Reading sprinkled some Christmas joy to all with a 2-1 Boxing Day victory against Luton at the Madejski.
With bad news coming before the game that Liam Moore was going to be out for the forseeable future, it was time for Tom McIntyre to step up and he sure did that. He probably felt all of his Christmases had come at once when he scored after nine minutes to put the Royals ahead. Alfa Semedo doubled the lead just before half time to make it a brilliant first-half display.
Our second half didn’t live up to the previous 45 minutes’ performance, but a highlight was John Swift making his long-awaited return from injury by coming on. Luton scored a consolation through Kazenga LuaLua which made it a nervy last few minutes but Reading held on for those important three points.
The Royals now sit fifth in the table, three points behind Swansea in second, which makes for an exciting fixture on Wednesday against the Swans.
Paunovic on the win
“It was an important win - not the nicest way but definitely we needed one. We were very dynamic and had a narrow approach in the first half but clinical in our execution - that was the spirit and the performance we had at the beginning of the season.
“The approach and application from the team was very good. In the first half you could see the energy, that sharpness. In the second half, we weren’t consistent with our ball possession and we would have liked to have created more opportunities, but we defended well until that late goal.
“We were comfortable without the ball until we conceded and then we had a nervous few minutes at the end. But I think the team played in a similar situation at Cardiff and we won there. I like it when the team applies something it has learned from a previous experience.
“And we ground out a win. We literally bled out the win - both Tom and Alfa picked up some some nasty wounds in that first half.”
Paunovic on McIntyre’s goal
“It was a beautiful goal and very well executed. It was a prepared set-piece and I am so happy for him. I know how long he’s been at the club and he is practically the club’s child. It was very important for him.
“He had been waiting a long time for his opportunity and it came today. He had to play in a different position but he had a great memory and most importantly I think he was very solid defensively.”
Paunovic on Semedo’s goal
“I’m so happy for Alfa too. He was in goal-scoring positions in previous games but he didn’t convert and started to lose confidence. But credit to him, he came back, was patient and the execution he had this week in training helped. He just got better and he was very clinical.”
Paunovic on Liam Moore’s injury
“Liam has a stress fracture of his metatarsal so he’s going to be (out) for quite some time. But he’s a very strong guy, very positive and he is recovering well. We are looking to beat the predictions of the weeks he is expected to be out.”
Paunovic on Lucas Joao and Omar Richards injuries
“They are in the final stages of their recovery and our medical staff are doing an amazing job with them. They are coming back sooner which is something we’ll have to consider before they come back but we hope to have them back in the next few days.”
Paunovic on contract talks for Richards and Olise
“When I spoke with our senior board I definitely encouraged for both to be part of our long-term project so I expect the club is working towards putting together the proper offer so we can keep them for the long term.
“We are all aware we want them to be with us for a long time and we’re working towards that. The club is really working hard to prepare something acceptable for both and for the rest of the guys we’re looking (to keep).”
Paunovic on Olise’s reported £8m release
“No, not at all (aware of it) but the most important thing for Michael - he’s found a place where he is being protected, supported, is playing games more than ever and he is being given opportunities.
“In most of the games he has done very well and also, because of the approach we have towards him, one of the reasons why he didn’t start against Luton or come on was because he complained after Brentford about his hamstring.
“So could he have played? Yes but it wasn’t necessary to expose him. And I know very well about hamstring injuries because I suffered many.
“We will have a precautionary approach with him and there are some things that Michael has to learn in regard to his game day preparation and a more individual discussion we want to have with him.”
Paunovic on January targets
“It’s not a difficult task because we just have to look at the players we have injured in those positions so we have to have depth.
“But it’s not easy. It’s obvious Brexit is going to change things and shorten the realm of players who teams from the Championship can sign. We’ll look to add to the squad.”
Paunovic on being confident Olise will stay beyond January
“Yes, I am confident. But I’m also confident to tell you ‘you never know.’ Every single player is exposed to the market and to the teams that have needs so somebody may pull the trigger in some direction.
“Are we going to be affected by that? It’s possible but I am confident and I am working with him on a long-term (basis). I could have thrown him on today and not cared if he was going to get injured but that’s something important to understand.
“He’s a young player and has found a place where he gets everything where a super talented player is getting - time, minutes and people who make decisions for him. And not being treated as a spoiled kid. He needs to be consistent and learn what is the professional and competitive life of football.”
Paunovic on potential to have Olise’s head turned by big clubs
“I think that’s normal and acceptable and I’m not concerned about that. Everyone has to live his moment of glory, but I think his glory is still to come.
“His ceiling is very high and if we are cautious and deliberate with the approach for him and if he doesn’t lose his ground I think we are going to have a fantastic player and hopefully he is with us in the Premier League in the future, one day.
“But it’s important for him to keep his feet on the ground and I think the people in his environment are doing a very good job with that.”
Paunovic on Swift’s return
“Great news - it’s another positive for the team today. I think he did a very good job in holding the ball up which we needed. He gave us a bit more consistency in ball possession. I’m very happy he is fit and looking forward to building his match fitness.”