Lucas Joao scored the winner in what was an ugly win for Reading against Wycombe Wanderers at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Royals seemed off the pace in the first half, but an improved second-half performance saw Joao take his chance to secure three points to put us top of the Championship. That is six unbeaten, and three points ahead of Bristol City in second.
Veljko Paunovic felt the team learned a lot about themselves throughout the game but was happy to pick up three points to continue our brilliant run. He spoke to the official club website and Berkshire Live after the game.
Paunovic on the game
“I feel like I am repeating myself every week... but no doubt this was the hardest challenge for us this season. It was important to keep our good streak and we were anxious to get a win after the two-week break and then the draw in Middlesbrough on Saturday. It wasn’t a win in the nicest way today, but sometimes you have to win ugly. And today was that day.
“In the first half it didn’t work for us. They were the better team and they wanted it more than us. We want to congratulate them on the challenge they gave us tonight. Their intensity, discipline, organisation, motivation made it hard for us. But we learned a lot about ourselves, and we also learned how to win games like this.
“It’s not that we didn’t give our best. We just had to get out of our comfort zone, push ourselves a couple of levels more. And we fixed it in the second half. We needed fresh blood and fresh legs and the talent that Tomas Esteves and Alfa Semedo brought us - and we got three very hard-fought points at the end.”
Paunovic on improving every game
“Being solid in defence is half way towards the win. But we still have to keep improving in attack - we have to connect these two pieces so we can be a stronger team, a better team.
“Step by step, piece by piece, game by game, with our feet firmly on the ground, we move forward.”
Paunovic on the subs
“We needed fresh blood and fresh legs, as well as the talent Semedo and Esteves brought on the field. On that side we started to exploit their left and I thought it was the right moment to overload that side.
“We connect Olise, Semedo and Esteves well and created opportunities. We had much more opportunities in the second half coming from that side. That was part of the plan.”
Paunovic on rotating the squad
“We have a few days to recover and prepare. It’s going to be a last-minute decision of who is going to start the next game.
“We have a fantastic team now - these guys are warriors, lions and are ready to give everything. And that’s the most important thing.”
Paunovic on free agents
“A lot of guys want to come and that’s obvious now, but at this point we are happy with the team we have. And we are careful if there is anyone we like we are careful what kind of person and competitor is going to come into the locker room.”
Paunovic on being top of the Championship
“I always work to win and expect the best. I always give my best. What I love to see is everyone around me and the team and the club is doing the same.
“When you give your best you can’t expect anything else but good things. Sometimes they come earlier, some later. We will keep working hard because it’s not going to be easy.
“The expectations are changing and people are already looking at the standings which is fine. They should do that because it’s good to see your team performing well but I always warn people to keep their feet on the ground. It’s important being humble. We work day in, day out and give your best.”