Sunderland take on Preston North End on Saturday, and if the game has anything like as many talking points as when they met five years ago today we should be set for a cracker.
The trip to Deepdale in 2017 meant an early return to their former club for Sunderland pair Simon Grayson and Aiden McGeady – the new manager and his star buy had both been at Preston before moving to Wearside in the summer, and as a result they were on the receiving end of some pretty loud taunts from the home fans with McGeady bearing the brunt.
The Republic of Ireland international had just enjoyed a highly successful loan spell at Preston and evidently many of those in the ground had expected him to then make it a permanent arrangement. Grayson later explained however that no such deal had ever been on the cards, but by that stage any chance of McGeady being cut some slack had disappeared following a beautifully hit equaliser that prompted him to run towards his tormentors instead of celebrating with the massed ranks of the red and white army that were situated behind the goal.
It was a tempestuous reaction that came on the back of a frantic five minute spell shortly after half time. The Lads had gone into the break leading 1-0 only to find themselves soon trailing, and whilst there were no further goals following McGeady’s intervention the action was not quite done. A late challenge on Duncan Watmore with just over 20 minutes left proved just as controversial as the pot stirring that had gone before it, and left Sunderland certainly feeling hard done by.
Nobody was all that satisfied come to think of it, with Preston manager, a certain Alex Neil, admitting afterward to being disappointed not to have collected all three points. The draw at least stopped the rot for Grayson and his team, who had just endured three very dispiriting defeats to Everton, Cardiff City and Ipswich Town, but there had been hopes of so much more when a clever Lynden Gooch flick had set up George Honeyman for a well-taken opener.
The second half flurry started when Josh Harrop’s whipped free kick found the far corner of Jason Steele’s net, possibly with the aid of a slight touch off the top of James Vaughan’s head. Under both Grayson and his successor Chris Coleman the Black Cats seemed to have a ridiculously soft underbelly and once one goal went in another would soon follow – that was the case here too, when an attempted clearance sat up invitingly for Jordan Hugill to blast in.
It was an impressive strike, but before anybody could even think about catching their breath McGeady had the Lilywhites fans out of their seats again – this time to dole out more abuse after he’d slid in to win possession on the edge of the box and nonchalantly rolled an effort beyond Chris Maxwell. His decision to then run towards the centre circle whilst pointedly gesturing towards the home stands caused the temperature to rise, but it meant the Lads had their tails up once more too and they seemed to revel in the atmosphere.
Had goalkeeper Maxwell been rightly sent off for wiping Watmore out they could very well have pressed on, but somehow it was only his opposite number Steele that was shown any sort of card for the incident - referee Chris Kavanagh booking him for his protests. Even with 11 v 11 though there could have been a winner, Lee Cattermole seeing the ball whipped off his toes just as he shaped up to convert a pull back after good work from Watmore.
That kept things at 2-2, the match being ‘a good one for the neutral’ with plenty of incident, and so Sunderland would no doubt prefer a more sedate affair at the Stadium of Light this weekend if it meant a win against North End this time round.
Saturday 30 September 2017
Preston North End 2 (Harrop 55, Hugill 57)
Sunderland 2 (Honeyman 28, McGeady 59)
Sunderland: Steele; Jones (Oviedo 70), Browning, O’Shea, Matthews; Honeyman (Williams 84), Cattermole, Ndong; McGeady, Vaughan, Gooch (Watmore 64). Unused: Ruiter, Kone, Gibson, McManaman.
Deepdale, attendance 17,621