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Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship

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An optimistic and encouraging afternoon for Sunderland ends in a satisfactory stalemate

Sunderland continued to impress without a striker, despite not scoring against Preston - but it’s been a canny start to October!

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

It was always destined to end this way, wasn’t it?

A game between two sides - one with an unbeaten away record this season having not conceded a goal in that run, and one without a notable striker - always looked destined for a goalless stalemate.

Yet, for Sunderland, this was a draw more on the positive scale than the negative.

For all we struggled to find that goalscoring touch that Ross Stewart or Ellis Simms would have provided, it was another encouraging display after the two-week international break.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

But, when the full-time whistle was blown at the Stadium of Light, there was very little surprise about the end result.

After what proved to be a very lengthy international break, it felt like an unknown about how the Black Cats would build upon the 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road, and challenge a defensively-solid Preston North End side.

In the end, we gave a very good account of ourselves: for all Stewart and Simms were absent, the Black Cats still sought to implement their own style of play, and were rather unfortunate to come away from the game with the spoils being shared.

However, if you compare the chances that both sides had, you’d probably say that Preston had the better of the opportunities - a somehow-miraculous goal-line clearance from Aji Alese denied Ryan Lowe’s side in the first half, before a superb reflex save from Patterson denied Ched Evans from close range in the second. Yet arguably, Mowbray’s men had more of the chances.

Sunderland weren’t intimidated by Preston’s unique approach upon home turf: for large parts, they moved the ball effortlessly around the park, and found gaps in Preston’s backline, but their weakness came in attempting to expose them.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

For Mowbray’s men, this was another Championship learning curve. Over the last couple of years, Preston have become an established second-tier outfit: they built under two of our former managers: Simon Grayson and Alex Neil, before Frankie McAvoy and, now, Ryan Lowe has taken the Lilywhites into their eighth season in the Championship.

On his hands, Lowe has probably a rather under-achieving group for this division: Emil Riis has international experience with Denmark, whilst Robbie Brady and Alan Browne both featured for Ireland.

So, in their frustration of only taking a point away from this one, Sunderland should be encouraged about the progress that they’re making in the Championship.

For another successive match, our new youth sparks continue to look as creative as ever: yes, this time there may have been no end-product from them, but their energy was there for all to see.

Bennette came on, backed by one of the biggest roars of the afternoon, whilst Abdoullah Ba and Amad Diallo both made their home debuts. All three came on with more of a bang than a whisper, but they still struggled to unlock the Preston door.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

It proved to be the story of an otherwise-encouraging afternoon on Wearside, where our Championship development progressed with some speed.

This is a Sunderland side that continues to impress us: after all, the Black Cats attracted over 41,000 to the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon, as the unity between club and fans tightens.

Whether we field two strikers, or go striker-less, this club will continue to have the backing of the fans. More will come out on Tuesday night, as we take on out-of-form Blackpool.

Saturday afternoon may have had a rather predictable ending, but this was more than a satisfactory stalemate.

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