Troost-Ekong: “We Did Well To Keep Rooney Quiet”

By: Watford FC Staff

The assured William Troost-Ekong slotted seamlessly into the Hornets' watertight defence on Friday night, admitting he felt a sense of pressure in helping the team to keep a fourth clean sheet in five league matches in what is the club's best run of defensive form in 32 years.

Derby joined Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town in drawing a blank against the parsimonious Golden Boys who have now conceded two fewer goals than Steve Harrison's side did at the same stage of the 1988/89 season, although that particular vintage did keep five clean sheets in the first six.

Christian Kabasele, Ben Wilmot and Craig Cathcart were the back three for the first three clean sheets of this campaign, but it shows the strength in depth, as well as the robustness of the defensive system, that Troost-Ekong was able to deputise for Cathcart and mark his debut with a shut-out.

“I enjoyed it,” said the defender, who signed from Udinese on a long-term deal, speaking to Hive Live Extra. “You have to take a little while to get used to the other guys as I've only trained with the guys for a bit.

“There is a lot of responsibility when you come in for your first game, but I tried to adapt as quickly as possible. It's easier with Ben [Foster] behind you talking a lot. I tried to keep myself in the game by talking, too, and I thought it [my debut] went alright. We've got so many games and we are going to need everybody, so competition all over the squad is important.

“If you want to have a good season you need to base it on a good defensive structure. Getting clean sheets is important because there is not a lot in it and if you keep a zero, then you just a need a bit of brilliance from one of the guys up front to make the difference. Today was a classic example of that.”

João Pedro supplied the moment of magic, conjuring up a stunning winner from long range just five minutes after Troost-Ekong had gone off as a precaution after feeling his left hamstring.

“I had the best view,” said the defender. “I was right behind it. I told JP in the shower he did a terrific job and he created something out of nothing, really. You need moments like that and when you have quality players, they can make the difference.

“There weren't so many chances, and him taking that one out of nowhere made the difference. He's looked really good and he looks sharp in training. He has a lot of quality, but we have quality all over the pitch and, if everyone chips in, it should be good.”

The fear was that Wayne Rooney was going to pull something out of his repertoire to win the game but although he threatened a couple of times, including twice after Troost-Ekong had gone off, he was largely kept at arm's-length. Troost-Ekong, who played in the middle of a back three, has experience of playing against players of Rooney's calibre after coming up against Lionel Messi and Neymar during a 43-cap international career and it showed.

“Rooney was someone I watched growing up and you have to make sure you don't give him any chances around the box,” said the 27-year-old. “I was surprised he missed the one late on, but I think we did well to keep him quiet and not give him any space.

“You try and shift him onto this left [foot], but I've seen him score with his left foot, too. We tried to make it as hard as possible for him and not let him face you up and have a shot at goal. We did that quite well in the first half and in the second half, besides from that chance and the free-kick. You have to be careful with a quality player like that.”

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