Will Hughes backed to return to top form for FA Cup clash
NIGEL Clough is backing Derby County's talented midfielder Will Hughes to be back on his game in tomorrow's FA Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers.
The 17-year-old had a frustrating time in each of the last two matches against Brighton & Hove Albion and Nottingham Forest.
At Brighton, he was given little time and space before a hefty knock in the back left him writhing in agony and he was forced off injured just before half-time.
Against Forest, Hughes admitted he had an off-day.
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Hughes has featured in all 30 of Derby's fixtures this season.
He has started all but one – at Bolton Wanderers in August – and he is set to face Blackburn in the fourth-round tie at Pride Park Stadium (3pm).
Rams manager Nigel Clough remains very happy with the youngster's contribution and says there are no signs that he might be in need of a rest.
"Will didn't have a bad game against Forest, he just wasn't as influential as he has been," added Clough.
"I think it has been more down to the nature of the last two games – the way Brighton played and the fact he got injured, then the Forest game was a big occasion for the young players.
"In some ways, the Forest game at Pride Park is bigger than the away game for us because the expectation is on us. People expect us to win.
"The fact there was a full crowd last week, I think meant a couple of lads maybe felt overawed by it.
"The expectations are so high on young Will and I think he felt it last weekend.
"I think Will was just a little bit overawed by it all, and I don't know whether Paul Coutts was as well because he was off it, and that hasn't happened often this season.
"But we don't dwell on that. I think Will will be back on it on Saturday and he has been in training this week."
Hughes is one of only three Derby players to have figured in every game, along with Richard Keogh and John Brayford.
Huddersfield Town, the Rams' next Championship opponents, have sacked manager Simon Grayson following the club's recent slide down the table.
Grayson, 43, led the club to promotion in May and his side hovered in and around the top six during the first four months of the season.
Academby boss Mark Lillis, the former Derby County striker, is in temporary charge, along with senior coach Steve Eyre.