STEVE MOUNIE is no stranger to a relegation scrap.
Not only did the Benin striker’s seven goals play an integral part in Huddersfield Town avoiding the drop last season but he was also part of the Nimes side who once stayed up in France’s second tier despite being hit with an eight-point deduction.
As bleak as things got in both those ultimately successful fights for survival, however, Mounie admits this term has been by far the most consistently difficult of his career.
Respite came on Tuesday night via a first victory in three months, Mounie netting a dramatic stoppage-time winner against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Twenty-four hours later, however, and Southampton’s victory over Fulham meant, if anything, Town’s prospects had worsened with the gap to safety up to 13 points with one less game to play.
Few, if any, teams have ever come back from such a position and that only adds to the frustration felt by Mounie over how this season has panned out.
“Our performances as a team have been better,” he said when asked by The Yorkshire Post about the struggles this time around. “I believe every single player in the team has been better.
“I feel to have improved, compared to last season. I do believe that. My all-round game, to keep the ball and hold it up; to create chances for others. But, unfortunately for me, the goals have not come this season.”
Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative has found the net just 15 times in 28 Premier League outings. “I do not know why we have not scored,” added Mounie, who has two to his name after finishing 2017-18 as top scorer. “Maybe last season we did not score many goals but we scored them at the right moment.
“That has been our problem this season, we have not scored those goals when we needed them.
“Every single player is better and that makes it more frustrating. It is hard for us. I remember against Liverpool at home and we played very, very well – and yet we lost 1-0.
“It has happened a lot this season. Arsenal away was another. A lot of games. Very, very frustrating.”
The bare statistics may suggest otherwise but those who have watched Town on a regular basis this term will surely be able to empathise with Mounie’s frustration.
Performances have been better than last term and there will be more than one set of opposition fans scratching their heads in bewilderment at Huddersfield’s status as the Premier League’s cellar-dwellers.
Mounie cites Liverpool and Arsenal but a strong case can be made that the away games at Bournemouth, Burnley and Manchester United saw the Terriers short-changed in terms of what they deserved on performance.
Likewise, West Ham were fortunate to leave the John Smith’s Stadium with a point, while a good smattering of Town fans will go to their graves believing the home game against today’s opponents, Brighton, brought the biggest injustice of all.
A goal ahead through Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen, David Wagner’s side were firmly in control on December 1 when Mounie was sent off on the half-hour.
The Seagulls responded with two unanswered goals and a run that eventually saw Town lose 13 of their next 14 games was under way.
That shocking sequence of results finally came to an end on Tuesday night thanks to Mounie’s close-range finish.
“The season has been very hard mentally for everyone,” added Mounie, who netted three times against Chris Hughton’s men last season.
“We are all competitors and we don’t like to lose like this. It has been hard disappointing the fans so much. We play for the badge and it has been hard for me to leave them with a defeat every weekend.”
The scenes of jubilation at the final whistle after Wolves had been beaten underlined just how important Mounie’s goal was in terms of lifting sagging spirits.
For the man himself, it also brought a flood of congratulatory messages to his mobile ’phone.
“It is always like this,” the £11.5m signing from Montpellier explains with a smile. “When you don’t score, you don’t get any messages. Then when you do score, you get a whole bunch of messages.
“Everyone sends you something, saying ‘Congratulations!’ It is nice. Even if it is a case they know you when you score but when you don’t score, they don’t. That is football.”
Mounie will be hoping for more of the same in the coming weeks as Town embark on a run of fixtures that offer the chance to accrue points.
After today’s trip to the Amex Stadium, Huddersfield host a Bournemouth side who have lost their last nine away games.
Then comes back-to-back trips to the capital either side of the international break to take on West Ham United and Crystal Palace.
“This has been the most difficult season of my career,” added the 24-year-old, part of the Nimes side in 2015-16 that overcame that points deduction for match-fixing two years earlier to finish 14th and four points clear of the relegation zone.
“I am afraid and scared to go down. I don’t want that. That is something that, as a competitor, I am very disappointed about.
“I couldn’t expect this (to happen) at the beginning of the season. So, it makes me very sad to know that possibility is there.
“None of us want this on our CV. It will not be the best for any of us. But there is still time. The gap (to safety) is really big but we will try to get the results we need, and then we can see what happens.”