SIMON GRAYSON is hoping Sunderland’s 1-1 draw with QPR will turn out to be a “small step” on the journey to turning the club around.

Sunderland are still searching for the first win of the calendar year after they failed to win at the Stadium of Light for the 17th home game in succession.

Aiden McGeady’s second-half equaliser cancelled out Idrissa Sylla’s first-half opener, but Sunderland’s supporters grew increasingly restless as they watched their side fail to win on home soil once again.

Grayson understands the fans’ frustrations, but is hoping his players will take confidence from their second-half comeback.

Grayson said: “The lads showed a lot of character. We’ve not won it, but we’ve not got beat. That’s a small step, and hopefully the small steps that we’re taking at this moment in time will help lead to bigger ones in the next few weeks.

“When we’re at home, we want to break that hoodoo and win games. I thought we started okay, but we knew the first goal would be important and we had a couple of decent opportunities before they scored.

“We got done on a set-piece, which isn’t really like us, and that knocked us back a bit. Full credit to the players, they were brave in the second half and we were more positive and passed it on the front foot.

“It was a great goal from Aiden, and we looked like the only team that were going to win it once we got back into it. But of course you’re disappointed because you want to be picking up three points at home.”

Grayson felt his side were too anxious in the first half, with a series of long balls aimed at James Vaughan coming to nothing.

He replaced Vaughan with Lewis Grabban at the interval and instructed his players to be more patient in possession, and felt their second-half performance improved as a result.

Grayson said: “Sometimes when you go a goal down and you’re not playing with the confidence you would want, there’s a temptation to keep playing it up to Vaughan because of the physicality he has in his game. We just felt we had to be a bit braver on the ball and pass it around a bit better.

“It’s frustrating for everybody because we’re just desperate to win a football match. Whether it’s home or away, we want to be winning matches. With where we are at the moment at home, the first goal is always so vital. If we had got it, then it might have changed the whole perception of the ground.

“To be fair though, when we showed signs of playing with the right tempo, with and without the ball, the supporters were good. I know they’re frustrated with certain things when they go wrong, but that just happens in football. The players reacted well to the situation they got themselves into.”

The return of Duncan Watmore was a major bonus, with the forward lasting for 75 minutes as he made his first senior start following a ten-month lay-off following cruciate ligament surgery.

Grayson said: “It’s a massive step for him (Watmore), getting 75 minutes. We thought long and hard this week about whether to start him, and he was good. I asked him whether he wanted to start, and his answer was yes.

“We still have to manage him carefully over the next few weeks and months, but it’s another step in the right direction. When we have strength in depth at the top end of the pitch, it can help us.”