The Royals can count themselves unlucky after putting in a good performance against Premier League Sheffield United in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be with the Premier League side reaching the quarter-finals with a 2-1 victory. David McGoldrick gave United the lead early on, but George Puscas equalised just before half time with a penalty. It then went to extra time but Billy Sharp came back to haunt Royals fans to send United through.
Manager Mark Bowen was proud of his players performance after the game, he spoke to the official club website and GetReading.
Bowen on the game
“I wanted our fans to go away tonight with a smile on their face because we had won the game and we were in a quarter-final. They may not have a smile on their face, because we were beaten. But I hope that they can go away feeling pride in their team.
”There were times when we had to get the shape right and soak up pressure, let them have the ball a little bit – that was part of our game-plan. But there were long periods of the game where we took it to them and played some really good stuff.
“Every man, every individual. It’s difficult to finish the game with nothing to show for all that effort. That’s really galling.
”I thought we looked like we might win it in extra-time or at least take the tie to penalties, but football has a habit of coming back and kicking you in the backside if you get too far ahead of yourself. And that’s what it did tonight.
”We talk a lot and work a lot at defending crosses and since I’ve been here we’ve done really well at that, so to concede two goals like that – both of which could have been stopped at different times - is disappointing. But it happens; we got caught a bit cold at the start and we’re usually better than that.
”But after that early disappointment, some people might have thought that a team like Sheffield United who have done so well this season might go and run all over us. Well, they didn’t… far from it. And that’s what makes the result so hard to take.
”We’ll take massive positives out of the game. What we’ve got to do now is make sure that all the memories of the game here against Wigan have gone, take those positives from tonight into the remaining games of the season and get as many points as we can.
”We’ve had a lot of games in this competition. And our fans have deserved it. Every fan likes to see a cup run for their team. But we have to wipe ourselves down and move on. Now the game on Saturday is just as important as the one was tonight.
”We will lick our wounds tonight, but at the same time we can have a sense of pride that we have put in a good showing. And now I want to get our club into a place where we’re not just talking about a good showing, but with results behind it too.
”That’s the ultimate aim and we’re all working towards that.”
Bowen on motivation for the rest of the team
“I’ll keep putting demands on the players. The play-offs are now highly unlikely but they’re not impossible. We have to set ourselves goals now - we have to make sure we’re more consistent and that goes with getting higher in the table.
“If and when we get in the top half we’ll aim for the top 10 so we’ll see where we go. But we can’t let the season meander on as if nothing matters because it does. Saturday’s game away at Birmingham to all of us is as important as tonight’s game. We have to make sure we recover well and are ready mentally and physically.”
Bowen on the atmosphere
“Even though we don’t get the numbers, the ones that do come are always vocal and they produce a decent sound.
“It was that bit extra tonight. All of us need to strive to take this club forward and we need to get more nights and Saturday afternoons like that with fans wanting to come and cheer on their side.”
Bowen on conceding so early on
“It certainly set us back and caught us a little bit cold. We talk about latching onto balls into the box but it happened, we stuck to the plan and fought our way back in. I was dreaming it might go to penalties but football has a habit of coming back to kick you and it certainly did.”
Bowen on Pele’s shot at the end
“I don’t think it could have got any closer - their keeper got nowhere near it. It’s difficult to take but it’s important to take the positives out of the game. It’s massively important we make sure we are determined and ready to go on Saturday.”
Bowen on Puscas’ goalscoring
“I’m pleased for him. He took his penalty well and I thought he was a lot tidier in his link-up play. He’s a young player who is learning and you can see a gradual improvement in him. That’ll stand him and us in good stead.”