Sunderland left Deepdale with a share of the spoils after a tame first half and a mercurial, end-to-end second.
Let’s see just how the lads got on...
Simon Grayson made five changes to the side that capitulated in Portman Road on Tuesday night. Lamine Kone, Bryan Oviedo, Darron Gibson and Callum McManaman were all relegated to the bench and John O’Shea, Adam Matthews, Didier NDong and Lynden Gooch assumed their respective roles. Tyias Browning also came in for the injured Marc Wilson and Duncan Watmore made his long anticipated return to the first team as a substitute.
Both teams enjoyed a decent share of the possession and neither looked ready to break the other down for the first quarter of the opening interval. George Honeyman gave away several free kicks in dangerous areas but Preston weren’t able to make anything of them.
Sunderland had a brief injury scare as the aforementioned winger’s studs went from under him causing him to slip and fall awkwardly, but the academy graduate was back up and running in a few minutes’ time.
The first real chance of the game fell to the home side. Tom Barkhuzien got the better of Adam Matthews and raced through the Sunderland flank to square the ball to Alan Browne, but the potentially goal-bound shot was blocked by Tyias Browning.
Sights on goal were scarce in the first half, and the only other clear-cut chance would fall to us - and it was a chance we’d take.
James Vaughan and Lynden Gooch set up some clinical link-up play as the former flicked a ball on to the latter, who then sent it through the mixer and into the path of George Honeyman who, after timing his run perfectly, knocked the ball past Preston ‘keeper Chris Maxwell and into the back of the net.
In the closing minutes of the first half, former Lilywhite Aiden McGeady tried for his third pearler of the season from outside the box but his effort went narrowly wide of the mark. Down at the other end, Jason Steele and the Sunderland back line would see out the opening interval without much hassle.
Sunderland 1 (Honeyman 28’)
To say the second half was livelier than the first would be a gross understatement.
Sunderland looked more inclined to sit back and hit Preston on the counter as the home side started getting forward with more intent - and it wasn’t long before we started seeing goals.
The lads gave away a free kick on the edge of the box which was taken by Josh Harrop. The Preston midfielder’s effort would’ve looked harmless enough from Steele’s perspective, until it took an unfortunate deflection off of James Vaughan and ended up in the back of the net.
That wouldn’t be the last we’d hear from the home side because mere minutes after the Lilywhites drew level they’d get forward again and grab a second. Lee Cattermole was dispossessed in the middle of the park, allowing Preston to work the ball into a dangerous area before Jordan Hugill let loose a lethal strike that went in off the bar. It looked like we were on course for one of our classic collapses.
Thankfully that wasn’t the case, and Preston wouldn’t have their noses in front for long. Didier Ndong did brilliantly to win the ball in the air, bring it down and send a through ball between the Preston centre backs in one seamless motion. Aiden McGeady was on hand to latch onto the end of the midfielder’s searching pass before taking a touch and curling the ball into the bottom left corner. Game on.
Once the game came to life, it showed no sign of simmering down. The reintroduction of Duncan Watmore ensured that.
The roadrunner sped forward like a man who’d never known a knee injury in his life, causing all sorts of trouble for Preston down the left hand side. The home side’s ‘keeper raced off his line at one point in order to intercept the marauding winger, and arguably should’ve been sent off for his challenge as he appeared to handle the ball outside his box.
Watmore would be amongst it once again as he kept a long ball in play that Preston failed to guide out, but his searching pass across the six yard box was halted by a good challenge from Ben Davies.
It was end to end and both teams looked like they could’ve won it, but ultimately the game would finish a draw and both sides would get a share of the spoils.
Preston 2 (Harrop 55’ & Hugill 57’)
Sunderland 2 (Honeyman 28' & McGeady 59’)
Jason Steele - 6/10: Dealt with Preston’s tamer efforts with ease. Nothing he could’ve done about either of the opposition’s goals.
Billy Jones - 6/10: Decent enough.
John O’Shea - 7/10: The fact that we still have him at the club seems to be symbolic of a lack of progress in most fans’ eyes, but we looked a lot more assured with him at the back today.
Tyias Browning - 6/10: Looked solid alongside JOS.
Adam Matthews - 7/10: His pace helped us turn defense into attack on a fair few occasions today.
Lee Cattermole - 6/10: Started the game with the typically frustrating performance we’ve seen frequently over the past few weeks, but he grew into the game somewhat as it went on.
Didier NDong: 7/10 - His build up play to our second goal was fantastic. Did a decent job otherwise.
George Honeyman: 7/10 - Timed his run well for our opener. Seemed to cover every blade of grass in the first half too, although it was a help at some points and a hindrance at others.
Lynden Gooch: 7/10 - Marauded forward with a lot of intent, always looked capable of causing trouble.
Aiden McGeady: 7/10 - His old side clearly knew how to deal with him, as he was frustrated out of performing some of his more technical moves. That being said, he still had a solid game and took his goal very well.
James Vaughan: 5/10 - Linked up well with Gooch for the opener and was unlucky to deflect Preston’s equalizer into his own net. Quite ineffectual otherwise.
Duncan Watmore: 7/10 - We’ve definitely missed the roadrunner. Caused a lot of issues for the home side from the minute he came on and was unfortunate to come away with nothing to show for it. Referee gave the poor lad nowt.
Bryan Oviedo: 5/10 - Kept things ticking over.
Jonny Williams: 6/10 - Looked purposeful but didn’t really have a lot of time to make a real impact.
Man of the Match: Tricky one - there were a lot of solid performers today. Going to give it to Dider Ndong for his solid presence in midfield and the lovely bit of work he did to send McGeady through for our second.