Veljko Paunovic praised his players for ‘our best performance on the road this season’ after a brilliant 2-1 victory against Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium.
There were four changes to the side that started on Wednesday at Swansea City with the return of John Swift, Lucas Joao, Omar Richards and Sone Aluko. The Royals didn’t get the best of starts, with Fraizer Campbell scoring in the sixth minute to give Town the lead. Reading came back into the game in the second half through Joao and he made it two shortly after with a fantastic strike.
Reading now sit fourth in the table, just three points behind Swansea in second and six points behind Norwich City who sit top. Paunovic was delighted to see the Royals pick up their seventh point in a week and first win of 2021. After the game, he spoke to the official club website and Berkshire Live.
Paunovic on the performance
“One of our best performances this season, especially on the road. This was the first time we were capable of coming from behind to win. We were consistent and mentally ready to win this game - even after conceding that early goal.
“We know we win games when we take the lead first. But we’ve been addressing winning games when we go behind - something which has been a problem for the last few years at this club, so this was one of the things we had to improve this year.
“We looked to explain how to behave if we concede first and not letting the first goal affect us. I think you could probably hear me from the dugout that I was reminding the guys to brush the first goal off our shoulders, and play the game like we’d just started a new game. And when you concede so early, it is even easier to do that as you have time to build that momentum again.
“I’m very excited with the performance the guys put in and I’m very grateful to the players for everything they did today. As a coach, I don’t only want to improve the results and the culture of the club, but I also want to improve the mentality.
“This is a huge improvement in our mentality and our identity, so this week now, not only the confidence and the belief is going to grow, but the mentality of the team which is what wraps everything up together. If you improve the mentality, you can build an amazing team, a strong team, a solid team, a team with confidence.”
Paunovic on Joao’s performance
“He was cramping (that’s why he came off). His performance was fantastic and he impressed with his fitness after being injured for three weeks.
“Coming into the game with this sharpness - which usually takes a couple of games for players - maybe he didn’t have the fuel to play 90 minutes but the 75 minutes he did play he almost played a perfect game.
“The two goals are proof of his improvement in mentality - waiting for his opportunity when we face adversity - he was patient and took the opportunity. I’m so pleased McIntyre assisted with the first goal - we were encouraging him to play and it was great.”
Paunovic on the celebrations after second goal
“It was very meaningful for me - as a coach I don’t want to only improve the results and culture, but I also want to improve the mentality because if you do that we will get an amazing, strong team, a solid team with confidence.
“We were looking for the opportunity at half time and I told the guys if we don’t win today I am walking back to Reading. I’m glad they fixed it so I didn’t have to walk back home in this weather! This tells how much it meant to me - to win the game because we’re putting together a very strong and powerful team.
“They are a fantastic group of young people, all on the same page and when you have performances likes this I can’t wait to see the data because it’s so important we have complete performances. Once we achieve that level I’ll demand we stay there and look to improve, always.”
Paunovic on starting 2021 strongly
“Myself - I didn’t enjoy New Year’s Eve because I was only focused on this game. It’s great to get this win because it shows hard work pays off and belief and the group are capable of doing great things.
“We just need to stick together and not lose sight of our main goal which is to win the next game.”
Paunovic on having George Puscas back on the bench
“My plan was to play him but the circumstances of the game, I don’t think it would have been appropriate given the intensity of the game. After two months out, his approach (to returning) is different compared with Richards and Joao. We were looking to build Swift’s performance and he had a very good 60 minutes. He’s still building his form.”
Paunovic on having a stronger bench
“It’s nice to have options and that helped at the end. Rafael also had a fantastic performance and saved the team at the crucial moment at the end with a fantastic save. When everyone plays their part you get exciting performances like today.”