It may not have been pretty, but the Royals sit pretty at the top of the Championship, still unbeaten, after a 3-0 victory against Rotherham United at the Madejski Stadium.
That is six wins and one draw for the season and even though the Royals may have had criticism this week that the run wouldn’t last, they continue to prove the doubters wrong, sitting top of the league, five points ahead of Bristol City in second.
Reading started slow, but Yakou Meite gave the Royals the lead just before half time. Meite doubled it in the second half with a superb goal. Lucas Joao came on to win and score a last-minute penalty to secure the three points.
Paunovic on the performance
“The result came from a good performance in the second half. In the first half, our opponent did a very, very good job - they were very well prepared, very fresh and it was very hard to play against them. We couldn’t get on the ball, we couldn’t create opportunities, we couldn’t play our game. Thankfully in the one opportunity we created, we were effective and scored.
“That helped the spirit and helped us adjust in the second half. And after half-time, it was a different story. We were more compact and they were surprised with our system in the second half. Our players are intelligent, capable of comprehending how the opponent is trying to play and how we can try to improve our game in response.
“I am appreciative for Ovie. He did his work in the first half when we were suffering, he played his part and he was patient for that moment. Do the teamwork and the talent will show. And he showed fantastic vision to make that inspirational pass into Meite for the first goal. And the second goal was superb - one of the best goals we’ve seen.”
Paunovic on the defence
“Another fantastic performance from Rafael, the spartans we have in Morrison and Liam Moore at the back and another two spartans in front of them, Josh and Andy. Those guys get everyone out of their seats.
“And the talented full backs we have - Tomas tried to do what he does a couple of times in the first half and quickly learned today wasn’t the day to play the football we want to see. So then you have to put your shield on, your helmet, your sword and keep pounding away.
“This was his first half of football at the club. He’s 18 years old. And he played like he has been playing in the Championship for 10 years. He worked out what was needed to succeed and importantly to not get hurt when he was on the end of a couple of big tackles. But we have a warriors spirit in our genes here and that was present throughout our whole team.”
Paunovic on the side not being at their best yet
“It’s a good definition - we haven’t yet got to the performance we are looking for but not because something is going wrong. It’s because we are going through the process. We forged our identity so far - knowing how to defend, everyone being on the same page and our non-negotiables are always there.
“Now we are looking to improve our games and the creation of our goalscoring chances and getting more into the final third. Although if you look at our efficiency, when we do get into the opponents box we take our chances so we are pretty accurate. We don’t have too many shots on goal but we are capable of scoring.”
Paunovic on being patient
“We have to acknowledge that sometimes you cannot impose your game when your opponent is playing well. But we didn’t crumble. We had to remain patient and focussed and then we scored the goal and the game went our way.
“We saw consistency throughout the team in getting your own job done for the team. And waiting for the opportunity to come. We had to have a strong mentality and not get frustrated when our game plan was not working. And we don’t give up. All these things are super important.
“And when you finally earn your opportunity it gives you your advantage to score.”
“We learned from the Wycombe game. This wasn’t new for us. I wasn’t happy in the first half, because it was hard for us. But I was sure after the Wycombe game that the team would know how to deal with the situation.”
Paunovic on rotating the squad
“We managed our load and the minutes of the guys due to the games we have. We know what we have ahead of us but we need to give chances to everyone.
“We have a plan for everyone and how to keep them all connected and engaged. You have to everyone ready and if you wait until something bad happens then that’s not going to be good.
“The plan worked well today and we’ll continue adjusting when we have to adjust.”
Paunovic on being excited about our start to the season
“I’m very excited but I’m actually containing my excitement because although I’m very happy. When you get in the locker room you see the eyes of our warriors - everyone is engaged and has the fire in their eyes to win, even when it’s tough or it hurts. We have guys who are going through the pain and when you see that you get so excited.
“I want to always give the guys the confidence, the belief and the push so they can try and win every game. But we’ll keep going and keep our feet on the ground. I don’t want anyone to get too excited. We need to focus on recovering well - this is a marathon and the games never stop.”