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Veljko Paunovic hails players as Reading extend lead at Championship summit

Middlesbrough v Reading – Sky Bet Championship – Riverside Stadium
(Image credit: Richard Sellers)

Reading manager Veljko Paunovic praised the “super important” qualities of his team as they moved five points clear at the top of the Championship with a 3-0 home win over Rotherham.

Rotherham were the better side for much of the first half but Reading poached a 41st-minute half-time lead through Yakou Meite.

Although Rotherham again threatened in the second period, Reading proved resilient and added further late goals from Meite and top scorer Lucas Joao.

“What we saw in our team was the consistency of getting the job done,” Paunovic said. “Doing your job for the team.

“You also have to be patient, have a strong mentality and not get frustrated if our game plan is not working. And don’t ever give up.

“All these things are super important and, when the moment comes, that’s what brings you your opportunity and the advantage to score, to change the game.”

Reading have now six of their seven league games this season, drawing the other, but Paunovic is not getting carried away.

He also believes there is much more to come from his side.

He said: “After the games, we just focus on our next opponent. We count the points, of course, but we have to keep doing the same as we have been.

“In the first half, we had difficulties against Rotherham.

“This was due to the fantastic preparation from our opponents and the spirit that they brought to the game.

“It was very hard to find our game, to put the ball on the ground, to win the second balls that would give us an opportunity for counter-attacking.

“In the second half, the adjustments made and the commitment of everyone brought us to a different game in which we felt much better and more comfortable.

“We have not yet been at our best this season. That is correct. We have not yet got to the form and the performances that we are looking for.

“But not because some things are going wrong. It’s the opposite, it’s just a case of that we’re going through a process. We are forging our identity.”

Rotherham have now gone six matches without a league win.

Manager Paul Warne returned to the touchline after a two-game absence as he self-isolated at home due to family members contracting Covid-19.

“I thought that we played really well, especially in the first half,” Warne said. “We must have about 70 per cent possession then.

“But we just didn’t create enough clear-cut opportunities to take the lead.

“Virtually the first time that Reading went into our box – in the 41st minute – they took the lead. It was a very harsh lesson.

“And it was their first shot. Wow! I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.

“Going in at half-time was pretty hard but I was pretty pleased with how we were playing. And I still think that we started off the better in the second half. I put two up front and we had a couple of chances but didn’t take them.

“We then went three up front and it was ‘kitchen sink’ time then.”

On his enforced absence, Warne said: “I’m not too bad now. I was fine but two of my family members got it [coronavirus].

“One had it for 12 hours, one has had 10 or 11 days still suffering from fatigue and lack of smell and taste.

“It was not nice being stuck in the house for two weeks but the family are through it now. It’s all good.”