However, defensive basics still need to be worked on.
The international break means Sunderland have no game for two weeks. Whether the break does the team any good will be seen when they return to action against Queens Park Rangers at the Stadium of Light on October 14th. After today’s performance there is at least some hope that Grayson can get it right on Wearside.
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