George Puscas scored on his return to the side with a huge win against Blackburn Rovers at the Madejski Stadium. It was a really important three points with teams in and around the play-offs all picking up points. Reading remain fifth, four points ahead of sixth-placed Cardiff but only two points behind Swansea in fourth.
Reading capitalised on a Harvey Elliott’s hesitation with Omar Richards dispossessing him, the ball fell to Lucas Joao who passed to George Puscas for him to put us 1-0 up. Blackburn pressed for an equaliser, but it wasn’t to be and the Royals got three important points. It wasn’t all good news though, Michael Morrison came off in the first half with an injury.
Paunovic on the win
“Courage is the main thing in football. You have to have it. It’s important to acknowledge a huge, huge effort from the team against a very good side. It was tough for us to keep the ball and they pushed forward with more numbers in attack in the second half.
“We didn’t play a beautiful game. But it was the appropriate way to beat a very difficult team who are very good on the ball - one of the best technical teams in the division. When we couldn’t keep the ball, we had to have an alternative. And that alternative worked very well. We showed what we had at the beginning of the season in terms of the solidity of our defence. We are keeping clean sheets and getting good results.”
“I’m very happy for George Puscas who has worked so hard to come back from a long-term injury. I’m also very happy for the very unselfish assist from Lucas Joao when we won the ball from pressing high. And I’m proud of all our young players who put in a very mature performance tonight.
“But the reason I am most happy is because we showed maturity and the mentality of a team who knows how to play these kinds of game and understands what stage of the season we are in.”
Paunovic on the play-off chase
“We focus on ourselves. There are teams on our heels but we are on the heels of others. Win our games and the rest will take care of itself. We’ve got to keep pushing forward. It is an important stretch that is coming - this month is crucial for the team.
“It is very important to win every game, but especially at home because it helps to build momentum. It was important to start this month with a win at home. You have to have ideas and you have to understand what you want to achieve. Align the goals and align everyone behind and in front of you... and that is what we are doing here.
“Right now we have the right mentality. We will keep going, game by game.”
Paunovic on Morrison and Andy Rinomhota injuries
“It doesn’t seem to be for a long time and we’ll look to recover the team throughout this month. Not too long - it’s a mild soft tissue injury for both of them. They are fantastic players and have strong bodies though so I think they will recover soon.”
Paunovic on the importance of securing back-to-back wins
“It’s great - we’ve been waiting for this to happen but we still haven’t done anything yet. We’re looking to recover players and clean sheets, and then add more opportunities to our game to score goals. In the first half we played very well and had a few opportunities even before we scored, but it’s important to build momentum and two wins and two clean sheets are very helpful.”
Paunovic on whether Puscas feels like a new signing
“He is an option now and he allows us to be more creative. And he allows us to rest people as well.”
Paunovic on Meite’s comeback?
“He is where George was a week ago in terms of his fitness and game readiness to respond to a high demand and load. He’s in the final stage but we’ll stay disciplined and deliver it like we have with Puscas. We don’t want to make mistakes with Yakou who was really, really punished by injuries and it affected our team.”
Paunovic on Omar Richards
“As long as Omar is with us, and puts in performances throughout the whole season, especially in the last few games then there’s nothing to talk about. What we control is that Omar is under contract with us until the end of the season and that he shows full commitment in training every day and in the matches.
“I am very happy with what I saw (of him) against Blackburn and if he stays in the same mental state and performance there is nothing to really mention. Let’s give him a break - that’s what we did a few games ago - and let’s just talk about Reading. Let’s just talk about us because we are here and this is happening now.”