It was a tough and disappointing 3-0 defeat for the Royals against Stoke City at the Madejski Stadium, our third defeat in a row.
Despite dominating, the Royals were poor defensively, making it too easy for Stoke with the visitors’ goals coming from Reading’s mistakes. The Royals had a few chances to get back into the game but we didn’t see the clinical finishing that we are known for from the beginning of the season.
The Royals remain top of the Championship, just one point ahead of Watford in second. Now with an international break, we can regroup ahead of facing fourth-placed Bournemouth in two weeks’ time.
Paunovic on the defeat
“It was a very similar story to the previous game. We played good football and we created good chances and we have to convert those chances early in the game.
“And then we conceded silly goals. Our team needs to be more mature in parts of our game. Mistakes are part of the game and we have to learn from these kinds of mistakes, you have to have a good reaction.
“But we were victims of a domino effect, where after one mistake, another one came and we couldn’t solve it. We have to be more mature and learn how to win these kinds of games.
“We dominated and controlled the game, but that’s not enough. Especially when you don’t score goals when you get chances and, at the other end, you concede them.
“So we have two weeks to reflect on everything. The good news is we did our homework at the beginning and that start permits us to reflect and improve. We start a different part of the season after the break, where consistency, focus and hard work have to be present every day.
“This is another very good lesson for us. The mistakes we have made are a mix of a lot of things - fatigue which affects the bodies and the minds in terms of players’ concentration, the accumulation of games we have played and injuries which have mounted up.
“Now, with the international break, we have a chance to recover our mojo, recover our energy, recover our mood. We will fix it. When we were winning, we never said it was going to be easy. And now we have lost we are not going to drown. The group is strong and I believe in us. And I am sure we will bounce back.”
Paunovic on what went wrong
“The game started very well for us and we had very good opportunities but we have to learn those moments are crucial in the game.
“You have to have the edge - even when it’s early in the game - and take advantage of it. We have to learn this is a serious league where mistakes on both sides of the boxes can kill you. There is a mix of immaturity in some moments and fatigue accumulation and injuries that we are going through.
“But there were a lot of positives - the improvement and evolution in our game since we started the season in terms of controlling the game, the ball and creating chances - it’s huge.
“But but we slipped on the other side and that’s unacceptable. We’ll work towards improving it over the next couple of weeks.”
Paunovic on the defensive performance
“The mix of fatigue and injuries - that is what’s affecting the team. The changes are not happening organically - they’re not happening with a depth and when you go from one loss to another it looks like it’s a desperate way to fix it but it’s not.
“It’s what you have to rely on. We had a very good start and maybe got comfortable with the ball and gave away two goals which never would have happened to us in the past.
“That’s the identity we have to recover - blocking shots. We had seven or eight guys behind the ball at the first goal. The clearance wasn’t appropriate and we had a chance to fix it and block the shot. But it’s on us, we’ll work to improve it and we will fix it.”
Paunovic on the defensive errors
“It’s an accumulation of games. Fatigue too and that plays a big part in concentration. You have to be concentrated and to a certain level you have to be fresh. You have to be sharp too so that plays a part. There are moments when we make a mistake and can fix it but we still had issues.
“I know everyone is now having doubts and being negative but we will fix this on the basis of reflection, analysis and putting together a plan when we come back from the break.”
Paunovic on the international break timing
“We are always hungry and want to get back and compete. But it’s important to reflect on everything and look for solutions and improvement. Another positive is we did our homework at the beginning of the season, that helps us be in a position where we still depend on ourselves.”
Paunovic on injuries
“Meite, Moore and Ejaria weren’t ready. We couldn’t push through the risks it would involve players’ health. We’ll always look for our players and at the long term until they’re completely healthy and they’re in agreement.
“Everyone has to be in agreement before we step on the field. I hope (they will be back after the international break) but I don’t know for certain. They still have to heal but two weeks will be helpful and will improve their condition.”
Paunovic on Liam Moore’s importance
“He’s one of the leaders and the captain. He’s helped the team so far in every aspect on the defensive side but with the ball in attack as well. His absence is a big loss for the team but we feel ready and comfortable for whoever steps in.
“We give 100% to the guys and both McIntyre and Gibson had very good games, but when these moments happen during the season due to injuries it’s not the same when they happen organically.”
Paunovic on encouraging displays
“On every side of the stats I think we have been the better team in all the games we have lost. The improvement and evolution of the team - we didn’t benefit on the defensive side so we have to look for the balance.
“When the team becomes comfortable maybe they’re not ready to react to the moments when we make mistakes in a game. It’s something we have to look to improve. There is a willingness to improve on both sides of the game.”
Paunovic on squad depth
“If injuries continue to happen then everyone will run out of depth. At one point we had a good depth and there were a couple of positions we would have liked to have seen back-ups but right now it’s a question of how quickly we recover the injured players and how we move forward. Hopefully not with more injuries.”
Paunvoic on being top of the league
“It’s a great positive and shows we did our homework. We’re going through difficulties and hard moments for the team because we are playing well but we are losing.
“That creates a conflict because everyone says let’s defend. One of the keys is to defend well but if we want to win you need to play good football and create opportunities. We have to find that balance. Without it, the team will always be more exposed one way or another.”