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Veljko Paunovic Takes Positives From Huddersfield Town Defeat

The manager explained Reading’s awful defensive display, but had various positives to discuss too.

Reading v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Our terrible run of form continues after an at-times exciting game against Huddersfield Town at the SCL Stadium which resulted in a 4-3 defeat.

Lucas Joao returned to the side and gave us the lead within five minutes, but the visitors were level four minutes after. Danny Ward then gave Huddersfield the lead on the 15th minute. George Puscas drew us level with his first league goal of the season. Huddersfield then took the lead again just minutes later with Ward getting his second. It was all-level at half time with Michael Morrison getting on the scoresheet! The visitors took home all three points with Ward completing his hat-trick.

Veljko Paunovic felt that the Royals had more aggression, energy and courage, but didn’t get the result that was needed. After the game he spoke to the official club website and Berkshire Live.

Paunovic on the defeat

“Today, we saw a team with determination from the beginning. We put in a lot of energy out there and played some good football and scored three goals. That is a positive.

“But we keep bleeding. We are conceding goals in a way that teams in our position might – some mistakes and naivety is still present. And it is costing us. It is obvious that we still have to improve defensively.

“In today’s performance, where we saw more cohesion and determination, energy and aggression… and courage. Those ingredients are so important for our game.

“Now we have to build form. After three weeks of inactivity because of dealing with so many players with Covid, we have had to build in January like it is a new pre-season for us.

“But I’m more positive going forward. Lucas had a great comeback. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have played Lucas for 90 minutes today. But he did well and he managed himself well in the final 15 minutes when he tired.

“Puscas had his best game for us since I’ve been here… not only in attack – he provided depth, great moves in front of the ball, pressed their back line, especially when he was fresh and supported by the rest of the team.

“That is the cohesion we have been missing and it is coming. The result was not good, but there is something to build on and we have to build on these positives and continue our quest and our fight to save this season.

“The dressing room was disappointed after the final whistle, but in the right way. We knew that our circumstances would make January tough. And it is a difficult year.

“We are a good team though. And we acknowledge that and we have to fix some unacceptable mistakes at this level to start winning games again.”

Paunovic on the leaky defence

“The whole block is still shaky. When we close down one side, sometimes we are late to jump on their midfielders or late to close the pass forward.

“That comes from different lines so we have to be much more solid and compact. That will come with a few more performances.

“No team in the world can deal with three weeks of Covid and 18 players who had to recover from that so for us, January is a horrible month because we have to compete against teams in a better shape than us.

“It looks like pre-season for us because of all these issues. That’s the reason why we are still shaky in our block but slowly we are getting there.”

Paunovic on Puscas and Joao scoring

“It’s very good for Joao on his practically first appearance since the start of the season. Coming back in this shape is very good for him and the team.

“I’m also very happy for Puscas - I think he had his best performance since I’ve been here because of the goal, a fantastic mentality, fight, cohesion with Joao and Swift, then he worked hard in defence and put a lot of pressure on their defence without the ball.

“That was a big win for us today.”

Paunovic on Puscas’ performance being as a result of playing two up front

“The whole team going forward played much better and yes, for sure it helps having Joao next to you because he can intimidate and get the respect from the opponents and they had to adjust to it so it helps everyone.”

Paunovic on Puscas exit talk

“Puscas is our player and I’ve always said he will be important for us and he will score goals. I’m happy he has contributed two goals this month. I think he will only get better.

“But in football, anything can happen, especially in the transfer window. Things can change.”

Paunovic on the changes of formation

“We started with power in attack and problems in defence so we needed to have more balance and protect our backline better.

“We don’t have natural wingers so we had to find other solutions.

“With two strikers, it suited us well. It’s something we’ve done in the past and we know it is a proven formation.

“Since Blackburn last year, it worked well but we couldn’t bring back all the personnel we needed so we could be more creative and more flow in our ideas.”

Paunovic on conceding so many goals

“There is a mix of things - but because the team is so eager and anxious to fight back immediately, we have to look at the mistake first.

“They have hurt us and it makes you feel like you can’t fight against it because it’s outside your control.

“The mistakes come from being immature or less experienced but there can be a good reaction. The reading of the game has to be better and how we cope with adversities.”