A LOT can happen in the space of ten months, the length of time Sunderland have been waiting for a home victory. If you had fallen pregnant on the day of the Black Cats’ last Stadium of Light success, your baby would now be four weeks old.

Or if, like Duncan Watmore, you had suffered a career-threatening injury a couple of weeks before last December’s win over Watford, you would have had time to complete a gruelling recovery programme that lasted more than half-a-season and still have been able to fit in a couple of reserve games and two outings for the first team without having missed a victory bonus.

When Watmore damaged his cruciate ligaments at the start of December, Sunderland were in a mess. Their position then, however, was nothing compared to what it is now. Watmore left a side scrabbling in the relegation positions in the Premier League, he finds himself having re-joined one that is deep in trouble in the bottom three in the Championship.

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Saturday’s failure to beat QPR made it 17 successive home games without a victory, a remarkable run that shows no sign of coming to an end. If the Black Cats fail to win one of their next five home matches, they will have gone an entire calendar year without a win in front of their own fans.

It is hardly a surprise that those supporters have reached the end of their tether, and had Aiden McGeady not swept home a superb curled effort to level the scores midway through the second half of Saturday’s game, the festering discontent that was building within the Stadium of Light would almost certainly have boiled over into something more dramatic.

These are testing times for everyone, but after his personal torments of the last 12 months, at least Watmore has the benefit of perspective. He cares as much as any of his team-mates, perhaps more given everything he has been through, but he also knows that the depths of despair are never quite as inescapable as they seem.

“It’s difficult times, but it was difficult times the last time I played here considering the position we were in,” said Watmore, who played for 79 minutes as he made his first start since completing his recuperation. “I’ve also been injured for a long time, which was extremely frustrating.

“We’re not in the place we should be, and everyone knows that. But there’s no point giving up and being all negative – you need to be positive and keep working hard, keep everyone together, and get the fans cheering again.

“We’re in a difficult position, but we’re trying everything we can. I know the fans are probably bored of us saying the same stuff, and the results are disappointing, but we know that and we’re all desperate to turn it around. The lads are great, the gaffer’s great, and everyone’s on the same page here, which is important. We’re just waiting for things to click so we can go on a good run.”

When you are struggling for form, you seize on to anything as a source of salvation, so Watmore’s return, along with that of Paddy McNair, who will make another Under-21 performance this evening, has been portrayed in some quarters as a potential solution to all of Sunderland’s ills.

It won’t be, and for all that he produced some impressive performances in the Premier League, it is worth remembering that Saturday’s game was only the 22nd senior start of Watmore’s career.

He showed flashes of his attacking ability, most notably when he skipped past his marker to send McGeady scampering clear with a superb slide-rule pass, but Simon Grayson has been right to try to dampen expectations. Not, however, that Watmore is afraid of having too much pressure on his shoulders.

“I never really felt that weight of expectation personally,” he said. “I just focus on me, and I know that after ten months out, I wasn’t going to come out and be sharp straightaway – that comes with match fitness.

“I know I’ll always give my best and work hard, but I feel I will get better as I play more and more games. It’s going to take a while because I’ve been out for so long, so I’m not putting that pressure on myself. I’m looking to give everything I can for the cause.”

Watmore’s pace and direct running set him apart from the rest of the Sunderland team, but perhaps the 23-year-old also stands out because he does not carry the baggage that inevitably accompanies the type of run his team-mates have been on.

Grayson might claim that ‘records are there to be broken’, but this one is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sunderland’s players have forgotten how to win on home soil, and the Stadium of Light support are turning up to home games waiting for something to go wrong. It is a toxic combination.

Things might have been different at the weekend had McGeady converted before the break when Watmore sent him clear, but there was a nervousness to the prodded shot that the Irishman directed wide of the target.

QPR were already marginally on top by that stage, and while Jason Steele made two early saves to deny Idrissa Sylla, he was unable to prevent the same player from breaking the deadlock seven minutes before the break. Luke Freeman swung over a corner, and with Steele pinned to his line, Sylla out-jumped James Vaughan to head home from inside the six-yard box.

Sylla wasted a golden opportunity to extend his side’s lead before the interval, and Sunderland struck back 16 minutes into the second half. Didier Ndong teed up McGeady close to the edge of the area, and the Irishman made it three goals in his last three games with a superb curled finish.

“Aiden has scored a few goals from outside the box now,” said Watmore. “It was a great strike, and it’s useful to have him in the side. We tried to kick on and get the winner, but we couldn’t quite do it, which was a shame.”