Two defeats in a matter of days for the Royals, with the latest a disappointing loss against Millwall at the Madejski Stadium.
Reading took the lead through a superb goal by Alfa Semedo in the first half. They held on until the 76th minute when Millwall equalised through Matt Smith. The Royals instantly went on the attack and hit the bar through Ovie Ejaria, but the visitors then went on to pick up all three points after Mason Bennett scored late on. Reading sit fifth in the Championship, nine points behind Brentford in second. There is a cushion of eight points between the Royals and seventh-placed Cardiff City.
Paunovic on the defeat
“It’s a big blow for us. A great opportunity missed. The first half was pretty good for us. Millwall are a tough team to play against and they went with their usual style, we were ready for the physical challenge and I think we matched them very well in the first half.
“Alfa does things that surprise you in training every day, but I think this was a very intuitive finish from him to make it 1-0. And we had opportunities to increase the score in our favour, but when you miss those opportunities sometimes in football you pay for it.
“In the second half they made some changes and altered their formation - and we weren’t at our best in the second half.”
Paunovic on moving forward
“Disappointment is not permitted in our environment. We have to keep ourselves accountable for our results. And we are looking to fix this as soon as possible. We’ve been through a difficult stretch before and we learned from that. Now we have to apply it. Now we have to show if we are ready for this challenge. We won’t look and blame the guy next to us, we will look at each other in the face and ask how can I help.
“We did good things today, but unfortunately we also made some mistakes. We will acknowledge them, learn from them and then support each other. We have 17 games left, plenty of games to play, plenty of points to win, plenty of time to fix this.
“We only had two days to recover for this game, so nobody has time to play a beautiful game. So we accept full responsibility for the result and look to fix it. In just a couple of days we have a chance to redeem ourselves. We will lift the spirits of the players. What we have seen from this group in the past is that there are enough reasons to believe in ourselves. And we will fix it.”
Paunovic on avoiding going on a losing run
“We are responsible for future performances and we have to bounce back immediately. It’s a very important moment in the season and we are all aware of that. We keep ourselves accountable to our decisions and performances.
“We have to have everyone on the same page and ready for the next game and stop the bleeding at Bristol.”
Paunovic on what needs to be fixed
“Some defensive principles which we’ve done well so far and improved - we have to look at the fundamentals and the key thing is converting the opportunities. At this point in the season you don’t create many chances so when you do, you have to be clinical. You have to score and press your advantage.”
Paunovic on starting Gibson and Holmes
“We needed robustness for the game and both check that box. We also needed fresh legs. I think it worked well. Unfortunately, not because of the changes, we dropped our performance and lost clarity in the moments where we concede the first goal. We have to improve that. We need to learn, when we concede, it’s not the end of the world.
“We had time left and we have to learn to be the team that has an iron faith in what we are doing and belief we can win the game - and not wait until the next one to fix it. We will look to be proactive in the long term - we have 17 games left and Omar is someone who has played all the games for us when available - almost every single game - so the accumulation and being pro-active in the coming months will be key. I don’t think the changes affected the result today.”
Paunovic on taking off Holmes
“They changed their formation and we thought we had leaks on that side so we wanted some fresh legs and somebody that has experience like Yiadom. He had a pretty good game against Brentford so that was behind the decision. We felt it was the right decision to make.”
Paunovic gives an injury update
“Unfortunately, (John Swift) it’s a long-term injury. It’s a different part of the hamstring and it’s going to take more than six weeks. Meite is being assessed weekly. We will reassess him tomorrow.
“Puscas is back in training and had his first full session yesterday. We’re looking to build his form now and he’s moving in the right direction. We’re expecting him back in a week to 10 days, at least.”