It has been a tough week for the Royals with our six-point deduction confirmed. And our game against Birmingham City at the Select Car Leasing Stadium was an absolute must-win to stop us from going into the relegation zone.
It started well for Reading with Andy Carroll scoring after six minutes, but Birmingham equalised before half-time to take it into the break level. Unfortunately, the game ended 1-1 and with results elsewhere, Reading now sit in the relegation zone with six games left to play.
Manager Paul Ince felt that we deserved to win after our third straight 1-1 draw. Here is what he had to say; he spoke to the official club website and Reading Chronicle.
Ince on the performance
“I thought we started the game really well, scoring a goal from a fantastic bit of football and a wonderful finish from Andy Carroll. Getting the first goal is something I’ve spoken to the players about and what a goal it was.
“But then we got a bit passive, we looked scared to be leading. We sat back, started defending too deep, sitting back as a midfield four. Instead of us trying to press on and get the second or the third, Birmingham got control of the game. We got a bit nervous and we started snatching at chances until we got that momentum back towards the end of the half when we found our feet again.
“And on balance, I thought we were the better team. In the second half, the ball wouldn’t fall for us at times – Lucas had his one, Femi hit one just past the post, Naby hits one over, AC puts one wide.
“And then on the counter-attack, there were a few nervous moments. We were in two minds – we didn’t want to lose it but we also wanted to go and win it. It was a fine line.
“The fans were fantastic, it was great to see them right behind us. They were tremendous. Everybody knows the situation, a situation we were put into with the six points taken off us. And we’re going to need them behind us for every single game now.
“Was it an opportunity missed, maybe yes. But maybe this will prove a good point. Either way, it’s a point and a point well earned. We’ve got a special group here. And it’s going to have to be a siege mentality from all of us from here on in.
“The lads gave it their all this afternoon, they were all on their haunches at the end of the game. Yakou wanted to play today even with a knock, and he was blowing a gasket at the end. Amadou was so tired. AC didn’t train all week, but he is an absolute monster!
“And I’ve told them that they will have to fight and fight and fight and see if we can do something special.”
Ince on whether the result feels like a defeat
“It doesn’t feel like a defeat - why would it feel like a defeat? I thought we were the better team. We created some good chances, but it didn’t really fall for us. When you say that it feels like a defeat, that’s a defeatist attitude. We don’t need that at the minute, we need to be positive.
“It’s a point well earned. We got off to such a good start and after that we looked like we would get two or three, then we got passive and started to sit back. It’s something that historically happens at this club. We go up and feel like we have to defend it, dropping deeper and allowing them to take control.
“It’s poor from us, we don’t get out to stop the cross. One man in the box, two at max, and it’s 1-1. They never really looked like scoring. That’s disappointing.
“Toward the back end of the first half we got our momentum back but coming in at half-time it was disappointing because before the game we spoke about getting a fast start and an early goal. It was a fantastic goal.
“We didn’t move on from there and we got nervous. Sometimes when you get one or two slashing at balls it goes through the whole team. That’s where you need people to stand up and characters to calm people down. I said to the players that you don’t need to be nervous; the situation isn’t down to you. You’re in a situation that you’re the victims of.
“Whatever happens, it won’t be down to you so that should give you the freedom to play. You could also be the hero. You guys can do something special to keep this team in the league. There’s no reason why you should be nervous.
“They came out and did that, but sometimes you can score too early. You’ve got to keep playing and picking up points. You don’t expect Huddersfield to do what they’re doing, but QPR are in it and Cardiff are in it. There’s a lot of teams. It’s another point away from Wigan and Blackpool. That’s one thing I don’t want really, to be fighting relegation with three or four teams. Now we’ve got a bit of a gap on them, so it’s a straight fight with the teams above us.
“I wouldn’t say it feels like a defeat, I’d say it’s disappointing because we had a few chances in the second half where it wouldn’t fall to us. You can see the boys are giving everything, the fans were tremendous and got behind the players. The players responded to that but you could see after the game they were out on their hunches, absolutely knackered. That’s where we are, I will need the same players on Monday. If we can pick something up on Monday, three points, then four out of two games isn’t a bad return.”
Ince on other results
“No. It’s not down to the players or the management staff. You always look at other results and other teams and think they’re winning games, but for us it’s not an issue at this moment in time. It’s all about picking up points. If we’d lost today, it would have been demoralising.”
Ince on striker line-up
“When I was thinking about the start of the season and what we had to go through with the embargo and then you do so well, this team have done ever so well, no matter what happens. You get to 46 points and think one more win makes you safe, as a manager you’re trying to crawl over the line so you go a bit conservative.
“Now down to the circumstances we need wins. We need to start creating chances and scoring goals, as much as defensively we’re better than last year. There are barely any players who can create.
“It’s hardly like you look over your shoulder and you can change it, they’re the ones fit and they play. It will be the same on Monday. Mama is back on Monday, and hopefully Dannsy. The first goal was a good bit of football and a wonderful finish. We’re going to have to create a few more of those if we’re going to move up the table.
“We lost five on the bounce before Hull, we’re now unbeaten in three. You can take that how you want to. To come back from that and remain unbeaten, we’ve got to take confidence from that. Going away to Bristol City was a great point, now we can go to Preston with plenty of confidence.”
Ince on referee substitution
“I think that’s the best thing that could have happened to the game. I don’t want to moan at officials because we know it’s a tough job, but this referee it was his third game in the Championship. It’s not an experiment, this is the business part of the season.
“Managers lose their jobs and staff lose their jobs. We’re not an experiment. We can’t have a referee in charge of his third game, or any team in the Championship, who want to stay up, go up or get promoted. I’m not happy about it at all. I think Kevin Friend was here today so I’ll be speaking to him as soon as I can. Some of the things he was doing was so poor. I like to try and take it easy with referees, but today’s one you can’t do it.
“I’m not sure why he thought he could throw an inexperienced referee into a game like that. We had four fouls that he gave to them, and then why Ty wins the ball he gives it to them. I must come from a different planet and see the game completely wrong.
“I hate to criticise referees. We, as managers, have to be accountable and so do the referees. The one who came on was the one who didn’t give us a penalty at Burnley. Something can’t be right here - that’s why we have a siege mentality. To be fair to the one who came on, he was very good. The first one was poor.
“They have to have better referees than that. I wasn’t pleased. He’s pulled his calf, so he said. Maybe he was getting so much stick from our punters that he thought he’d call it a day. I hope he’s ok, but at least if he’s pulled his calf he won’t be refereeing us this season.”