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Mark Bowen ‘Really Proud’ Of Players After Late Forest Draw

The gaffer criticised the first-half performance and praised the second-half display, but emphasised the importance of team spirit.

Fulham v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

It was a crazy end of the game at the Madejski with the Royals scoring a 97th-minute equaliser, Nottingham Forest only scoring theirs just minutes before in controversial style.

A draw was definitely a fair reflection of the game which saw Tyler Blackett hit the post and Michael Morrison having an effort saved from close range. Then all the drama started with Forest scoring through Ben Watson, although there was a hint of handball, the ball going out of play and it probably shouldn’t have been a corner. The Royals came back through an own goal just minutes later.

The Royals are unbeaten in eight (including the FA Cup) and sit six points off the play-offs in 14th. Bowen reflected on a crazy game; he spoke to the official club website and GetReading.

Bowen on the game

“I thought we were a little bit rusty in the first half, it’s been a little while since this starting line-up have played at Fulham, and we didn’t control the play well. In the last few games our midfield have controlled the play but we were a bit sloppy in the first forty-five.

”But in the second half I thought we dominated the game. I asked them to go out there and enjoy their football and we went out there and showed a lot more of what we’re about.

”Then to get hit with what sounds like it was a controversial goal and to still come back again and make sure we don’t get beat... I’m really proud of this bunch of players.”

Bowen on team spirit

“They’ve proved to themselves, to me and to everyone else that there is a hell of a lot of spirit within this side - and that should stand us in good stead going into the second half of this season.

”We’ve had a good run and we’re in a race with a lot of other teams for a play-off place. And in that race, a lot is going to be asked of those teams. One of those questions will be character and I know we’ve got that in bounds here at Reading.

“When I got the job I said how it was important to take something from every game we play, even if it is only a point. And we’ve managed to do that more often than not. We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground, not look too far ahead. But we’ve got to realise we’re a tough team to beat now.

“I see a resilience and a focus in this side. We’ve got a great team spirit and a lot of good quality players. So onwards and upwards.”

Bowen on the game feeling like a win

“It did because you think the game is lost. I see a resilience in the side which will stand us in good stead because we are in a race with a number of clubs, like Forest [for play-offs], and the characters I saw in my team today will stand us in good stead.”

Bowen on Ejaria

“He wasn’t very well this morning, he had a heavy cold and started feeling it around when he came off. I couldn’t afford to wait to see if he is okay. I had to make a quick change to make us fresh for the business end of the season.”

Bowen on Rafael’s save from Grabban

“We switched off a bit, Grabban got through but Rafael does it week in, week out for us. I almost take it for granted now because every week we are seeing the same things. He seems to save us at one or two key times. He’s a top-class keeper.”

Bowen on a point being fair

“Yes - both sides had chances in the game. We were playing a side who were in the top six nearly all season so it was a test for us. Like at Fulham and before, we showed we are capable of competing and getting results. We have to keep our feet on the ground though. We are a difficult team to play against and we’ll see what the next few months bring.

Bowen on half time

“No harsh words. It was probably the poorest first half in the past six games but it happens.”

Bowen on Lucas Joao’s injury

“He’s going to be out for a significant time - probably nearly two months. He’s got a problem with his hamstring which needs resolving.”

Bowen on Puscas being back

“It was good to have him back, he got half an hour and we’ll see how he goes with a shoulder. I was always going to dip him in.”

Bowen on bringing in a striker to replace Joao

“I don’t know. We’ll be looking to strengthen if we can but whether that’s possible I don’t know. I’m very mindful of the dynamic of the group. We’ve got a fantastic team spirit so we have to be careful what we do that way as well.

“We’re not going to strengthen just for the sake of it. He has been a key player for us but before he came into the side Puscas was and then Baldock was. We have players fighting for places and that can only be good.”