Reading manager Veljko Paunovic refused to criticise 21-goal top-scorer Lucas Joao after his incredible miss prevented the visitors from taking maximum points at play-off rivals Barnsley.
The Royals led at half-time thanks to Ovie Ejaria’s first goal since November before Alex Mowatt levelled just past the hour from the penalty spot.
But Joao then side-footed wide of an empty goal from 12 yards after a mix-up in the home defence had seen goalkeeper Brad Collins make a last-gasp challenge on Yakou Meite.
On the squandered chance that prevented his team from leapfrogging Barnsley into fifth, Paunovic said: “He’s disappointed but now is not the moment to do anything else but give him support.
“We believe in him as we have always done and, while it’s not the first time it has happened, I understand it can happen and he was fantastic throughout the whole game.
“We also have to give credit to Lucas for the many other times that he has won us points this season and we had other great opportunities in this game.
“But that’s been the disappointment of this season, especially in games like this one, and I hope that we’re not going to lament these chances once everything is over.”
Paunovic and Barnsley boss Valerien Ismael were involved in an animated argument during a stormy second half at Oakwell, with the latter claiming his Reading counterpart was “disrespectful” to members of his coaching team and the match officials.
“Their bench has got to be more respectful, because I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ismael declared. “He was directing stuff in a different language at my staff and the referee.
“I understand we are crashing the party for some of the bigger teams who want to get into the play-offs, but what was going off was unacceptable. I could understand a little bit of what was being said and, while I understand the emotion of football, you can’t cross the line.
“We are a professional team who fight for points and try to stay fair on the pitch and on the sidelines and I thought it was a great game full of intensity. We made a mistake to concede the goal but came back to score a deserved equaliser.
“Alex isn’t our normal penalty-taker but it was very important that our captain took on that responsibility and scored.”
Paunovic declined to elaborate on the touchline bust-up, only saying: “What happens on the sidelines, stays on the sidelines, but they were involved too and I’m disappointed to hear those comments from him.”
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