Under-pressure Veljko Paunovic insists ‘there are better times ahead’ at Reading

Kidderminster Harriers v Reading – Emirates FA Cup – Third Round – Aggborough Stadium
(Image credit: Bradley Collyer)

Veljko Paunovic insisted Reading have what it takes to escape relegation from the Sky Bet Championship after hearing travelling fans call for his head in the 2-1 defeat at Bristol City.

There were chants for the manager’s dismissal in the second half after Antoine Semenyo’s 44th-minute strike and a Michael Morrison own goal shortly after the break had deepened fears about the drop.

Substitute John Swift gave Reading hope by converting a 74th-minute penalty after a foul on Tom Ince, but despite late pressure the Royals sank to a seventh successive defeat.

Paunovic said: “Everyone is hurting, but I am seeing enough from the team to know there are better times ahead.

“This was not our best game, but in the end had we taken our chances we would have come away with a point at least.

“We have overcome a lot of issues and I believe in my group of players. We will turn things around.”

Tom Ince and goalkeeper Karl Hein both made their debuts, and Paunovic added: “I thought Tom turned the game with his performance.

“It was an example of what hard work and ability combined can bring and helped us get on top after conceding twice.

“Karl is a young goalkeeper and his first game at this level will have been a great learning experience.

“We will not survive on hope and have to start improving our position without delay. But I believe we have the players and the spirit to do that.”

City’s assistant manager Curtis Fleming was in charge while boss Nigel Pearson underwent a routine medical procedure.

The delighted coach stroked his bald head afterwards and joked: “I had an Afro before those closing minutes!

“We make life tough for ourselves at times, but there were a lot of positives in a big result for us.

“Antoine Semenyo still has a lot to learn, but has everything to be a top striker.

“It is a young squad. I looked at our bench tonight and thought I should be buying the boys Cokes and chips!

“As a group, we are progressing. I haven’t spoken to Nigel since the game finished, but he will leave hospital tomorrow and be back with us soon.

“We didn’t do ourselves justice in the last game at Blackpool, but other than that there have been signs of real development.

“Unfortunately, we lost Han-Noah Massengo early on with a hip problem. Timm Klose also took a knock in the first half, but his experience saw him through.

“I thought the penalty was harsh and it gave them a lift. At 2-0. I thought we could go on and get a third.”

Andreas Weimann set up Semenyo’s opener, while a Cameron Pring cross led to Morrison’s own goal. Klose brought down Ince for the Reading penalty.

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