HEAD COACH David Wagner hailed the character and “hunger” of his Huddersfield Town side in bouncing back from a damaging run of defeats.
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A first-half double from Steve Mounie was enough to bring a return to winning ways for a Terriers side who had lost seven of their previous nine league outings. The most recent four of those had yielded no points and seen Town fall from tenth to 16th place in the Premier League table.
West Ham United’s lunchtime win over Chelsea then piled further pressure on Huddersfield, who before tackling Brighton & Hove Albion stood just two points above the relegation zone.
“It is not the nicest thing to have if you have four defeats in a row,” said Wagner, whose side are back in action tomorrow night at home to Antonio Conte’s reigning champions.
“But we played three of these four games away. And the one home game was against Manchester City.
“We had to be honest (before the season started) and ask ourselves, “Could this happen (at some stage in the campaign)?” The answer is probably ‘yes’.
“I was very proud that the players were able to make themselves independent of the circumstances they are in. They focused on themselves and their performance. It was, for sure, one of our better offensive performances. To do that, you have to be mentally strong and be independent from the statistics.
“When the games start, it doesn’t count. The players have shown this top quality and made themselves independent of all these circumstances. You need to have trust and belief in your quality, your talent and try your best. The players did that against Brighton.”
Victory over Brighton was enough to nudge Wagner’s men back into mid-table. It also ensured Huddersfield stayed ahead of the accepted ‘par’ of taking one point per game that is usually a guarantee of staying in the Premier League.
Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative boast 18 points from 16 outings going into a tough run-in to Christmas that will see tomorrow’s home clash with Chelsea followed by back-to-back trips to Watford and Southampton.
With the champions still smarting from Saturday’s 1-0 loss at the London Stadium, Huddersfield should expect a reaction from the Blues in front of the live BT Sport cameras.
“A good time or not we have to accept the fixtures,” added Wagner. “They have had a defeat so they will be totally focused on Tuesday. This is nothing that we can influence.
“We have to make ourselves independent from these circumstances and only be focused on ourselves and our performance and our game plan, then we’ll see what we get out of it.
We have to make ourselves independent from these circumstances and only be focused on ourselves and our performance and our game plan, then we’ll see what we get out of it.David Wagner
“For sure, Chelsea are a top, top, top team in the Premier League and it will be a very difficult task. But we have shown that, even against the best teams, we are able to give them a fight and this is what we will do on Tuesday.”
The downcast mood in the Brighton camp at full-time was in stark contrast to that among the home players, with Isaiah Brown – who had a successful spell on loan at the John Smith’s Stadium – admitting the visitors had struggled against his former club.
“I was trying to give the lads tips before the game on who might play and how they press,” said the Chelsea loanee, who netted four times in 18 games for the Terriers last term.
“But it is still tough to play against Huddersfield, the way they are so in your face and give you no time on the ball.
“Tommy Smith is a very attacking full-back and is always on your shoulder, trying to get forward. I had to go all the way back with him and then when we got the ball, try to get forward.”
Wagner had sprung something of a surprise in his team selection by naming Mounie in the starting XI ahead of Laurent Depoitre.
He also left Kasey Palmer, who had returned from a three-month injury lay-off the previous weekend, out of the matchday squad of 18 completely despite the Chelsea loanee being fully fit. Both decisions were fully vindicated with Mounie, the club’s £11.5m record signing, netting his first goals since the opening day.
“He had a difficult period with his injury,” said Wagner about the Benin striker, who suffered a heel injury on September 11 that kept him out for a month.