Tony Gillan: Preston won’t be the turning point for Sunderland, that must come at home against QPR

Duncan Watmore.
Duncan Watmore.
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The heart of the average Sunderland supporter this season seems to descend closer to his bowels with every passing game.

My body language before kick-off at Preston North End was much the same as when I used to trudge to school. “Let’s get this over with” being the theme.

Hopes were not raised by more chopping and changing at the back with, for some reason, a right-back at left-back and the club’s only creditable left-back on the bench.

Answers on a postcard please.

But I have come here to praise Sunderland, not bury them.

This is a rare opportunity that must be taken.

First we must say that Sunderland were somewhat unfortunate.

There was more than one penalty claim.

Perhaps James Vaughan will never be awarded a free kick, unless the defender uses a piece of lead pipe or four feet of piano wire.

Preston have lost only once this season and their second goal was very well struck.

But they were perfectly awful on Saturday until their spawny equaliser, which has wrongly been credited to Josh Harrop. Jason Steele was going to save the “shot” until Vaughan’s regrettable intervention.

Sunderland showed some character to immediately equalise.

Substitutions were made constructively for a change and it reflects well on both sides that they were trying to win the game.

Key players performed far better.

Perhaps the biggest plus was the return of Duncan Watmore. We all saw what Preston were reduced to in order to stop him.

There were still errors and a draw was not a great result. But it achieved the minimum requirement after the horror of Portman Road.

Above all, Sunderland at last looked like a team that cared.

Overall, Sunderland have been at least moderate away from home with six points from six games.

Teams who average a point a game away from home tend to finish mid-table.

That, however, supposes that they don’t have Sunderland’s hitherto atrocious home form.

The longer the winless sequence at the Stadium of Light stretches, the more the next home game increases in importance.

I’m not adding any further pressure here – it’s impossible to overstate the importance of the QPR match in 10 days time.

Here’s hoping that Sunderland don’t field five defenders as they did at their previous home game.

My other hopes are that John O’Shea stays on Ireland’s bench this week.

O’Shea is roughly the same age as Penshaw Monument and therefore used sparingly by Simon Grayson.

Fair enough, but surely he should still be used more.

Deepdale was his first league start this season.

The romantic in me would like to see Watmore, McGeady, Williams, Grabban and McManaman on the pitch at the same time.

Then we might be – brace yourself – entertained.

That would be splendid. Really though, I would be more than happy with 90 minutes of the purest boredom against QPR if it somehow wrung out three points.

Preston won’t be a turning point.

That must come at home.