Reading returned to winning ways on Saturday against Rotherham United with Michael Morrison grabbing the winner to secure a really important three points. Morrison scored in the 26th minute to keep Reading in fifth place in the Championship. With Cardiff and Boro drawing and Barnsley getting a win, it means there are just three points between the Royals and seventh-placed Barnsley.
Veljko Paunovic admitted that this was one of the most important games this season, and he was happy with the result and performance after a difficult run of form. Pauno spoke to the official club website and Berkshire Live after the game.
Paunovic on the win
“I am very happy with the result and the performance. I think the way we played against a team who has a specific style, in a game which was very similar to the games we have played and lost in the last week, I am pleased. This was probably the toughest game I’ve had since being the manager of the club.
“Rotherham know how to use their resources - it is fantastic to see a team who knows how to play in every given moment. Without looking, they would pass it into their strikers and know where they were instinctively. They were hard to handle and would be for any team - they did a very good job against us and made it very difficult.
“We didn’t convert our opportunities in the first half and we know what happens when we don’t convert our chances from the Wycombe game earlier in the week. We had our chances in the second half too. At this point of the season, playing fancy is wrong. In the last two months of the season, you have to be ruthless. It’s something we are aware of and will continue to improve.
“So as we hadn’t scored a second I was a little bit nervous about giving up chances for them to score. But we defended well, managed it well, although we dropped a little bit too deep towards the end when they added more attacking players. But the substitutions helped - we were more robust towards the end of the game with Tom Mac and Tom Holmes helping us defend those set pieces which was crucial to us today.”
Paunovic on the players’ character
“We had character today. We fought. We saw urgency from all our players. And winning today gives everyone an important boost the team a chance to build our new momentum. It’s a big win for everyone in the changing room. At Wycombe I told you we had guys crying, but today it’s a different emotion, a different buzz in there.
“It is a feeling of gratitude towards the achievement. And it was an ownership of our success. We have to own this moment because it can be a crucial win going into the end of the season.
“The guys understood that this win meant a lot and it was a feeling of contained happiness. Contained, because we have to prepare for another game in two or three days time. But that buzz will help us to build for the upcoming games.”
Paunovic on whether the game showed the side’s character to stay in the top six
“It’s a big test for our mentality and the club, and our culture that we are building. This is where we are going to. We are building and forging a mentality and a character. When you have a game, you win it. You do your homework, do your job and execute it.
“Then you move to the next one. That is what differentiates teams who have success at the end of the season. We had character and we fought hard. I saw some of the players who maybe in the past would think there’s more time but I saw more urgency in them.”
Paunovic on post-match emotions
“It was a huge expectation for a prize, it was a huge feeling of gratitude towards the achievement and the ownership of the success. We have to own this moment because it can be a crucial thing at the end of the season. The guys understand this win means a lot and everyone had contained happiness.
“We know we have to prove ourselves in a few days again, though. It was a mix of contentment and knowing we can’t celebrate too much.”
Paunovic on Michael Morrison’s performance
“It was a fantastic game by him. I always speak with him about being one of our senior players. You can always find individuals who benefit from teamwork. The team always gives opportunities to individuals to show up.
“With him, I spoke about the importance of when things aren’t going well, how important it is to do the job for the team. I’m very happy for him. I think he is playing one of the best seasons of his career. I’m very happy I can work with him every day.”
Paunovic on Lucas Joao’s display
“He has to redeem himself - it’s a positive suggestion - and for me this was one of the best games he played. Although he didn’t score a goal, he had a couple of opportunities where he could have been more clinical, but the fight and effort he put in and the way he held off the centre-backs throughout the game was probably the best game he’s played in terms of the effort he put in.”
Paunovic on Meite and Gibson injury updates
“Gibson is looking good, he can be back this week. Meite is the same, although he is coming from a longer injury. The main thing is we build his fitness so he can respond to the demands of the game when he’s ready to go.”