“We didn’t deserve to win today in how we played and what we brought to the game,” said Jaap Stam after a 1-0 reverse at the hands of Preston North End. “Too slow – and we weren’t good enough on the ball, and we didn’t win second balls either.
“They were more aggressive. We were warned about it, and we spoke about it a lot this week, that if we lose the ball they play that early balls in behind up to the striker and make a lot of runs.
“Preston make it very difficult for us, but you saw in the first half that if you give away too many passes then they get into their strengths as well. They have a good team with quality players, and if you lose it early in the build-up then they are a threat going forward. That’s what happened.
“They tried to play a bit higher up the pitch, and sometimes they dropped in a bit. When we had the ball you try to find your options in going forward. And if you’re not accurate with the ball or if they intercept an easy pass and come out a lot of the time, then your way of playing becomes very difficult.
“It also allows them to get into their strengths as well. They did that very well and we haven’t done good enough. We played some balls in behind, but if you’re going to do that, you need to get up the pitch quickly to win the second balls and start playing again. That’s what we spoke about and intended to do but we couldn’t bring it today.”
The Royals had two enforced changes before the break – Liam Kelly took a heavy blow within moments of kick-off as Josh Harrop clattered into the midfielder, and John Swift also needed to come off… two of the string-pullers were out of the game early on, two subs were already used, and pre-match plans had to be altered.
However Leandro Bacuna was afforded a first appearance in Royals colours, stepping in for Joey van den Berg, whose injury kept him out of the game completely.
“It is frustrating – Liam Kelly got kicked deliberately within a minute of kick-off, and it was clear straight away that he would need to come off eventually,” said Stam. “And their player didn’t even get a yellow card. A very important player had to come off.
“And then Swifty had to come off because of a problem with his hamstring. So already, two subs are gone.
“The players who step in need to do it – but it is difficult to get back into the game. You make certain agreements before the game in how you want to start and you want to do, but it changes everything.
“Of course, the players who come on know what they need to do, but it was very difficult in creating opportunities and going forward. They played those ball up front and their striker won a lot of balls up there – and they had runners from the midfield. If you don’t do that, they get time on the ball and the opportunities."
Jaap continued: “Leandro joined us last week – of course he hasn’t yet had a lot of training sessions with us, but Joey van den Berg was injured so he needed to start the game.
“He needs to get used to the team and how we want to play, but he’s a player with a lot of potential and that’s why we brought him into the club. But not the easiest game to start with.”
Reading are back at Madejski Stadium in midweek, vying for a play in the next round of the Carabao Cup against Millwall.