SIMON GRAYSON is banking on Sunderland’s slightly improved form leading to far greater rewards as he attempts to lift the woe on Wearside.

The Black Cats boss has been encouraged by developments on the injury front this week, with Paddy McNair and Josh Maja edging closer to a return to action – just like Duncan Watmore has already done.

The mood at the Stadium of Light in recent months has worsened after a disastrous run of form in the Championship, having failed to see the situation improve following relegation from the Premier League in May.

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The awful sequence of results has left Sunderland in relegation trouble, occupying a bottom three place and already three points adrift of safety – with fans wondering when the next victory will arrive.

Sunderland have not won since August 13 – their only league win so far this season – but Grayson wants the focus to be on the back-to-back draws having lost six of their previous seven in the Championship.

Grayson said: “I have mentioned over the last few games we are making small steps, we have played quite well. We have players coming back from injury and sometimes those small steps will lead to bigger ones that can turn our season around.

“We have good players in that dressing room and we are all working hard to try to get that result. We are all so desperate to put this disappointment behind us and get the results because this football club means so much to everyone.”

Sunderland head to Brentford on Saturday knowing that Dean Smith’s side are not an easy team to face at the compact Griffin Park.

Grayson hopes defender Tyias Browning will be available after missing the draw with Queens Park Rangers, while it is hoped Lamine Kone will have shrugged off illness in time to be considered.

The Sunderland manager said: “We picked up a few knocks against QPR, one or two not back in training, but we have had some time to work with the players. We have got as much work into the players as we can do. We have focused on what we need to do better than we did last Saturday.”

It is unlikely Grayson will take McNair and Maja down to London. The pair are expected to figure for the Under-23s against Everton on Friday instead.

McNair played another 45 minutes for the Under-23s against Arsenal on Monday to continue his progress from the knee injury he sustained almost a year ago. Maja got an hour against the Gunners after his own knee trouble.

Grayson said: “Josh was one of the shining stars of pre-season with work-rate and quality, it was a big blow when we didn’t have him coupled with some other strikers out. It was good to see Paddy get 45 minutes on Monday as well. Both will be involved on Friday and both will be hopefully ready for the first team very soon.”

Sunderland are looking for any little lift that they can conjure up at the moment and Grayson feels that his decision to bring in Billy McKinlay to his coaching team will help.

McKinlay, 48, was added to the backroom staff last week after Glynn Snodin, the assistant boss, was told to continue his recovery from illness having been sidelined since last month.

Grayson told the club website: “Ultimately Glynn has been off since the Hull game. We have managed in between, but we needed a different voice, another eyes and ears to see something from a different perspective. He has played to a good level, been to some good clubs and he will ultimately work as hard as any one of us to turn the draws into victories.”