Mark Bowen admitted he had already started to formulate his post-match press conference of woe before a dramatic five-minute hat-trick from George Puscas saw Reading win 3-1 at Wigan.
The Latics had led 1-0 with only 12 minutes to go, thanks to Joe Garner’s first goal of the season, but were blown away by the brilliance of Puscas.
After Dujon Sterling had been harshly penalised for handball, Puscas levelled the scores from the penalty spot.
Two minutes later, he got the better of Charlie Mulgrew before firing beyond Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall.
Then, three minutes later, he completed his treble with a cool finish after great work from Garath McCleary.
All of which left the Reading boss hastily reassessing his thoughts.
“I must say, if I’m being totally honest with you, I’d already got my excuses in mind what I was going to say about how the game had gone away from us,” revealed Bowen.
“But I’m obviously delighted for George Puscas because he’s a young man, from Inter Milan, who’s arrived with a big burden to score goals.
“He has found it tough, but it’s genuinely not been all his fault.
“I’ve said many times as a team we haven’t shown enough quality in the final third, getting the balls in to our strikers.
“We have to develop better quality – the kind we showed today – if we are to help them to score goals.”
Wigan had edged a tense encounter, desperately low on quality, before the late turnaround, with Bowen admitting his side had played far below themselves.
“I was hard on them at half-time, because I was disappointed with the quality we showed in possession in the first half,” he said.
“I thought we were sloppy, our first touch wasn’t great, our final pass wasn’t great.
“I just asked them to show a bit more character and bravery on the ball.
“I think I definitely got that in the second half, we switched to a 4-4-2 in the last half hour because we needed more bodies nearer to our front guys. Sometimes that doesn’t pay off, but it did today.”
Wigan boss Paul Cook was left to bemoan a third straight loss on home soil, to leave them rooted in the bottom three.
A section of the home support voiced their displeasure by chanting ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ during a toxic final 10 minutes.
And while acknowledging the game had changed with the controversial spot-kick award, Cook – who was booked by referee Jeremy Simpson for dissent – refused to take his protests further after the game.
“With all due respect, I’m not getting involved in criticising the referee,” he said.
“As a manager, sometimes the easiest thing to do is and say things you’re feeling, but which will get you into trouble.
“I’m certainly not getting involved in that.
“What I will say is, in football, and certainly teams like ours, confidence is hard to find.
“When you’re on the kind of bad run we are, key moments can’t half influence games.
“And unfortunately again today, we’ve had massive key moments that have gone against us.
“We all know how brutal an industry this is, but I ask myself as a manager: Could I get any more out of those players?
“I’m genuinely comfortable with my players, their work ethic, their desire. I’ve no problems with my players, none whatsoever.”
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