The Royals’ season seems to be all but over with Reading sitting six points behind Barnsley in the play-off race, with three games left to play. Reading took the short journey to Kenilworth Road to face Luton Town which resulted in a 0-0 draw. When it really mattered and three points absolutely vital, Reading have played poorly and last night was no different with only getting one shot on target.
Manager Veljko Paunovic still feels that our season is not over, but with Swansea City, Norwich City and Huddersfield Town coming up, it is going to be a tough task. Here is what the manager had to say after the game - he spoke to the official club website and Berkshire Live.
Paunovic on the draw
“It is a draw, but it feels like a loss. We are missing the end product at the moment. You can’t expect to create a lot of chances at this stage of the season. But you have to know that when that chance comes, it is probably going to be a difficult chance, you’ll be dealing with the opponent on your back - but you have to make it happen. You have to convert.
“In the first half, we had that chance with a header - a clear chance to score. But being clinical is what we have been missing in the last month. In every single game we’ve played, we’ve had opportunities to score. Some would have been match-winners in important games that have ended up being draws.
“Finishing is a big part of my way of seeing football and there has been an emphasis on that in training, we always work on that. It’s easier to convert chances in training, but when you are tired, under pressure in a game, that’s when you have to be clinical in your execution. That’s the level we have to get to again as soon as possible.
“Things are becoming harder now... but not impossible. We don’t give up. If we see signs of giving up... that’s not us. We will keep our guys tuned in, we will keep fighting. We have seen that things can change very quickly in football.
“In football, you have to be ready for your opportunity. And our opportunity could come this Sunday. We have to be at our best, we have to have our team ready to compete with Swansea and then look to see if things develop in the right way for us. As long as you have life - and we still have life - we will fight for the play-offs.”
Paunovic on our biggest issue creating chances?
“They defended well, I must say, they defended with a lot of numbers. In the first half, we didn’t understand the importance of finishing our actions. We have to have that killer instinct. At this point in the season, that should not even be mentioned.
“In the final third, you get set and finish. We immediately have to improve. In the past games, it was more about the execution. This was delaying in making decisions.”
Paunovic on the team still showing ‘non-negotiables’?
“I think so. In the first half, we weren’t at our best. We weren’t in our best mood and that’s something we have to look at. We were shy and they started well. We did start to get better until our first opportunity with Puscas’ header and that would have changed the game.
“We were looking for that critical moment where the game could be brought to our side. It’s the pressure of the moment that makes you feel like that (not the non-negotiables).”
Paunovic on whether he is happy with players’ application?
“We’re all giving the best at this point, with all the circumstances. There is no doubt the guys are giving their best. And I want to think like that. If I saw something different, you can bet we would take action on that. Definitely, I have full belief in the group and full commitment.”
Paunovic on whether the play-offs are still possible?
“We are not going to give up. We are going to fight until the end. It gets much more difficult but we will not give up and we have to be ready if things go well on the other side.
“It’s definitely worth giving our best to the end and you never know in football. Things change very quickly and we have to be ready to convert our opportunity.
“This is the last moment to understand how important this is. It’s not going to be easy or perfect opportunities at this point in the season and you have to be clinical.
“You’re going to have an opponent on top of your neck and you have to fight that but that’s what teams do. That’s what we have to do and get better at.”
Paunovic on whether the team is exhausted
“Everyone is at this point in the season and you can see teams break down because of injuries. Accumulation is obvious but I didn’t see a team which gave up. With everything that we had, we were fighting until the end.”
Paunovic on if the team overachieved this season?
“It was perfectly achieved with the performance with the momentum we built and the quality we have. But also others adjusted their team and performances and got back. It is a long season.”
Paunovic on how key John Swift is to the side
“When everyone is 100 per cent fit this is a very strong team but throughout the season we’ve seen that hasn’t been the case so that affected us. When we had our early season form and our full roster, the players were in their best shape. Then we had injuries that affected us. Now we are still paying a very high price due to the injuries.”
Paunovic on the players being distracted by the hype?
“That is something everyone has to deal with. If that is true, then you’re still not ready to perform at the highest level. The distraction sometimes can be praise and feedback or it can be criticism.
“You have to know that in professional sport how to deal with that. I do not know why we’re trying to throw things and discuss these things. It’s football.
“We get out there day in day out, work hard, prepare for every single game and then things happen. Along the way, things happen and you have to take care of that and fix things around you and that’s all.”