The Royals suffered a crushing defeat in their play-off bid with a 2-0 loss against promotion-hunting Watford. Two early goals from Ismaila Sarr sealed the points for Watford, and Reading had chances to get back into the game and take some points, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Reading remain sixth for now but it is an important weekend. If Bournemouth pick up a point against Coventry they will leapfrog Reading into the play-offs, with the Cherries still having a game in hand. Here is what Veljko Paunovic had to say after the game; he spoke to the official club website, the Reading Chronicle and Sky Sports.
Paunovic on the result
“The tough part of tonight’s game is the result. Everything else... we were a fantastic team, fantastic competitor, played great football against one of the best teams in the league. But unfortunately the outcome is not what we wanted.
“I can’t say that we didn’t start the game well. I would just give credit to Sarr and his team for their start and two astonishing goals - although perhaps we could have done better with the second one. But you have to applaud those finishes. But other than that, our team controlled the game and created opportunities. Execution is very important though, but today it wasn’t there. And not converting our chances hurt us tonight.
“We were waiting, playing, running, creating chances and putting in a lot of effort out there and we had a lot of the possession. We were chasing that goal which would have given us that boost of confidence and our physical output we had was exceptional - we kept chasing and chasing that goal that would have given us the momentum. But the goal didn’t come.
“Eventually that drained us. We rushed our final pass too often in the second half, although we still kept getting into our opponent’s box and we looked to play and to fight until the very end. But in the end we ran out of power. When you lose a game and you don’t convert your opportunities you can’t complain. But football, which I love, was cruel to us today.”
Paunovic on Puscas’ miss
“It was a similar situation against Derby and he converted, that happens in football. He was in the right place at the right time, it’s just his execution wasn’t there. He also did a great job for the team defensively.
“You can’t blame anyone for this but we have to immediately bounce back. We have five games to play - this one is already behind us - we have to look at what we control moving forward.”
Paunovic on Joao and Puscas’ performances
“We always expect to get more performances. It’s obvious we expect Lucas to score, but today he didn’t. When we made that substitution, we wanted to see that impact in the final third. I think he tried his best. George had a similar situation in the last game against Derby and he scored. We’re never going to blame anyone.
“These players really want it. That group is one of the best groups I’ve worked with. If someone misses, it’s not because they haven’t given their best. Nobody is there to blame.”
Paunovic on Richards starting on the bench and Gibson coming in
“Omar didn’t start because he was still sore from the knock he received (against Derby). We believed we have to start the game without these things on the field. Lewis has been so resourceful for the team this season, we were absolutely comfortable with him starting.
“The two goals we conceded was everyone’s fault, including myself. To be honest, this is football. We make decisions and we have to live with that. At this point of the season, it is good to have resources.”
Paunovic on the importance of bouncing back
“It’s a big game for us (Cardiff home) but every game is. The next five games... our season is there. We will bounce back. I believe in this group. This is one of the best groups I have ever worked with and I believe completely we will achieve our goals.”