Sunderland boss Simon Grayson provides fitness updates on Duncan Watmore, Marc Wilson and Lewis Grabban

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Marc Wilson will miss the trip to Preston North End with a groin injury but Duncan Watmore is closing in on a return to the first team duties.

Watmore, who has been out for nine months, is also closing in on a return to first team duties and is expected to be in the travelling squad.

Simon Grayson, Sunderland manager.

Simon Grayson, Sunderland manager.

He won't be involved for the Under-23s against Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League Cup at Hetton tonight (KO 7pm), Simon Grayson has confirmed.

Grayson was giving little away in terms of his involvement this weekend, only confirming that he is set to play for the Under-23 side against Doncaster Rovers in the Checkatrade Trophy group game on Tuesday but Watmore is set to travel to Deepdale.

On Watmore, Grayson said: "Duncan won't play tonight [for the Under-23s].

"He will probably be left for Tuesday [Checkatrade Trophy match] and then the Under-23 game against Hertha Berlin after that.

"He has trained all week, we will see what happens.

"Ipswich was probably going to be too early, he played on the Sunday for the Under-23s and he has a plan where he can't do too much after a heavy load on his knee, whether it is a game or a training session.

"He has a specific plan and he has stuck to that and not missed a training session.

"We will keep analysing on a daily basis."

When pressed on whether Watmore will travel to Preston, Grayson added: "We will have to wait and see."

Wilson, meanwhile, came off six minutes into the second half of the 5-2 thrashing at Ipswich Town and Grayson has confirmed he will miss the trip to Deepdale on Saturday afternoon.

Other central defensive options available to Grayson include recalling Tyias Browning or handing John O'Shea his first Championship start of the season alongside Lamine Kone.

There was brighter news elsewhere though with Jonny Williams, who missed the Portman Road defeat through illness is expected to be involved.

Grayson said: "Marc Wilson will probably miss the game, he has been carrying a bit of a groin for the last two or three games but managed to get through until just after half time on Tuesday night.

"He won't be available. It gives somebody else the opportunity to come into the team.

"McManaman and Williams have trained so we will see if they are going to be fit enough and strong enough to get through the 90 minutes or coming off the bench."

Striker Lewis Grabban, who has been out with a hamstring injury, is back doing light work with the club's physios at the Academy of Light but is still a few weeks away from a return.

Grayson added: "Lewis is back out on the grass in terms of light work with the physios but he is still going to be a few more weeks yet, the hamstring was not a few days it was a few weeks.

"He is making progress, Josh Maja isn't far away from being back with us and I think he will be back joining in training next week, Hertha Berlin game he might be available too.

"You get them players back and get the extra game time under the belt for one or two others then the squad looks a lot healthier and there is quality and competition for places, which is what we need."