GOALSCORER George Honeyman joined manager Simon Grayson in hailing the return of fan favourite Duncan Watmore.

Watmore, fit again after rupturing his cruciate ligament in December, made a big impression in the 2-2 draw at Preston North End after coming on for his first appearance in nine months.

And Honeyman, who put Sunderland in front with his third goal of the season, reckons the 23-year-old is going to be a nightmare for Championship defences.

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He said: “It’s great to see Duncan back out there. I know how hard he’s worked and he’s a friend of mine.

“He’s going to reap the benefits of this league. It’s frantic and there’s a lot space, which is perfect for Duncan’s game.

“The more he’s playing, it’s only going to be positive for us. I’ve seen how hard he worked in the gym. It’s testimony to how well he’s done that he came back flying.”

Grayson threw Watmore into the fray in the 64th minute after Aiden McGeady had brought his side level.

The Black Cats boss was delighted with the forward’s performance – and by the way he picked himself up after a hefty challenge from Chris Maxwell that should have seen the Preston goalkeeper punished for handling outside of his area.

“Thirty minutes was going to be about Duncan’s maximum today,” said Grayson, who confirmed full-back Billy Jones was taking off as a precaution after tweaking his hamstring.

“I would have started him if I had the chance but I had to go with the medical department.

“But again he showed you what he is capable of doing, he showed he’s going to run in behind and take people on.

“The big thing for me is when he got taken out by Maxwell. He probably didn’t realise that was the first real tackle he has had since doing his cruciate.

“Duncan is going to give any team quality, with and without the ball. He has energy, guile, craft.

“It would have been so nice for him to score a goal – that would have been the perfect way for him to come back.

“But psychologically he will feel unbelievable that he’s come back after a long period of time.”

Honeyman, like Grayson, was pleased with the response Sunderland showed after the midweek humiliation at Ipswich Town.

The winger said: “On Tuesday we let the fans down. We knew had to do better today. It still wasn’t what we wanted but we’ve definitely sent them home happier. We want to start turning these into wins but it is an improvement.

“We are desperate to do well for this football club. When you have performances like Tuesday it doesn’t look like you want to do well but today we knew we wanted to give everything.

“We have been doing too much talking and today we just went out there and outran them and outworked them. When we scored we sat back a bit too much and that was our problem second half.

“But we responded well after two quick goals. We had a lot of chances and we’re disappointed not to come away with a win.”