Simon Grayson has praised the impact of his skippers John O’Shea and Lee Cattermole for their influence on the Sunderland team.
O’Shea was recalled to the starting line-up at Deepdale for his first Championship start in place of Lamine Kone, dropped to the bench, with Cattermole patrolling central midfield alongside the recalled Didier Ndong.
Cattermole has come in for criticism this season for a string of under-par performances but he was back to his familiar tenacious self in the 2-2 draw with Preston North End.
And Grayson felt the side’s two most experienced players showed their value, leading from the front.
O’Shea, 36, contender for man of the match, signed a new deal in the summer to extend his stay on Wearside into a seventh season.
He has had to be patient with Kone, Tyias Browning and Marc Wilson favoured before Grayson rang the changes again in the wake of the 5-2 Ipswich Town thrashing.
“I thought John and Lee both showed what they are all about; leaders, captains of the team, they led by example,” said Grayson.
“We had to compete in midfield, Catts and Didier did a great job in winning the second balls and the players have all responded.
“I felt putting John in the team, his experience would help the team and it did, the lads who came into the team did well.
“We always said we’ve give them an opportunity, and they responded.”
Grayson also reserved praise for Everton loanee Browning and front two James Vaughan and Lynden Gooch, who worked well in tandem.
“We brought Ty Browning in because we knew he had the pace to deal with the likes of Sean Maguire, Tom Barkhuizen, and Jordan Hugill,” added Grayson.
“We played with two lads up front to really work their back four, we had to miss out the midfield a little bit because they like to press and work you and ask questions. The players all responded.”