It is best for the club – Veljko Paunovic bids Reading farewell

Peterborough United v Reading – Sky Bet Championship – Weston Homes Stadium
(Image credit: Joe Giddens)

Veljko Paunovic accepted his Reading departure was “best for the club” despite leading the Royals to a 3-2 win at Preston in what proved to be his last match in charge.

Paunovic’s exit was confirmed shortly after full-time, with former England midfielder Paul Ince installed as interim boss alongside academy manager Michael Gilkes.

Reading pointed to “strict transfer embargo restrictions and contract limitations, an injury crisis like never before seen at our club, a global pandemic and the challenge of a six-point deduction imposed by the EFL” as obstacles faced by Paunovic in his second season in charge.

A first win for the Royals since November 27 was not enough to save his job, but Paunovic encouraged support for his successor in his leaving speech.

“It came to the point where it is best for the club,” said Paunovic.

“I am aware of the things that are happening and the negativity surrounding me – I never thought that was fair.

“I don’t think at this point the team needs that. I am completely unselfish in this decision. I just want the team to excel and I want the best for the team and the club.

“I really have a huge respect for the opportunity and the time I spent at the club. I respect the opportunity the board gave me and the staff and all the people behind the scenes who gave me and the team the support to compete and play like we did today.

“Therefore, I just wanted to do the best for the club and we have come to an agreement.

“We need everyone to support the new manager and the team now. We have made sacrifices so far and it must be paid off with salvation for the team this season.”

Lucas Joao bagged a brace inside the first 20 minutes at Deepdale before John Swift added a third for Reading after the break.

The Lilywhites looked rejuvenated after the restart but though they clawed two back through Daniel Johnson and Cameron Archer, it was not enough.

Joao had got the visitors off to a flyer when he slotted home at the second attempt after his first effort had been saved by Daniel Iverson.

And just 17 minutes later he got on the end of another Swift pass to double the Royals’ advantage with a brilliant finish into the roof of the net.

Reading looked totally in control as they came back for the second half, Swift curling home on 55 minutes to give his side a three-goal advantage.

But the hosts responded quickly, with Johnson netting just two minutes later before Archer got Preston back into it when he got the finishing touch following a goalmouth scramble.

It was a vital victory for the Royals, who pulled five points clear of the relegation zone.

Preston, meanwhile, sit five points below Sheffield United in the last play-off position and were disappointed to drop points in their pursuit of a top-six finish.

“We were nowhere near the levels of expectations we have,” said manager Ryan Lowe.

“The first 30 minutes we were not a Preston North End side that suits me or the fans. The first half cost us today.

“To be 2-0 down after 18 minutes was tough and the game plan goes out of the window.

“We don’t want to keep fighting back from that position, you can’t give teams head starts and still expect to win.”

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1