Reading manager Veljko Paunovic refused to blame George Puscas for another miss of the season contender as his side lost 2-0 at Watford.
That result cemented the Hornets’ place in the automatic promotion places as they are now 12 points ahead of third-place Brentford.
Reading are in danger of being pushed out of the top six by Bournemouth and Paunovic admitted things might have been different had Puscas not hit a post in the first half when it looked easier to score.
Watford were 2-0 up already thanks to two goals in as many minutes from Ismaila Sarr but Puscas’ failure conjured up memories of Lucas Joao’s open goal miss against Barnsley earlier in the month.
Paunovic insisted there would be no recriminations towards the Romanian.
“He was in the same spot against Derby on Monday and he scored,” he said.
“This group is one of the best groups I have worked with. If somebody misses that’s football, nobody is there to blame. It’s the opposite and I will just keep encouraging the work of the team.”
Reading matched the hosts in every department apart from creating and taking chances, which also pleased their manager.
“The tough part of the game is the result,” he added. “We played great football against one of the best teams in the league but the outcome was not what we wanted.
“The execution is very important but today it wasn’t there. I give credit to Sarr for those fantastic goals. The second we could have done better but other than that our team was fantastic. We were chasing that goal that would have given us a boost of confidence.
“Football, which I love, was cruel to us. We kept chasing and chasing the goal that would have given us momentum. That didn’t happen and that drained us.”
Sarr’s goals earned Watford a 17th home win of the season, which is close to a club record.
Manager Xisco Munoz was delighted with the way his team have managed to turn tight games into victories.
“If it was up to me we would play all our games at home,” he said.
“It is very nice when you have big power in your home. There is only one problem – it would be far more emotional if we could play with our fans but this is the life we have now.”
Xisco hailed Sarr for his marksmanship. The Senegal forward curled home a 12th-minute opener and then smashed in a rising second less than two minutes later.
He said: “I am very happy with Sarr, he put in a very good performance. But I want to say that for all the players.
“We had a very good team with very good players and tactics in front of us. I think the team was mature. It is three points more and we go on to the next game.
“I am very happy because I think all of our fans will be very happy with our players, who are giving 100% for the team. We are working like a team.”