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Pauno Praises Half-Time Mentality Shift In Birmingham City Win

“It was actually a real joy to watch our team play in the second half, which it wasn’t in the first half.”

Derby County v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Veljko Paunovic watched from home for a second game in a row, leaving Marko Mitrovic in charge against Birmingham City at St Andrew’s,

After a delay to the start of the game, it didn’t go to plan with Scott Hogan capitalising on a Liam Moore mistake after three minutes. At half time, Paunovic made the call to take George Puscas off and put on Jahmari Clarke. Clarke made a huge impact as he equalised for the Royals in the 70th minute. He then scored the winner in the 82nd to take all three points back to Berkshire and end our losing streak.

Reading now sit 16th, four points off the play-offs and 10 points off the relegation zone. Paunovic delivered his post-match views via Zoom. He spoke to the official club website, BBC Radio Berkshire and Berkshire Live.

Paunovic on the victory

“We needed a boost of energy. I spoke to the group at half-time, told them what the expectations were in the second half. And I asked from them… commitment.

“In the first half, I wasn’t happy. Even though we played well, it looked like we were happy with keeping it at 0-1. We didn’t attack with enough conviction, we weren’t finishing our actions as we spoke about before the game.

“So at half time, I had a chat with the players and I discussed with the staff about decisions. And both decisions we made paid off – changing the formation and putting a young lad onto the pitch who we had to build into a game like this and surprise our opponent with.

“They gave us an opportunity to knock them down and we took it.”

Paunovic on the second-half reaction

“I’m very happy with the second-half reaction. It was a joy to watch our team play in the second half. The guys did a fantastic job and they deserve the whole credit for this fantastic win. We had lost four games in a row but that run didn’t reflect some of the football we were playing.

“In the last four matches, apart from the second half against Blackpool, we have played good football. And I told the guys that if we keep playing good football and if we are consistent with the good things we are doing, we are going to win games.

“We set the foundations for how we were going to play today. In the first half, maybe we were too shy or too complacent, but in the second half we had a change in attitude, a change in mentality which earned us the win.”

Paunovic on if the win was a relief

“It was actually a real joy to watch our team play in the second half, which it wasn’t in the first half. I was very upset with the passivity and complacency which we had - it looked like we were keeping the scoresheet as it was.

“At half time we had a chat over the phone in the meeting and made the changes - and both changes paid off. Changing the formation and putting a young lad who we had to build into the game where he could surprise an opponent who was also complacent.

“They (Birmingham) were very complacent and gave us opportunities to knock them down which we took.

“I’m very proud of the effort, the guys did a fantastic job in the second half especially. At half time we looked from our players to commit, to give their best and go and win the game.

“I thought we were not playing to win and it didn’t look like we wanted to win the game. When that changed and the attitudes changed, and the determination and the time was right, we played good football and that’s the way to go and win games. When you adjust the attitude and expectations then you have games like this one.”

Paunovic on Clarke’s brace

“He needed a few touches for the second goal and it took off a few years of my life but definitely he did well. But he’s a young lad and has great potential and given the circumstances he was called up and did very well.

“I want to encourage everyone, though, especially him, to keep their feet on the ground because there is a long way to go. He is definitely a good player and he will have games like this but what he cannot do now is stop being humble and look to learn from his teammates and coaches.

“And from players like Dann, Drinkwater, Moore, Yiadom and Morrison... I would encourage him and the media to give him support but keep his feet on the ground.”

Paunovic on if the pressure was on at half time

“Completely wrong. I never think like that. I think how are we going to win this and I know we have options every game. I have enough experience to know you can flip results for you, or it can go against you.

“The inconsistency they had and their complacency were our allies. We took our chances and did very well in the second half. I had no doubt there was going to be a reaction, especially after the speech at half time.”

Paunovic on his health

“I’m feeling very well. I had minor symptoms in the first couple of days and the last two days I’ve tested negative, but still I’m in quarantine at home and working with the team and staff from distance.”