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Vladimir Ivic hails qualities of match-winning birthday boy Joao Pedro

Watford v Middlesbrough – Sky Bet Championship – Vicarage Road
(Image credit: Adam Davy)

Watford head coach Vladimir Ivic hailed the winning goal scored by 19-year-old Joao Pedro that gave the Hornets a 1-0 victory over local rivals Luton.

The Brazilian teenager’s first goal for the club came on his birthday.

Ivic, though,  warned that working for the team will be the way for both Pedro and the rest of the Watford squad to progress under him.

“It’s nice to score on your birthday,” Ivic said. “A good present for himself, for the team, the fans and for all of us who are close to Watford FC. You recognise quality players and sure Joao Pedro has quality.  In the system that we play, he brings a lot of different things.

“But he has played three games and it’s important for him to work hard for the team first of all. It’s important that all of them do what they do for the team.”

Striker Pedro played alongside Ismaila Sarr, whose workrate was an example to any young strike partner.

“We don’t need to speak of his quality because all of you know his quality,” Ivic said.  “But he works hard and he is a positive man who asks to play and wants to play. For me it is important that players want to be here and to want to play.”

Pedro, though, will face competition when all Watford’s forward options are available, and assuming they do not leave before the end of the transfer window.

“We have other players in this position but they are not ready to play yet but we have a lot of competition,” Ivic said.

“Troy (Deeney) knows the club and I’m sure he is here in winter. He is working day by day to improve his physical ability and help us.

“We have five strikers, we have Andre Gray, Glenn Murray came to help us and will help us for sure. But we don’t know what will happen until the end of the transfer window.”

Ivic was pleased with all aspects of his team’s display, not just the forwards.

“We started this game much better than our other four games,” he said.

“We deserved this victory. We were the better team from the beginning until the end. Luton created just one chance.

“We created four or five chances and we could have scored more goals but okay, game by game I believe that our performance will be better. I said a lot of times that we are not at 100 percent of our ability.”

Luton head coach Nathan Jones was frustrated by his team’s display.

He said: “A real lacklustre game, the most lacklustre derby you have ever seen. I don’t think you would realise it was a derby. We were flat.”

He bemoaned the shot by James Collins that hit the bar two minutes before Pedro’s 35th-minute strike.

“The game changed in two minutes and that was the difference between the two teams,” he said. “If we had scored we would have got a point at minimum because they probably wouldn’t have scored their goal.

“But I am just flabbergasted by the performance. I did not see that coming. I thought at least we would be right at it.  If there had been fans in the stadium they would have demanded more.

“I can’t complain at taking six points from nine, it’s just this game. I wanted more from us today. We have been used to winning games and today of all days we could have done without that.

“We lost every header, we lost every second ball, we didn’t test the goalkeeper. It wasn’t a derby performance and it wasn’t a Luton performance. My players didn’t respond to the level of game it was.

“We won’t overreact, we will do what we usually do.  We took a Watford side who are probably favourites to go up right to the wire.”