Derby County manager Phillip Cocu felt Scottish Premiership side Rangers fully deserved their 1-0 victory in this afternoon’s pre-season fixture but he was pleased with the test the Gers posed for his side.
As preparations for the new 2019/20 Sky Bet Championship campaign stepped up at Ibrox Stadium today, a late header from Nikola Katić secured the victory for Steven Gerrard’s side.
Despite the defeat, Cocu was pleased for his players to test themselves against a good side with eight days until the first fixture of the season at Huddersfield Town.
“I think it was an excellent test for us against a great team,” he told RamsTV. “It was a good game, up and down, some periods in the game where I thought we did very well, some parts of the game we struggled.
“They pushed us back and the same in the second half. Their goal was from a corner but to be honest it was a well deserved win.
“Kelle Roos made some great saves so it was a really good test before we start the league because you want a strong opponent on their pitch so I think we can be happy with this game, not of the result but because of the strong opponent.
“From the first 30 minutes, I thought we did a good job. We just need to push in the last final third of the pitch. We need to be more powerful in our finishes.
“You could see at the end of the game that the players who played 90 minutes, it was their first time playing 90 minutes for us so it was hard work but we need it before we start the league.
“In the end it was a deserved result for them and a good match for us.”
Goalkeeper Kelle Roos was kept busy in the Derby goal as he pulled off a string of impressive saves to keep the Rams level, however, he could do nothing to prevent Katic from scoring the games only goal.
His performance drew praise from the Derby boss.
"It was shots but also one-on-one, crosses and he played a very good game,” Cocu said.
“I’m very happy to see him play so good and the goalkeeper is an important part of the team.”
The game against Huddersfield Town will be Cocu’s first competitive game in charge of the Rams and he hinted one player could return from injury to appear in the game.
“The closest one to returning from injury is probably Jack Marriott,” he admitted. “He started participating in some parts of the training.
“He missed quite a few training sessions with the team so he needs a little bit more work but if all goes well, he will be the first who will join the squad.
“It’s important because he is somebody, especially in a game like today, make runs from the back of the defence and his finishing, we could use.”
Cocu reserved his final word of the afternoon for the Derby supporters who travelled in their numbers to support the team today, with 1,700 making the long journey north.
“It’s great to see,” he said. “They were here from the first minute to the last minute supporting the team and it’s great. It’s important that the team thanks our fans after a game.
“Even if we lose, they’ve made the journey so it’s important that we have this connection with our fans.”