Our season is officially over, but the Royals fought until the end with a 2-2 draw against Swansea City at the Madejski.
It was simply a must-win game to keep our play-off dreams alive and it started well with Yakou Meite giving the Royals the lead. It was looking promising but, after a Swansea triple substitution and Reading taking off John Swift and Meite, the visitors equalised through Jamal Lowe. Andre Ayew put the Swans 2-1 up with just minutes to spare, with Tomas Esteves equalising in added-on time, but it was too little too late.
It is a disappointing end to the season, but compared to where we have been over previous years, it is a huge improvement and something that we can build upon moving into next season.
Veljko Paunovic was disappointed that our season had come to an end, but is looking ahead to next season. He is what he had to say after the game, he spoke to the official club website and Berkshire Live.
Paunovic on our season being over
“Nothing can comfort our disappointment. It’s hard to accept that our season is over after everything we have done and how hard we have fought throughout the whole season. I’m especially affected because I know how had the team has worked, how committed this group have been.
“We have been through all the setbacks, injuries have been our biggest opponent - some of the guys had to fight back from multiple injuries. We had a few players playing today who risked existing injuries getting worse; the commitment from everyone has been amazing this season. So with all that, it is hard to take it. But I also want to reflect on the positives and give some perspective we created for the team, our club, our fans.
“We have seen a huge improvement in our game, we have forged an identity, a character. And we have formed a solid core of players, with a good mix of young and experienced players. And that makes me feel proud.
“We have kept the group together during difficult times in the unprecedented times we are all living in - but we kept the hope, the belief, the togetherness throughout. That has been a big challenge but also a huge step forward for all of us.”
“It is more than the disappointment of the draw today. It is a result which means our chances of a play-off place are over. But looking forward, we have to build on top of these values.”
Paunovic on the defeat
“I believe that there is nothing to comfort our disappointment today - but there are so many positives this season. The evolution in our game is obvious.
“We missed out on our goal but we gave it our all and fought until the end. We looked for the win and we all have to acknowledge the hard work and be proud of this group
“We had ambition that before was not there. Today it was a hard thing to see the play-offs vanish.”
Paunovic on next season
“With everything around us we have to go back and look at the perspective we created. The improvement is huge this season because we focussed on football.
“I want to remain this focussed. The club is doing so much to fix the problems outside of the game but we have a team, we have a style and we’re playing the game properly. We have to build on these.”
Paunovic on staying next term
“I think continuity pays off. This is the path if we want to achieve our goals. we must all understand that the hardest part is building a team that believes. To deal with setbacks and injuries, building their form. It’s not easy, it’s our job. We pushed to the end.
“I enjoyed it.”
Paunovic on the next two games
“I will not be reflecting on the season. I will be looking to honour the competition. I will be trying to win those last two games. I will not be looking ahead yet, we will do that after the season.”
Paunovic on his squad hopes ahead of next season
“It’s difficult to answer that now. We are now facing our new reality. I believe the core of the players are under contract and we will look to keep those who are out of contract and had a huge contribution. They all bought into our vision but the financial situation could impact that.
“I know one thing, the club are working hard to fix this. The EFL need to give us a chance to fix it.”
Paunovic on those who are out of contract
“We have no agreement yet but we are moving in the right direction.”
Paunovic on John Swift
“He was coming back from a long injury. He had a very good game. He played his part. the game developed differently in the second half. Then we lost our concentration. They had momentum after that.
“We know what he has experienced this season, with injuries, and it takes time to show a best performance and form.”
Paunovic on substitutions
“I don’t think the changes were the only thing to blame. It isn’t black or white. I don’t judge it that way. It happens, that’s the game. They’re different momentums.”
Paunovic on his plans now
“We want to win every game. We want to honour our competition, the fans, ourselves. If players earn their chance to be out there, they will be. We don’t give something for nothing.”