Josh Laurent was yet again the hero, scoring his second goal in two games to secure the Royals a huge point at Oakwell against Barnsley.
Last season this was a play-off scrap but this season it is all about fighting for survival, and Barnsley capitalised early on with Charlton Morris putting the home side ahead. Reading dominated in the second half and equalised in the 82nd minute through Laurent. The point keeps us in 21st, five points ahead of Barnsley and six points ahead of Derby.
Interim manager Paul Ince felt we were the better side on the day; he spoke to the official club website and Berkshire Live.
Ince on the game
“We dominated the game. We were by far the better side. We’re disappointed with the goal we conceded, the first shot on target. But we’ve got a team who have shown they can dig in and fight. To come to Oakwell under these circumstances, it’s never going to be easy. It was always going to be a battle.
“I’ve played against Wimbledon at Plough Lane. There are games which aren’t going to be pretty and there are places which are not going to be nice places to go. But if you win your battles, you earn the right to play.
“We were in the dressing room at half-time and there was still a lot of belief in there. But as the time ticks away you wonder whether it’s going to happen. But we won our battles, we won the right to play.
“And in the second half there was only ever going to be one team who was going to score. And we thoroughly deserved to get the goal.
“Like any team trying to defend a one-goal lead, they started dropping deeper and deeper and we could sense it, we could smell it. We knew a goal was coming.
“And once Josh scored, we then wanted to go for the winner – we were in the ascendancy. But in doing that we nearly got hit with a sucker punch at the very end if it wasn’t for Tom Mc… which would have been absolutely criminal.”
Ince on Josh Laurent
“Laurent was lucky, because I was going to take him off. I seriously was. It wasn’t one of his best games. It’s funny as we lost Rinomhota a few weeks ago so we asked him to play alongside Drinkwater in the holding midfield role but with the way Laurent wants to play, he’s always on the front foot.
“It was tough for him to be in there but when we we were 1-0 down, we decided to let him off the leash for the final 20 minutes and he got his goal. He said to me this morning he was going to score - but with his head! But I’ll take any goal. The lads were brilliant.“
Ince on the Royals’ survival chances
“The job has never been done, as I said on day one. It’s going to go to the wire. It wasn’t a cup final because we had a buffer. We knew we couldn’t come away with nothing so we’ve put ourselves in a nice position.
“But we have to keep performing like that. We can’t take our foot off the gas because if we do, we’ll get punished. The players know that and if you do that, you’ll get something out of the game like we did.
“From top to bottom, we were absolutely brilliant. Drinkwater was outstanding, Ince on the right, McIntyre on the left, Swift when he went over to the left - it was a real team performance.
“I thought what I am seeing now is a team - not individuals. When I got here I felt they were like individuals but now I see a team, a spirit, a togetherness and performances with a will to win. I was proud of the fans.
“They were absolutely immense, they stuck with us and pushed us on. At times it felt like we were the home team in the second half. We need them to stay in this league.”
Ince on midfield options
“Dele-Bashiru did ever so well when he came on. Laurent’s not a holding midfielder so to keep holding him back is hard. We’ll have to look at that again for Tuesday.
“We had two under-23s on the bench, Meite and Rinomhota are out and we have three games in a week so it will be tough for us.
“It’s important we assess it when we got back into training, if we put Dele-Bashiru in the holding midfield position - it’ll be horses for courses.
“Laurent has just got that urge to go forward and sometimes you can’t stop him.”
Ince on creating chances
“It was a blatant penalty on Joao after about two minutes. That changed the dynamic of the game. Ejaria had a great chance too so we need to be a bit more ruthless.
“We had some wonderful balls into the box but we’re not getting on the end of them and that’s what we need to be better at. It just wouldn’t fall for us. But we kept going, kept believing and if we do that then we’ll always have half a chance.”
Ince on absences
“Hoilett missed his connection from Washington. He didn’t get back to Heathrow until about 4pm on Friday. Barker had food poisoning.”
Ince on Stoke on Tuesday night
“I’m proud of the players, I’m proud of the fans too – we needed them today and at time I felt as though we were the team playing at home.
“Now there is a big game on Tuesday against Stoke City. And the situation we’re in, it’s about getting points. There is a long way to go, a lot of twists and turns in the last seven games – but if we keep playing like that we’ll be ok.
“I’m seeing a team play as a team, with spirit and togetherness. I see that will to win, to roll up your sleeves and get something out of the game. But if we take our foot off the gas, we’ll get punished. And the players know that.”