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Veljko Paunovic Praises A ‘Big Performance’ From Reading In Middlesbrough Win

Pauno on Reading’s makeshift defence, injuries, team performance, not wanting to talk about points deductions, and more...

Reading v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

Alen Halilovic scored his first goal for the Royals as Reading picked up another win after a difficult week. Reading put on a fantastic display, continuing their brilliant form with a 1-0 win against Middlesbrough at the Select Car Leasing Stadium. The win means we sit ninth, just three points behind a play-off place.

Manager Veljko Paunovic said confidence and belief is now back in the squad. After the game, he spoke to the official club website and Berkshire Live.

Paunovic on the victory

“I said this team were only going to get better and that is what is happening right now.

“In the end, we ended up defending the scoreline – instead of benefiting from some of the chances we created with some superb team play. It’s regrettable we didn’t score more goals when we had the opportunity.

“But the team are showing their capability and their confidence. The fans here helped us again and they are building a great connection. A big game and a big performance.”

Paunovic on making the most of chances and keeping a clean sheet

“We have to capitalise on the chances we create and we have to score more. There were opportunities to execute clinically and unfortunately, we didn’t. But one goal is enough when you keep a clean sheet, and not conceding gave us three points today.

“The guys at the back did a fantastic job – they executed the plan very well. Dejan proved he was ready for this. He did a great job, man of the match for me.

“He played for the first time in a new position – but having players that are coachable, intelligent and want to improve. It’s a pleasure to work with a team like that. And the whole team showed great spirit given the injury circumstances.

“At half-time, coming out of the changing room we said we had to hit first and we had to hit hard. We had the opportunity when Tom Dele was one-on-one and we didn’t score. But the second opportunity went in. We are looking to be more ruthless with our chances. But we got the result that we wanted and today was very satisfying.

“Now we have to stay healthy. The team has confidence, the belief is there and the team is playing good football. We now have to focus on Derby, another very important match. We’ll keep our feet on the ground and keep rolling.”

Paunovic on the change in form

“I predicted everything - that we wouldn’t have a good start due to our circumstances but as soon as we fixed it in the last couple of days of the transfer window and recovered some players we picked up. Now we are there. It’s a huge credit for the team and belief.”

Paunovic on the threat of a points deduction from the EFL

“The most important thing for us is to keep focus on our performances on the field. You always have to win games, no matter what. I don’t want distractions but we know how it works. We’ll answer questions in the same way. We can only focus on the things we can control. That’s our only focus.”

Paunovic on the three wins being a cushion if points deduction comes

“I don’t want to talk about it. We have 13 points, we have to play and win games no matter what, that’s it. It’s out of my control.”

Paunovic on the performance of the midfield

“It’s still going to get better. There are a lot of players who haven’t played together much and there was an adjustment after 10 minutes. We didn’t start badly but we didn’t show our confidence but we recovered that and played some very good football in the middle of the park.

“We created some very good team chances that I regretted we didn’t convert. The team executed the plan very well in the first half and even better in the second. It was extremely hard defending the set-pieces at the end but we managed and kept a clean sheet - the first of the season.”

Paunovic on Laurent at centre-back

“I always told him he could do that job and I think he is surprised how well he can do. It’s not easy to switch positions and not easy for the players to accept that but I’m very fortunate to work with a group of players who are coachable and want to do the job.”

Paunovic on injuries to Tetek and Hoilett

“We’ll see, I don’t know at this point. I don’t know how bad it is. The only one which is obvious was the bleeding nose of Hoilett at the end of the game.”

Paunovic on the red card for Middlesbrough

“I’ve seen the play after, but I’m not going to comment. It is what it is. We have to focus on what affects us.”

Paunovic on Scott Dann’s absence

It’s on a daily basis. It was a very good session for him today before the game. He went for a session at Bearwood and I spoke with him and he said he was feeling fine. He is getting there and he is in the final stage of getting fit.”

Paunovic on the time it is taking for Dann to be fit

We are very cautious in our approach. It’s different for a player who does pre-season with a team compared to one who does one individually.

“You need to get back on the field, the space is different, get up to speed with the game, teammates around you and sometimes it’s crucial to go through that stage. And for him, that was the case.”

On Alen Halilovic’s display

I’m very happy for him. He is gelling with the team on and off the field and you can tell by the smile on his face he is very happy here.

”I’m glad he is showing still glimpses of his huge talent and we benefit from that with the goal he scored and two assists in the past. We still believe there is more to come and well done to him.”