Paul Ince back in management after taking interim reins at Reading

Soccer – Sky Bet Championship – Blackpool v Barnsley – Bloomfield Road
(Image credit: Barrington Coombs)

Paul Ince has been appointed as interim Reading manager after Veljko Paunovic was sacked despite winning 3-2 at Preston on Saturday.

Lucas Joao netted twice inside the first 20 minutes before John Swift put the Royals in total control, although it was not enough to save Paunovic, who was dismissed shortly after full-time with the club five points above the relegation zone.

Daniel Johnson and Cameron Archer pulled goals back for the home side, but Reading held on for a much-needed win in their fight for survival.

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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.

In their statement confirming the Serbian’s departure, Reading also announced former England midfielder Ince – last in charge at Blackpool in 2014 – as their interim boss, working alongside academy manager Michael Gilkes.

Speaking after the match, Paunovic accepted that his departure – said by the club to be by mutual consent – was in Reading’s best interests.

“It came to the point where it is best for the club,” said Paunovic, whose side had not won since November 27 prior to Saturday.

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

Chief executive Dayong Pang said: “The board and I will now work diligently to identify the right candidate to take this club forward.

“This work will be done quickly but without undue haste as we fully appreciate the importance of our decision to appoint a new manager at this crucial stage of the campaign.”

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 Iversen.

Emil Riis Jakobsen had a shot blocked from Ben Whiteman’s corner as Preston looked for a quick response.

Veljko Paunovic

Veljko Paunovic was sacked after the match (Joe Giddens/PA)

Patrick Bauer headed behind for a corner as Joao prepared to connect with Swift’s cross, but he got on the end of another Swift pass minutes later to double the Royals’ advantage with a brilliant finish into the roof of the net.

Michael Morrison and Thomas Holmes combined well to keep out Scott Sinclair on the half-hour mark.

Brad Potts was replaced by Liam Lindsay on 35 minutes, before Iversen made a good reaction save to keep out Joao’s volley.

Riis Jakobsen blazed over just before the break after good pressing by Sinclair won the ball back from Holmes.

Whiteman made way for Ryan Ledson at half-time as Ryan Lowe looked to turn the game around, but Iversen was forced to turn Swift’s free-kick away for a corner as the visitors continued to set the pace.

Andrew Hughes cleared a Morrison effort off the line a minute later after Swift caused more bother with a good cross.

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Swift then extended Reading’s lead on 55 minutes after he curled home to finish a fine team move.

But they switched off two minutes later when Johnson scored from the edge of the box with the help of a deflection.

Swift went close with an in-swinging free-kick on 71 minutes as Reading began to enjoy themselves.

However, Archer got Preston back into it after he got the finishing touch following a goalmouth scramble.

Sinclair shot just over on 79 minutes after Alan Browne played him in, before Ched Evans headed wide from a Sepp Van Den Berg cross.

Sinclair then headed narrowly wide as another Van Den Berg caused trouble on the stroke of full-time.

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