A Jordan Hugill goal was all that separated Preston and Reading yesterday at Deepdale yesterday, but despite the closeness in the scoreline, Jaap Stam admitted that his team were not good enough to claim all three points anyway. Talking to the official club website, the boss explained:
“We didn’t deserve to win today in how we played and what we brought to the game. [We were] too slow – and we weren’t good enough on the ball, and we didn’t win second balls either.
“They were more aggressive. We were warned about it, and we spoke about it a lot this week, that if we lose the ball they play that early balls in behind up to the striker and make a lot of runs.
“Preston make it very difficult for us, but you saw in the first half that if you give away too many passes then they get into their strengths as well. They have a good team with quality players, and if you lose it early in the build-up then they are a threat going forward. That’s what happened.
“They tried to play a bit higher up the pitch, and sometimes they dropped in a bit. When we had the ball you try to find your options in going forward. And if you’re not accurate with the ball or if they intercept an easy pass and come out a lot of the time, then your way of playing becomes very difficult.
“It also allows them to get into their strengths as well. They did that very well and we haven’t done good enough. We played some balls in behind, but if you’re going to do that, you need to get up the pitch quickly to win the second balls and start playing again. That’s what we spoke about and intended to do but we couldn’t bring it today.”
The game was not made any easier following injuries to John Swift and Liam Kelly, with the midfield duo both forced off in the opening 35 minutes. Stam continued:
“It is frustrating – Liam Kelly got kicked deliberately within a minute of kick-off, and it was clear straight away that he would need to come off eventually,” said Stam. “And their player didn’t even get a yellow card. A very important player had to come off.
“And then Swifty had to come off because of a problem with his hamstring. So already, two subs are gone.
“The players who step in need to do it – but it is difficult to get back into the game. You make certain agreements before the game in how you want to start and you want to do, but it changes everything.”
It wasn’t the only thing that frustrated the Dutchman though as he complained to GetReading about referee Andy Madley.
"I mentioned it [the tackle on Kelly] to the fourth official and he said the referee let it go because it was at the beginning of the game and then he'd see how the game progresses.
"But I think it was straight away a yellow card. Their player deliberate knocks him on the leg and that's why he needed to come off.
"I think the referee needed to do something about that.
"There were a couple of other incidents as well with pushing and shoving during the game. And with extra time [in the second half] there were only three minutes added on.”
Ultimately though, it was another disappointing away performance and meant that the Royals have kept just two clean sheets on the road in 2017. On the travelling woes, Stam said:
"The home record is good but you don't want to build everything on that.
"You want results away from home and for some reason - we are looking into it and thinking about it - we need to do better away.
"Every team wants to get results at home but you need to get into a certain rhythm to do well away.
"Last season we had a couple of results away from home and we still ended up third in the league. We had a few poor results too.
"But we always want to do better. We've got a few injuries and we are still building.”