PAUL Clement is confident mid-table security is within reach for Reading FC despite their heaviest defeat of the Championship season.

Royals crashed 4-1 at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday to leave them in 21st place and just one point off the bottom.

Leandro Bacuna’s superb strike gave Royals a deserved first-half lead at the Hawthorns.

But Clement’s men capitulated after the break as former Reading target Dwight Gayle scored twice and Harvey Barnes and Kyle Bartley also netted to send Darren Moore’s Baggies up to second and a point off leaders Sheffield United.

Under-fire Clement has won just four out of 20 league games as Reading boss since replacing Jaap Stam in March.

But the former Derby County and Swansea City boss insists he does not feel under pressure from Reading’s Chinese owners and that results can quickly improve.

He said: “I saw a journalist recently write they find it difficult to keep making excuses for Paul Clement.

“Well, they don’t have to make excuses for me, he can write what he wants.

“My job is to focus on the team, do my best to get the line-up and tactics right and work with my players to try and improve.

“Clearly I’m not happy with results. Last year was about keeping us in the league and we did that.

“Now it’s about improving results and performances and getting the team up to a decent level.”

He argued: “We are seven points off mid-table, so it depends how you look at it.

“Some people are doom and gloom but I’m more optimistic.

“If we play like we did in the first half on Saturday and be more consistent we will be mid-table before you know it.”

West Brom struggled to contain Reading during the first half, with Bacuna’s cracking strike putting them in front in the sixth minute.

Reading Chronicle:

Reading celebrate Leandro Bacuna's opening goal.

Saeid Ezatolahi, Yakou Meite, Marc McNulty and Tyler Blackett went close to adding to the visitors lead, while Barnes clipped the post for the home side.

But Gayle equalised four minutes after the restart then put the Baggies in front in the 65th minute – both goals coming after Sam Walker goalkeeping errors.

Worse was to follow as Barnes made it 3-1 on 72 minutes before Bartley headed in the fourth 10 minutes from time.

Clement suggested: “The first half was maybe the best we’ve played all season against a very strong side who have scored more goals than anyone in the division and have Premier League quality players all over the pitch.

“We were the better side by far in that first half. We scored a good goal and had good chances. Our shape was good and we stopped West Brom doing what they like to do.

Reading Chronicle:

Marc McNulty is inches away from putting Royals 2-0 up against West Brom at the Hawthorns.

“I was pleased at half time and I told the players as well. Obviously you don’t want complacency, but they deserved the praise based on some performances recently.”

He continued: “West Brom came out with more intensity in the second half. They have a good front line and powerful players at the back who come up for set plays.

“I don’t think we lost the game for tactical reasons, we made mistakes.

“I’ve looked back at the goals and we can do a lot better in all those situations on an individual level.”

Reading Chronicle:

Saeid Ezatolahi is chased by West Brom's Gareth Barry.

Reading return to action on Saturday, October 20 after a fortnight’s international break when they host Millwall – the side immediately above them in the table.

Clement confirmed inured strikers Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Sam Baldock should both be available for the clash at Madejski Stadium.

“We’ll train all week then have a couple of days off because there’s no game this weekend,” he explained. “Then next we’ll be back to prepare for Millwall.

“We don’t have all the players, but we certainly have enough to do some good work with.”