Simon Grayson on why Duncan Watmore's return is so important to Sunderland

Duncan Watmore played for the first team for the first time in nine months at Preston North End.
Duncan Watmore played for the first team for the first time in nine months at Preston North End.
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Simon Grayson has welcomed the return of Duncan Watmore's 'energy, guile and craft' to the Sunderland team.

Watmore made his first Sunderland appearance in nine months at Preston North End and Grayson says the forward will feel "unbelievable" after returning to the fold.

The forward had been out since last December after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury but was named on the bench at Deepdale having come through two Under-23 fixtures.

The 23-year-old came on as a 64th minute substitute to rapturous applause from the travelling 3,000 Sunderland fans.

And he showed no signs of rustiness, deployed up front with support from James Vaughan, Watmore's pace caused the Preston defence problems for the remainder of the game.

He should have been awarded a penalty after being caught by Ben Davies, while he did well to evade injury following Chris Maxwell's challenge, the goalkeeper clearly handling outside his area in the process.

Grayson praised the club's medical departments for their safe handling of Watmore and is pleased to be able to call on his direct style, adding much-needed pace and movement to the forward line.

"Thirty minutes was going to be about his maximum," said Grayson.

"I would have started him if I had the chance, but I have to go with the decision of the medical department.

"He showed what he is capable of doing, taking people on and getting in behind.

"Duncan is going to give any team quality, with and without the ball. He has energy, guile, craft, whatever you want to call it.

"It would have been so nice for him to score a goal - that would have been the perfect way for him to return.

"But psychologically he will feel unbelievable just for having made his comeback, and the medical staff deserve a lot of credit.

"When he got taken out by Maxwell, Duncan probably didn’t realise that that was the first real tackle he has had since doing his cruciate.

"It should have been a card of some description, yellow or red, because he quite clearly took Duncan out and he also handled the ball.

"I’m not quite sure why that decision went like it did."

Grayson hopes for further fitness boosts over the coming weeks, with Lewis Grabban back doing light training at the Academy of Light and Josh Maja close to a return.

"It’s just nice to have Duncan back, and it will be nice to have Lewis Grabban back at some point in the next few weeks, and Josh Maja too," added Grayson.

"The lads on the bench will be better for the two-week period coming up, they have had a relentless time since they signed.

"They have not really been up to speed with what we want them to do. We have two weeks to do some work with them all.

"This result can give us confidence going into the next set of games.

"You saw more strength in depth, with Duncan coming off the bench and Lamine Kone, Bryan Oviedo, Jonny Williams and Callum McManaman - those two weren't quite ready for today.

"It can only be more positive for us over the coming weeks and months."

Defender Billy Jones was subbed midway through the second half as a precaution, the right-back heading straight down the tunnel.

Grayson added: "I think he might have just tweaked his hamstring, but it was more a precaution than anything."