Reading were held to a draw by Championship play-off rivals Barnsley in a dramatic Good Friday clash in South Yorkshire.
They led at the break through Ovie Ejaria but Alex Mowatt’s second-half penalty ensured a share of the points, though all three could have belonged to Reading if Lucas Joao hadn’t missed an open goal.
Barnsley had a host of chances to win themselves, but Veljko Paunovic insisted after the match that his side had been the better, and also addressed the touchline spat between the respective coaching teams that left counterpart Valerien Ismael furious afterwards.
On the game
There were plenty of opportunities for both in an exciting clash, but Paunovic insisted that his side had the better of them and would have been more deserving of the win.
“I think we were the better team,” he said. “Our game plan worked perfectly from the first minute, I think the best chances we created.
“We were expecting everything that the opposition would bring to the table. We matched up perfectly. It wasn’t easy but we were prepared for that, and the best chances I believe were on our side. In this league you have to convert your opportunities, especially at this point of the season.
“Disappointed but not defeated, this is how we feel today. We will look to bounce back quickly.”
On Joao miss
Yakou Meite missed a great first-half chance but the biggest of all came to top scorer Joao, who missed the target when he had an open goal in front of him.
“He is disappointed,” Paunovic said of the Portuguese. “It’s not a moment to do anything but give him support. We will believe in him as we always have. We understand in football this happens.
“We have to give credit to Lucas for many other games where he helped us get points. It’s also not the only great opportunity we had.”
However, he admitted of his team more generally: “We have to keep putting more emphasis on working on our finishing. We have to appreciate those moments where you can sharpen your weapons. That’s going to always be a priority for us.”
Reading changed their style a little compared to how they have played for most of the season, looking to play long more often rather than keep possession to counter the threats of Barnsley.
Paunovic defended the approach, saying: “They have their way of playing, we have our playing and preparing for our opponents so it’s not only about our change of approach. I don’t see that as a compliment or as a criticism.”
On dugout clashes
There was conflict between the two coaching teams on the sidelines, particularly following the Mowatt penalty that levelled up the match.
Ismael said in his press conference that the Reading staff used “disrespectful” language, and that their behaviour “crossed the line” and was “unacceptable”.
Paunovic hit back: “This is how I see it; what happens on the sidelines stays on the sidelines. So I’ll keep with that, but that’s not true (what Ismael claimed)."
“What I’m trying to say is that they (Barnsley’s staff) were involved and I’m disappointed to hear those comments of a colleague.”
Defender Michael Morrison was forced off through injury shortly before half-time, potentially adding to Reading’s woes with the news that they will be without Tom McIntyre for the rest of the campaign.
“Morro we will assess after today,” said Paunovic. “His first comments were that it’s not as bad as the first time, but it’s not good.”
Of McIntyre, he revealed: “Unfortunately, bad news. He suffered a quad injury and he is out for the rest of the season.”
However, he did say that midfielder John Swift “might be involved” in Monday’s home tie with Derby County after several months on the sidelines.