Over 1,000 Reading fans made the journey to Staffordshire after a tough 18 months, but unfortunately it ended in a 3-2 defeat against Stoke City on the first day of the 2021/2022 season.
Stoke took the lead in the 25th minute through Nick Powell, but the Royals equalised just a minute later through John Swift. Jacob Brown scored two minutes after that to give Stoke the lead going into the second half. Liam Moore equalised through a header but Sam Surridge scored with five minutes to go to give Stoke a first day victory.
Manager Veljko Paunovic felt that the Royals should have picked up at least a point. He spoke to the official club website and Berkshire Live after the game.
Paunovic on the defeat
“We played some good football, came back twice and were able to control the game in certain moments. And at 2-2 we had created good momentum. The game slowed with a lot of injuries and interruptions. And that took away the momentum we had created. And it gave them the chance to come back and strike again.
“And unfortunately we conceded the third goal late. We definitely could have done better with that goal – we opened up too much, lost our shape and conceded space. We should have controlled it better and played the game in their half of the field, without letting them bring the ball forward as they did in the action that led to the winning goal.
“It was a reflection of our pre-season; for this game we weren’t ready to play 90 minutes at the intensity that we need.
Paunovic on the positives
“There were positives. I was pleased with how swiftly we reacted to them taking the lead. The young players did well – it was a good test for them playing in front of fans for the first time in their careers. And they did well.
“And our fans were fantastic. It was the first time for me to meet our fans at an away game. We lost out on the field today but I felt they won their game in the stands.”
Paunovic on only naming five players on the subs bench
“Firstly, it was a consequence of injuries and secondly, it’s what we have. We do have under-23s who played a game last night and now the rules have changed back to only making three substitutes we thought it was enough. I’m not saying that was enough but this is what we have to work with.”
Paunovic on looking ahead
“The season is long and we will learn and come back from this defeat as soon as possible. It is in our character and we have to show pride to come back from this disappointment. We will prepare for the upcoming games in the best possible way and we’ll look to strengthen the team.”