The Royals did exactly what they needed to do for their play-off bid with an important 3-1 victory against Derby County at the Madejski Stadium.
Veljko Paunovic decided to put Lucas Joao on the bench and brought George Puscas in to support Yakou Meite. It was a slow start, but eventually the Royals got into the game when Michael Olise made it 1-0 just before the break. Puscas rewarded the manager for his decision by making it 2-0. Tom Lawrence scored for the visitors but Lucas Joao came off the bench and scored a much-needed goal for us and his confidence.
With Barnsley and Bournemouth picking up points, not much has changed in terms of the table with Reading still sitting in sixth. Bournemouth still have a game in hand with second-place Watford next for Reading on Friday evening.
Paunovic on the victory
“I’m very happy with the result, but it wasn’t easy. It was a hard game against a hard opponent in Derby County and it was a big result. We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for this game, although we did our homework for this stretch of games in the international break so that helped.
“The application we showed, the seriousness with which we played and the maturity we played with in this game is promising. Especially at this stage of the season, with six games left, that’s what you need to win your games and the performance today showed that the players understand the opportunity we have.
“The execution was clinical in attack - the first goal was a fantastic goal but it also came at the right moment in the game. It was a very good response; we knew there was 30 seconds left to finish the first half, and we said that the ball has to end up in their box. It did and we scored.
“And defensively I think we did a good job - we conceded a goal near the end which was unstoppable - all you can do is applaud a goal like that. But overall our defence did a good job.”
Paunovic on looking ahead
“We always look at it one game at a time. So what has happened in the past, happened in the past. We are where we are because we have done a great job so far this season. But we still have to earn our place in the play-offs.
“And when you win like today, you want the confidence and the positivity that that win supplies. But you also have to keep your feet on the ground. We will keep doing that. We are one of the contenders for a top six place. We will keep focusing on ourselves. And we keep rolling.”
Paunovic on Richards’ injury
“He walked off limping but I’m going to avoid giving projections about his injury because I still don’t know. He will be assessed on Tuesday and we’ll see how it goes. It’s a knock - and knocks can usually be recovered quickly - but we will see the severity tomorrow. The fact he asked for a substitution is not a good thing.”
Paunovic on the latest with Michael Morrison
“He’s going to be back for the play-offs.”
Paunovic on Joao coming off the bench to score
“It was a very good reaction and helped the team in a very delicate moment of the game after we had conceded. Their goal preceded a couple of other good opportunities which Rafael - with his fantastic performance - saved the day.
“With Alfa and Lucas coming off the bench it helped the team very well and helped us consolidate and protect the result. I am very happy for him and excited for what’s coming.”
Paunovic on whether team selection more difficult with Puscas scoring
“It makes it richer and more resourceful, so it helps. I’m very happy for him. He did a great job and I wish Meite scored because he contributed a lot with his constant taking-on of their defence and pace.”
Paunovic on Olise’s celebration
“We have to understand one thing - he is a young lad who likes to be special. He does these kinds of things because he wants to call attention. Of course, we will give him that attention that he needs but whatever he meant with that, I don’t want to bite or discuss it.
“We have to play six more games - the most important in Reading’s recent history - so we have to focus on that. If he has something to say then he should say it but I won’t bother to go that way.”
Paunovic on the relief to win after Barnsley draw
“We look to increase our performances moving forward and I don’t look back. I look to motivate the people around me towards the next performances. We can’t change what’s happened and if you do that you carry an extra pressure with you that’s not going to help prepare for the next game.
“When you win you want that positivity and confidence that you get from that but you also have to keep your feet on the ground. I have been consistent with that and will keep doing the same.”
Paunovic on today being the ideal scenario for Puscas and Joao
“It’s great for both to score and strikers love to score, like them. There is a special pressure on them to score goals to get their performance and that helps the team. It is resourceful and it’s always good for the team.”
Paunovic on John Swift
“He’s back in training and we’re looking to build his game fitness so we can get him involved.”
Paunovic on two-horse race with Bournemouth for the top six
“They are contenders and have been there a long time...we keep rolling and focusing on ourselves. We don’t think about what others do because we can’t control that. What they do is in their control, what we do is in our control.
“We have a couple of teams to play at the top of the table and also teams like Cardiff who are still involved in the race so it’s not going to be easy. I don’t expect it’s going to be perfect either, but we’ll get there.”
Paunovic on whether he is enjoying the dogfight
“I do enjoy it - all the true competitors and performers and achievers want these kinds of challenges. We are here because we have earned it but we still have to earn our play-off [spot] so we can hunt for more.”