Simon Grayson hopes that Sunderland’s 2-2 draw with Preston two weeks ago, a game they arguably deserved to win, will prove to be a turning point in their season.
The Black Cats boss insists he has not given up on taking Sunderland into the Sky Bet Championship play-offs this season despite their lowly league position, 23rd out of 24.
Tomorrow’s Stadium of Light clash with QPR is the first of three home games in a crucial month, facing Ian Holloway’s side who are without a win in five.
Asked about the importance of the Preston point, and performance, Grayson said: “Let’s hope so [a turning point]. Sometimes there are pivotal moments in a season.
“I think the performance reflected that in terms of, when we conceded two goals very quickly and found ourselves 2-1 down, we didn’t crumble, we got back into it quickly and after we equalised we were the dominant team and looked like the most likely winners.
“It was a good reflection of what we have in the dressing room.
“Some people might question the character of the players or their attitude sometimes, but I see them every day and I know they are hurting with the results over the last few weeks.
“They care for this football club and they are desperate to do well.
“Let’s hope that, when we look back at the end of the season, we can say that Preston was the turning point.”
QPR’s poor away form underlines the need for Sunderland to end improve their dreadful points return on Wearside, something Grayson knows is key to keeping his play-off hopes alive.
He said: “The supporters are vitally important because they are there through thick and thin and we have to give them something to cheer about.
“We have to be positive in our approach, we have to take the game to the opposition and make sure our fans are enjoying what we are doing – that’s the bottom line.
“Winning football matches will make everybody a lot happier. We haven’t done enough of that so far this season.
“Let’s move forward.
“As quickly as you can lose a few games and move down the table in this division – three wins in a short space of time can certainly take you up the table.
“Our attitude hasn’t changed from day one – we still want to be somewhere near the play-offs, we want to be promoted if we can this year, and that’s still viable because of the nature of the Championship and how tight it is.”
Part of Grayson’s confidence comes from a squad nearing full fitness and availability.
After being criticised for his substitutions earlier in the campaign, the Black Cats boss now believes he has the options to change games, with the international break coming at an opportune moment.
He said: “[The break] came at the right time for us. It gave us time to take stock of where we are and what we need to do.
“It allowed some of the players who’ve played a lot of football to get rest, allowed us time to get some work done with the likes of Callum McManaman, who, prior to coming here, hadn’t had a lot of football.
“We’ve done work on the training pitch, as much as you can with (some of) the players away. Hopefully it’ll be to our advantage.
“Successful teams have shown that you can win games from the bench. It’s no disrespect to the lads who have been on the bench in other games, but I looked at the bench at Preston –Watmore, Williams, McManaman, Oviedo, Gibson, Kone – that’s a strong bench.
“When you add McNair, Maja and Grabban over the next few weeks, that’s real competition.”