Despite a rejuvenated second-half performance from the Rams, Derby County went down 1-0 away to Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Adam Hammill’s lung-busting run inside the opening minute was rewarded by Danny Ward’s clever close-range finish, to leave Nigel Clough’s side stunned.
The Rams were overrun in the opening 45 minutes, but showed a spirited second-half fight back and almost grabbed a deserved point through Jamie Ward late on, but Clough’s men were left to pay for their slow start.
It was the worst possible start for the Rams, as with just 47 seconds gone on the clock, Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee Hammill’s determined run down the right culminated in the lively winger whipping a dangerous cross into the penalty area. Ward gambled and ghosted in front of his marker before turning the ball past Rams goalkeeper Frank Fielding from close-range.
However, despite the early goal, the Rams remained comfortable in possession and on 16 minutes Clough’s men had their first sight of goal. Ward picked up a loose back pass from Paul Dixon and rolled the ball across the edge of the area to the onrushing Connor Sammon, however, the just as the Irish striker was about the pull the trigger, Peter Clarke nipped in and thwarted the former Wigan Athletic man with a last ditch tackle.
Four minutes later the Rams showed some neat interplay on the edge of the home side’s penalty area between midfielder pairing Craig Bryson and Jeff Hendrick, before the former slid Conor Doyle in down the right, but the 20-year-old’s cross-shot was cleared.
Doyle was in the thick of the action moments later, as former Dundee United left-back lunged at the American inside the centre-circle, and referee Trevor Kettle duly showed the defender a yellow card.
Before the half was up, Craig Bryson flashed a header past his own goal following Oliver Norwood’s dangerous free-kick, whilst the Rams had a half chance of their own as Sammon turned smartly in the penalty area but saw his low strike blocked on its way to goal.
Within three minutes of the second-half, the Terriers almost doubled their advantage when Clayton tried his luck from all of 30-yards, only for Fielding to claw the former Leeds United midfielder’s effort behind for a corner, via the near post.
From the resulting set-play, the ball dropped kindly Clarke, but the central defender could only scoop an effort over the crossbar from just outside of the Rams’ six-yard box.
However, roused by their supporters, the Rams upped the pressure, and both Ward and Doyle had efforts at goal before Richard Keogh glanced a header agonisingly wide from a corner.
Then Ward’s cross from the left somehow found a way to Doyle at the far post, but the American youth international blazed his effort over the crossbar.
With the Rams growing in confidence, Clough introduced Michael Jacobs shortly after the hour mark, and the former Northampton Town midfielder almost made an instant impact after gliding past Dixon into the area, but his claims for a penalty after being sandwiched by two Town defenders were waved away by referee Kettle.
With nine minutes remaining, Hammill smashed a close-range effort high and wide, before Scottish international Bryson’s low cross at the other end was nervously palmed away by goalkeeper Alex Smithies.
The Rams’ final chance to grab a point came in the final two minutes, as neat link-up play between substitutes Jacobs and Theo Robinson ended with a snap-shot from Ward, but the Northern Ireland international’s effort bobbled wide of goal.
Derby County: Fielding (GK); Brayford, Keogh, O’Connor, Roberts (Buxton 90); Doyle (Jacobs 64), Bryson, Hendrick, Hughes; Ward, Sammon (Robinson 79).
Subs Not Used: Legzdins (GK), Gjokaj, Tyson, Freeman.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies (GK); Hunt, Lynch, Clarke, Dixon; Hammill (Arfield 86), Southern, Clayton, Norwood, Ward (Novak 67); Vaughan (Scannell 89).
Subs Not Used: Bennett (GK), Woods, Gerrard, Lee.