Reading manager Veljko Paunovic has identified the need for leadership in his team after conceding two late goals to draw 3-3 with Queens Park Rangers, speaking to Berkshire Live post-match.
The Royals responded well after going 1-0 down just ten minutes in to the game, drawing level through hat-trick hero John Swift before seeing the 26-year-old add two more in the second half, with the Royals’ third goal coming in the 77th minute.
That looked to be the killer blow for Mark Warburton’s side, but managed to respond just two minutes after and at 3-2, set up an exciting final 10 minutes to the game at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
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In a bid to retain their lead, Reading manager Veljko Paunovic opted to take off lone striker George Puscas for central defender Tom Holmes, a tactical move that failed to work out for the Serbian as the west London side equalised in stoppage time through Stefan Johansen.
This hasn’t been the Royals’ first poor defensive showing of the season, conceding three or more goals in five of their seven competitive matches so far this season and letting in a total of 19 during these games.
Manager Paunovic believes leadership is the key quality currently missing from the Berkshire side, saying in his post-match press conference: “It’s a matter of team attitude and urgency, and knowledge of how to defend.
“We need more leadership at that moment, we need people to step in and win their battles, have the knowledge to clear the ball as far as you can instead of playing one-twos like we tried to.
“That was pretty childish if I’m honest. You have to feel much more urgency.
“Someone was missing the knowledge, someone was missing the attitude, someone was missing the urgency and at the end of the day that’s too much.
“We paid the consequences of that. Someone needed to step up and shout, take the responsibility to push the lines outside, win their battles and count [see] the game [out].”
Although the manager has to shoulder some of the blame for such a poor tactical decision near the end, inviting unnecessary pressure onto the Royals during the latter stages of the match, the players also need to be accountable for their poor defensive performances.
It does seem as though there’s a void in leadership in the club’s backline – a real surprise considering captain Liam Moore, former Birmingham City skipper Michael Morrison and ex-Barnsley captain Andy Yiadom all started yesterday afternoon.
One new signing in Scott Dann, who failed to make the squad yesterday due to a lack of match fitness, could potentially be the second-tier side’s saviour at this point. The main problem has been defending set-pieces, something the ex-Crystal Palace man will be able to help out with.
What he lacks in pace he more than makes up for in experience – and Paunovic will be hoping to have the 34-year-old at his disposal very shortly with his job now on the line.
A defeat on Tuesday night against Peterborough United could spell the end of the 44-year-old’s time at the Select Car Leasing Stadium – but that won’t just be the fault of the Serbian – but also his players who have declined since the second half of last season.