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Veljko Paunovic feels Reading rediscovered ‘warrior spirit’ in Preston win

Reading v Preston North End – Sky Bet Championship – Madejski Stadium
(Image credit: Kieran Cleeves)

Reading manager Veljko Paunovic believes his players have rediscovered their “warrior spirit” after claiming a 2-1 Championship victory over Preston.

Femi Azeez put Reading 1-0 ahead in the 28th minute with his first senior goal on only his third league appearance.

Preston equalised just past the hour mark through a Daniel Johnson penalty but Reading secured their first league win of the season thanks to a second goal this term from midfielder John Swift in the 69th minute.

“I’m very happy for Femi’s performance and for his goal,” Paunovic said. “It helped the team to achieve the three points.

“But what I liked, more than anything, is the team coming back together again and showing that warrior spirit that we have always had in the past.

“We showed this in the moments when we needed to defend and we needed to grind out the three points.

“The character, in the end, was based on a very good defensive performance and that’s the biggest take for me from this game.

“Defensive set-pieces are a matter of attitude, knowledge and urgency. We displayed all of that again today.

“That was as positive as all the good football that we showed in the first half and a lot of minutes in the second half.

“When we conceded, we remained composed and almost immediately had an opportunity to take the lead again.

“We also had a couple of very good chances before we scored the second goal.

“But when we did score, we were capable of sustaining that result – though it got a bit dramatic towards the end.

Paunovic also praised match-winner Swift, adding: “Injuries have been the main issues for John Swift. He has great performances in the past and when he was out, we missed those.

“Now that he is back, there is the importance of keeping him healthy and in the good mood that he is in right now.

“As motivated as he now is, I think that he is going to help us a lot.”

Preston lie at the bottom of the Championship after two defeats in as many matches.

“I’m very disappointed that we lost the game,” North End head coach Frankie McAvoy said.

“I didn’t think that we did well enough in the first half but I thought that there was a big improvement in the second.

“Both of their goals, from our defensive point of view, were extremely poor. And if we keep conceding goals like that, it’s going to be extremely difficult.

“We looked a bit fragile at times and that was disappointing for me, too. We’ve generally been pretty solid.

“At the end of the day, we had plenty of opportunities. On another day, it might have gone our way. But, this time, it didn’t.

“We’ve got four games in 11 days and I felt that I needed to bring in a few other boys to freshen it up a little bit.

“Unfortunately, we probably didn’t do as well in the first half as we hoped that we might’ve done.

“But we were a lot better in the second. We started to hold the ball better and we managed to get our wing-backs higher up the pitch.

“At half-time, I told the boys that it just wasn’t good enough. Reading’s first goal was just so poor from us.”