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Veljko Paunovic hails ‘perfect baptism’ for super-sub teenager Jahmari Clarke

Coventry City v Reading – Sky Bet Championship – Coventry Building Society Arena
(Image credit: Bradley Collyer)

Reading manager Veljko Paunovic said teenage substitute Jahmari Clarke experienced a “perfect baptism” after scoring twice as the Royals beat Birmingham 2-1 in a delayed game at St Andrew’s.

Striker Clarke, 18, a half-time replacement for George Puscas, scored in the 70th and 82nd minutes to turn the game on its head after Reading trailed to Scott Hogan’s third-minute strike.

The game was delayed for 35 minutes after engineers were called to fix a system failure which meant tickets could not be scanned, there was no CCTV and wifi was affected.

Blues led when Hogan latched onto an underhit backpass from captain Liam Moore and rounded goalkeeper Luke Southwood before tapping into the empty net.

But academy scholar Clarke scored his first senior goals to end the team’s 409-minute drought.

First he headed home a cross from John Swift, then he smashed home the rebound after his shot was blocked by goalkeeper Matija Sarkic.

“It took him a couple of times to finish the second goal – and it took a few years off my life before it hit the net!” said Paunovic, who was forced to watch the game from home as he is isolating with Covid-19.

“But he did well. He’s a young lad with very good potential and given the circumstances, he was called up and did very well.

“This is the moment he has been born as a professional – it was a perfect baptism for him.

“He has fantastic physical presence, power, a determination in the box to finish the actions, so he has the narrow mindset to score, which is good for a striker.”

Paunovic insisted he was not fearing a fifth straight defeat despite trailing at half-time.

“I was thinking how we were going to fix it and I know we have options every game and I know we can flip results.

“The inconsistency and the complacency they (Birmingham) showed were our allies and we took our chances and did very well in the second half.”

Birmingham head coach Lee Bowyer admitted his side did not deserve anything from the game.

“I didn’t think we played well at all,” he said.

“Even the things we are good at – competing and second balls – they were better than us and I couldn’t see that happening today.

“I was really confident going into the game – I thought we’d take that winning mentality into this one.

“I felt Reading were there for the taking if we wanted it. But maybe it was one game too many for the small group we have left.”

Bowyer added: “I can’t fault the players – even today they tried their hardest but we fell a little bit short.

“We got a gift from there to go 1-0 up, but I just felt in possession and out of possession we weren’t our normal selves.

“There were nice little passages here and there but not enough to win the game.

“Again on chances, Troy (Deeney) hit the post at a vital time, I think for their second goal there was a foul on (Jeremie) Bela on the halfway line, but these are small margins.

“If Troy scores we win the game – that’s it, it’s over. He hit a post and then they went and scored.”