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Under-pressure Phillip Cocu pleased with Derby display despite Watford defeat

Derby County v Watford – Sky Bet Championship – Pride Park
(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

Derby manager Phillip Cocu was able to look on the bright side despite a 1-0 defeat to Watford adding to speculation about his future.

Cocu has now seen his side lose four of their opening five Sky Bet Championship games this season, having received backing from owner Mel Morris earlier in the week over his ability to turn the Rams’ fortunes around.

Joao Pedro’s late moment of magic settled a low-quality contest at Pride Park and will do little to relieve the pressure on the Dutchman.

Cocu said: “I think we deserved maybe more than a point but sometimes in football you play a good game and you don’t win.

“But I’m very pleased with the game we played – we took initiative, we dominated and combined good football with the right attitude and created quite a few chances against a team that don’t concede and are very well organised.

“The individuality of one player of Watford made a difference, it was a great goal, but we also had chances and didn’t take them.

“If I take a look at our performance I’m very happy with how we played and I’m sure if we can keep this performance level up I’ve no doubt in the games that are coming up we will get good results.

“We have to try and play like we did today, if everybody puts their energy into a great team performance, I’m sure we’ll win, maybe not all the games but some of the games that come up because all of them are tough.”

The game had been short on quality and invention for most of the contest with both goalkeepers largely untroubled in the first half, although Duane Holmes fired over after Wayne Rooney set him up.

The cagey pattern continued in the second until Derby brought on Tom Lawrence for his first appearance of the season following a shoulder injury.

Lawrence registered the game’s first shot on target in the 74th minute after he spun away from a challenge but Watford were ahead two minutes later.

Pedro was surrounded by white shirts on the left edge of the box but managed to bend a shot into the top corner.

Derby responded immediately with Lawrence sending Rooney through but he shot wide and his free-kick in stoppage time was just too high to rescue his side from another defeat.

Watford head coach Vladimir Ivic admitted his team lacked creativity but believes that will come.

“It wasn’t pretty but we did our job in the game,” he said.

“I agree, it’s one of our problems from the start of the Championship and today, we were not able to create a lot but we’ve said a lot of times, we have a lot of young players who play for the first time in the Championship.

“A lot of players, 19 or 20 years old and we must keep patient with them and work with them to improve some movement, one-on-one, finishing but in this moment this is the best we have.”

Ivic explained why Senegal forward Ismaila Sarr was not in the squad.

“He wasn’t here because he arrived yesterday morning from Senegal and he was very tired and couldn’t do the practice yesterday and today the same.

“We rest him and we have five or six players in the national teams and this is the second time after the international break that we play on Friday, it’s not easy.”