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Veljko Paunovic On Boro Defeat, Complacency, Puscas’ Return And Looking Ahead

The gaffer was understandably unimpressed by a poor performance that led to Reading’s third straight home loss.

Reading v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship - Madejski Stadium Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

The Royals suffered another defeat at home after a disappointing 2-0 loss against Middlesbrough. Boro scored two first-half goals through Ashley Fletcher and Marc Bola to keep their play-off dreams alive; they’re now just three points behind sixth-placed Bournemouth. Michael Morrison had the best chance for Reading but Marcus Bettinelli made a good save to keep a clean sheet.

Reading remain in fifth, but with wins for both Cardiff City and Boro, they are now just five points behind us. Veljko Paunovic cut a frustrated figure as he admitted the performance was unacceptable. Here is what he said after the game; he spoke to Berkshire Live.

Paunovic on the defeat

“We can’t afford to lose games at home and even though we don’t have our fans, we control our environment so this is unacceptable. I’m not happy with it but we have to stay calm, look to improve and bounce back immediately. We cannot start to become bigger and throw things on each other. With the other results you can see everyone is fighting for their lives and objectives which is credit to the league and all its competitors.

“We have to look at what the reason was for not having a good start. We looked a bit relaxed - maybe that’s not the right word - but it didn’t look like the same team as we have started in other games. We can look at other reasons too but I want to attribute it to a bit of a lack of intensity.

“We definitely cannot repeat the performance of the first half. In the second half there was a good reaction and I wished we started the game like we started the half. The changes worked well and if Yiadom scored his chance I’m sure we would have been closing to a draw or a win.

“Not converting a chance in the first 15/20 minutes of the half just prolonged our effort which was dissipated by their solid defence.”

Paunovic on complacency from the side

“I would leave it at a lack of intensity, but I do think we have to improve our mentality. That was a problem in the past and we cannot keep the ghosts from the past alive and bring them back. We’ll acknowledge a good job by our opponent, but the first half is on us.”

Paunovic on the benefit of lots of games

“That’s the challenge because we have to go out to do that (make the most of the busy run of games) and be able to do that. I want to tell everyone that we are playing in one of the hardest leagues in the world and there are still 15 games to go.

“The race is still on - the marathon just never stops. You can have a setback but you can’t stop. You can’t look back, you have to bounce back, fix anything you have to and this is clear to our environment. We always look to absorb the frustration from bad results and immediately apply it in a positive way in our next game.”

Paunovic on Josh Laurent’s return

“He was very consistent, he played very well and in his game, I think he benefited from the break. But we didn’t benefit as a team from his performance. It’s a clear poking of the ball, but we don’t control the other part and a foul was called.

“We lost our concentration and that’s something we always look at, at set-plays. The most important thing is focus and concentration. We had a commitment but we lost the focus.”

Paunovic on missing John Swift and Yakou Meite

“We get results no matter, that’s the strength of the team and of the group. We have to rely on this and I’m looking forward for all injured players to come back so they can provide the team their talents and effort moving forward.”

Paunovic on whether Liam Moore and George Puscas are ready to start?

“We’ll see but they are definitely back and getting in good shape.”

Paunovic on taking off Alfa Semedo and Omar Richards at half time

“We needed to get back in shape and to have fresh legs. We had to look at Omar’s yellow card too and we wanted to be more aggressive and tighter in the second half. So we wanted to take any liability off.

“We were the first team to strike in the game and if we had scored it would have been different. I lament it but I’m not giving excuses. We also had another chance with Ejaria and those goals could have helped.

“We haven’t conceded many goals from set-plays, like the first goal, so that really hurts me. And what led to the situation was a foul which I don’t believe was one.”

Paunovic on possibly bringing Puscas on at HT

“We were tempted to look at him and Baldock, and our attacking players, but in his case it’s more about him coming back from the injury. He still needs to build his game fitness so we have to consider that.”

Paunovic on playing him up top with Joao

“Why not - they’ve played like that in the past and also this season when fit so that’s a possibility.”