The Royals’ unbeaten run in 2021 continues after a frustrating 0-0 with Stoke City at the bet365 Stadium. Veljko Paunovic felt unhappy and frustrated with the performance and changed things up in the second half which did see an improvement, but in a game where there were little chances, there were still positives with the return of Yakou Meite and a clean sheet.
Results elsewhere move us up to fourth, five points behind Swansea in third and with second-place Brentford next up for the Royals, it is set to be an exciting fixture. Here is what Paunovic had to say after the game, he spoke to the official club website and GetReading.
Paunovic on the game
“I’m unhappy more than frustrated. It wasn’t our best game. We always thought this was going to be a game of one goal. And who scores… wins. There is a little bit of frustration that we couldn’t get that goal. But it wasn’t our best game today.
“We managed in the second half to change our approach, looking to play the ball in behind a bit more and, even in moments when we weren’t very fluid, we knew it was important to keep them away from our box. That brought us opportunities from open play and from corners and set pieces.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get a win, but we kept another clean sheet, I don’t think we suffered any more injuries so that is another positive. And the team did show spirit as always, good structure, but I think we needed to be better on the ball especially in the moments when the opposition’s pressure ceased.
“We have to give credit to Stoke. They tried in the first half to look for a more direct approach, which we did a good job in preventing. Maybe we didn’t step up high enough on the field – but they are a good side so it was difficult.
“The fair result is the one we got. That is the bottom line. We could have benefitted more from the opportunities we created and from certain times when we rushed the final pass or got over-excited when were were in the final third. But that is normal. The team always gives its best. We move on and learn from this.
“We expected a hard game today, we prepared for that. From the beginning we said, stay defensively solid, keep a clean sheet, and build momentum throughout the game so we can create something that will get us the result. And the opportunities came. Late, but not too late. Unfortunately we couldn’t take one of those opportunities.”
Paunovic on lacking intensity and quality
“We have to give credit to Stoke. They tried to look for a more direct approach but we did a good job. Maybe we didn’t step up high enough on the field from our goal but the manner of the opposition - they are a good side and we knew it was important to keep them far from our box.”
Paunovic on Meite’s impact
“We’re building the momentum after the long injury he had. He has to remain patient, the same as us and our supporters but he is doing well. He got the opportunity... the winner was in his boots. But it’s good to see him fresh, good to see him moving smoothly and recover his form and that’s going to be important moving forward.”
Paunovic on making just two subs
“Every substitution has to have a purpose. Only making two changes means we were happy with what we saw from our players. We just thought the game was changing in a way where we had to get different qualities on the field, while not affecting our structure. There is a subjective perception of the situation and subjective judgement, and we look to have options on the field.”
Paunovic on the conditions
“The field looked good but it was a bit difficult for our players to move smoothly and pass the ball and connect better. We did have a good rate of pass competition but it’s still a stat we have to improve. I’m very confident, now the weather will change and get better, the team will improve in the game and creation of chances.”
Paunovic on it being a fair result
“The fair result is the one we got. We could have benefited more from the chances we created. We maybe rushed a bit our pass in the final third and were over excited when we got into the position but it’s normal. The team always gives its best. We’re building momentum and we’ll keep going.”
Paunovic on our rivals’ results
“We remain disciplined and focused towards what we can control. We are aware of other results but we look for our improvement and keep our minds on ourselves and our environment. That’s the main focus for us.”