SIMON GRAYSON hailed Sunderland’s character as they dug deep to claim a 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday, and claimed the spirited showing at Hillsborough was every bit as noteworthy as the flamboyant football that secured a win at Norwich last weekend.

The Black Cats looked to be strolling to another away win when George Honeyman claimed an early opener, and Grayson was able to watch his side dictate the opening hour against the Owls.

However, the game changed when David Jones cracked in a long-range equaliser midway through the second half, and Sunderland were forced to withstand a frantic finale as Wednesday finished with three centre-forwards on the field.

Gary Hooper struck the crossbar in the closing stages, but Sunderland’s players displayed commendable commitment as they repelled a series of late attacks to extend their unbeaten start to the season to four matches in all competitions.

“That side of the game is every bit as important as what we did against Norwich,” said Grayson. “You have to stand strong and make sure you put your bodies on the line and do whatever is required to win a game or get a result.

"We had to do that. They were kicking towards their supporters and really had a go in the closing stages. They built a bit of pressure but we withstood things and that is what we had to do.

"It is something we had to change, and it is even something that had to change since pre-season. We went to St Johnstone and conceded three in five minutes, and then conceded five against Celtic when we shouldn't have done.

“You have to be strong mentally and you have to have a team spirit where people will work for each other. Any team that has done well in this division has had that spirit and togetherness, and have been willing to put their bodies on the line.

“You can’t just play fancy football all the time. There are times when you have to dig deep, and this is another valuable point to add to the start of the season.”

Honeyman’s opener gave Sunderland the perfect start, with the midfielder drilling home his second senior goal after Aiden McGeady delivered another inviting delivery from the flank.

Lewis Grabban, Billy Jones and Brendan Galloway all came close to extending the Black Cats’ advantage in the first half, and James Vaughan wasted a golden opportunity in the second half when he blasted over the crossbar from inside the area.

“You want your goals to come from different areas of the pitch,” said Grayson. “George gives you work, endeavour and quality as well.

“With it being so early in the game, he could quite easily have lost his composure and hit it over the bar, but he showed good technique and got us off to a great start.

“We tried to build on that, and looked comfortably defensively. We looked good on the counter-attack, and had two or three really good chances that could have meant we put the game to bed.”

Grayson continues to look to add his squad, but has had to admit defeat in his pursuit of Max Gradel, with the Bournemouth winger having agreed a season-long loan with French club Toulouse.

Sunderland had agreed the terms of a loan deal of their own, and Grayson spoke to Gradel and his representatives in an attempt to persuade the Ivory Coast international to move to the Stadium of Light.

However, having spent four years in Ligue 1 with St Etienne prior to moving to Bournemouth, Gradel opted to return to France for family reasons.

“We spoke to Max, but he eventually decided to go to France,” said Grayson. “We had agreed something with Bournemouth and he is a good player that I wanted to bring to the club - it shows you where we are with the players we are looking at.

“That would have been a big signing for us, but he just felt that his family wanted to go back to France. That was disappointing, but it is part and parcel of football.”

Grayson has suffered another blow after Josh Maja was forced to undergo a knee operation that is expected to sideline him for at least a month.

“He had an operation on his knee on Tuesday morning,” he said. “He will probably be out for a month, they just found a bit of a problem with his knee and we had to operate.”