INTERNATIONAL breaks can play funny tricks on teams - with some coming back refreshed and others gathering rust during their time off, writes TOM SLOAN.
Unfortunately for Derby County, they fell into the latter bracket as they were caught cold and creaking at the John Smith's Stadium on Saturday.
The winner flew past a helpless Frank Fielding, left, after just 46 seconds as much-fancied Huddersfield Town beat the Rams 1-0 in a dire match devoid of entertainment or real quality.
It was a shame for Nigel Clough's Derby, who flew into the break on the crest of a wave after demolishing Watford 5-1 at Pride Park.
The Rams boss would have liked a game three days later to maintain the momemtum built up by the superb win, which itself followed a stirring 1-1 draw at Wolves.
But his men were asleep as the Terriers broke early and netted through Danny Ward.
And thereafter followed a woeful half from Derby, who went into the break fortunate to be only 1-0 down, with Huddersfield's wasteful use of possession to blame.
The second half was a totally different story as a few tweaks allowed the Rams to totally dominate, without really creating much in the way of chances.
What made the difference after half-time was the excellent Will Hughes. The 17-year-old was becalmed before the break as he struggled to get on the ball on the left wing, often coming inside in search of possession.
A move inside shortly after half-time, with Jamie Ward switching to the left wing in a 4-5-1 formation, allowed the teenager to get hold of it and suddenly Derby began to click.
While it would be daft to pin a team's hopes on a rookie finding his way in the game, Hughes' performance was not lost on Clough, who is surely agonising over where to play the gifted youngster.
"Will Hughes at 17 ran the game in the second half," said the Rams boss. "We take an awful lot of good and positivity from that.
"Bringing Will inside helped us. We dominated the game in terms of possession in the second half and some of our play building up to the edge of the box was excellent."
On the left Hughes does not get involved as much as he could, but in the middle his developing physique can be dominated by the more rugged midfielders in the Championship. It could prove a quandary for Derby but, as managers often say, it is a nice problem to have.
One youngster who did not have such an impact on the game was Conor Doyle, who replaced Paul Coutts on the right of midfield because of illness.
The 20-year-old clearly has some ability but struggles to make his presence felt in the Championship. Still, there was no excuse for the way he was cheered from the field by the visiting support when substituted - it is hardly going to help make him a world-beater.
Now, the Rams have back-to-back home matches in the space of five days to get Saturday out of their system, and three points against Charlton Athletic tomorrow evening would be just the tonic Clough and his frustrated squad need.
On Saturday, Derby showed one change with Doyle replacing Coutts, who had been suffering from flu. It was the American's first start in 10 months.
Huddersfield, who spent heavily in the summer, have just lost star striker Jordan Rhodes to Blackburn Rovers for £8 million.
But they still boasted Premier League talent in the likes of on-loan James Vaughan - who was once borrowed by Derby - as well as Adam Hammill and Keith Southern.
Joel Lynch passed a late fitness test on an Achilles strain and lined up against a Rams side he could have joined from Nottingham Forest in the summer.
Derby chairman Andy Appleby, as well as several of the club's big investors, looked on at the John Smith's Stadium as Huddersfield flew out of the blocks and scored within a minute.
The Rams were caught out high up the pitch on the left wing and Hammill broke as Gareth Roberts and Hughes were upfield. The on-loan Wolves man teased an isolated James O'Connor before swinging in a cross for Ward to finish beautifully past Fielding from six yards.
A bit of needle then crept into the game as referee Trevor Kettle struggled to keep control.
On 16 minutes, Lynch gifted the ball to Jamie Ward and he passed to Conor Sammon, whose shot from 18 yards was blocked.
John Brayford put in a superb tackle on Vaughan 20 minutes in as the ex-Everton man was about to pull the trigger in the box.
Craig Bryson, stranglely off colour in the first half, did well to block a Hammill free kick on the stroke of half-time.
After the break Derby changed their formation and Town - sitting back and protecting their slender lead - barely had a sniff.
Jamie Ward blasted an attempted shot out for a throw-in on 52 minutes and five minutes later it looked like home keeper Alex Smithies handled outside his area, but Mr Kettle was not interested.
Doyle then got onto a low Jamie Ward cross at the far post but blasted a difficult chance high and wide from 10 yards.
Despite their pressure, that was about as good as it got for the Rams, although they had a penalty claim when Jeff Hendrick was impeded as he went up for a header eight yards out - but again the referee waved away their protests.