Six things we learned: Sunderland show resolve but Championship table still makes for uncomfortable viewing

Didier Ndong makes a timely interception.
Didier Ndong makes a timely interception.
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Sunderland produced a much-improved display from the Ipswich Town thrashing to come away from Deepdale with a point.

Here's what we learned from the entertaining 2-2 draw with Preston North End:

George Honeyman and Billy Jones battle for the ball. Pictures by Frank Reid.

George Honeyman and Billy Jones battle for the ball. Pictures by Frank Reid.

Sunderland set benchmark for effort and workrate.

Two factors that should be a given in any team but anyone who witnessed the Ipswich Town thrashing will know both effort and workrate were severely lacking on Tuesday night.

It was much improved on that front against Alex Neil's Preston, with recalled Didier Ndong and Lee Cattermole setting the tone in central middle.

James Vaughan and Lynden Gooch worked tirelessly and Simon Grayson got the reaction he wanted.

James Vaughan controls the ball at Deepdale.

James Vaughan controls the ball at Deepdale.

The quality must still improve but the players must maintain this level of effort every week.

Sunderland deserve credit for their resolve:

There was bound to be a reaction from Preston after a lethargic first half display from the hosts.

Confidence levels are low in the Sunderland camp and it could be argued they invited pressure on in those mad early stages of the second half when they conceded twice in two minutes.

The game could have swung either way after that and Sunderland deserve credit for getting back on level terms so quickly.

Wins are needed at this stage but Preston are sixth and one of the form sides, only conceding one goal at home before Saturday so this wasn't a bad point.

League table still makes for very uncomfortable reading:

Despite an improved display, it did nothing to boost the league position with struggling Sunderland still second bottom and two points adrift of safety after 11 games.

Injuries have played a part but there is no getting away from the fact it has been a desperately poor start to the Championship campaign.

This group of players should be far higher in the league table. There is, though, fresh hope that a corner may soon be turned after a much-improved showing at Deepdale.

Ipswich Town was a real low point, Sunderland fans will hope that was rock bottom for the season and that the club is now on an upward trajectory.

Duncan Watmore's timely return:

The Sunderland fans were superb all afternoon, fully behind their team despite the poor start to the season.

The biggest cheer - the two goals aside - came when sub Watmore made his long-awaited return.

And it couldn't have come quickly enough for Grayson. Watmore was a real pest, causing problems with his energy, pace and runs in behind.

He should have had at least one penalty and had other sights on goal.

Simon Grayson team selection justified:

Eyebrows were once again raised when Grayson named his team selection; Jason Steele given the nod in goal with Lamine Kone dropped.

But what raised eyebrows most was Callum McManaman, Jonny Williams and Bryan Oviedo all benched too.

Grayson explained Williams and McManaman weren't ready to start the game and the team fared well without them.

The bench was strong, with experienced players and options to come on - that can only be good news for Sunderland.

International break comes at just the right time:

It has been a relentless few weeks and time on the training ground will give Grayson the chance to work with his players rather than the relentless schedule of game-recovery-game.

Not that Grayson will be able to work with all of his players, with more than half a dozen heading off on international duty. Plenty of work to do for those that remain.

Sunderland need to be firing on all cylinders ahead of a crunch October month, with three out of four games at the Stadium of Light.