Town dominate to record deserved win
Steve Mounié netted a first-half brace to earn Town a huge three Premier League points as the Terriers deservedly broke the four-game winless streak with a fantastic performance against Brighton & Hove Albion.
An all-round display consisted of defensive duties being carried out to the highest degree alongside an offensive prowess that threatened the Seagulls on multiple occasions on the way to a well-deserved result.
Three changes were made to the side which started against Everton last time around. Chris Löwe’s appearance from the off was the left-back’s 50th League Huddersfield Town start, whereas Jonathan Hogg and Steve Mounié (the striker’s last appearance coming in August’s 0-0 draw with Southampton) were also recalled. Collin Quaner retained his place on the right for his first Premier League start at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The Head Coach’s alterations meant that Scott Malone, Danny Williams and Laurent Depoitre missed out, whilst Dean Whitehead and Joe Lolley earned respective spots amongst the substitutes.
Malone and Kasey Palmer were not part of the match day squad to face Chris Hughton’s side; a team that contained a familiar face around these parts in Izzy Brown, who played a key role in the memorable promotion campaign from the Championship.
Picturesque scenes opened proceedings as snow began to fall simultaneously with the referee’s whistle for kick-off, but the festivities of Town hunting for a precious three points began with the usual intensity, ensuring the yellow shirts of the Seagulls little time in possession.
A fellow promoted Club, the South Coast outfit were out to gain revenge in response to a 3-1 defeat on this ground in front of the Sky Sports cameras back in February. Glenn Murray’s header was palmed away strongly by Jonas Lössl down to his left after leaping well, although the linesman’s flag on the Britannia Rescue Stand side came as an early relief in any case.
Mounié came inches from opening his account on home turf minutes before that feat became reality. The Benin international took advantage of Shane Duffy’s misjudged header to fire a volley bound for the bottom left-corner, but Australian ‘keeper Mathew Ryan showed excellent athleticism to scramble across and provide the all-important save to maintain the deadlock.
Tommy Smith followed up with a dangerous cross towards the far-post after a half-clearance from the visitors, but the skipper’s delivery sailed over the heads of his teammates inside the penalty area.
Town continued to work their chances swiftly and the opener arrived in due course.
Chris Löwe’s pacey corner was met by a glancing near-post Christopher Schindler flick which flashed across goal and was eventually bundled home by a gracious Mounié. The celebrations showed the front man’s delight to have netted for the first time at the John Smith’s Stadium, running to Schindler and the set piece taker.
Brighton hit back with a chance of their own. Murray worked space at the far-post before seeing a Blue and White shirt heroically clear his effort for a corner. The resulting corner fell kindly to centre-back Shane Duffy, but the Irishman hacked at thin air with an attempted half-volley which allowed the Terriers to effectively get rid of any looming danger. As it turned out, that was to be Brighton’s best chance of the day.
Superb tenacity in midfield to dispossess Murray with a perfectly timed slide tackle from the typically dogged Jonathan Hogg resulted in Collin Quaner being played in down the right channel. ‘Big Coll’ beat his marker with a low cross, but goal-scorer Mounié couldn’t manage to get in the right position to fire home at Ryan’s front-stick.
Town’s still created clear opportunities after the opener, with the next arriving as a result of a peach of a Löwe cross. The advanced full-back whipped a tempting delivery into the path of Mounié, but somehow the striker failed to make an adequate connection.
Mounié displayed brave characteristics at the other end in order to divert away Propper’s thunderous attempt from the edge of the area before Kachunga outsmarted Murray deep inside Town’s half to win a valuable free-kick, which relieved partial Albion pressure stint.
The big striker soon found himself at the other end, doubling Town’s lead with a precise header.
Another corner was initially cleared, but Aaron Mooy collected and jigged past Dunk to deliver a deep left-footed cross. That ball was nodded back into the danger area by Zanka, with Mounié on hand to nod home through a cluster of players – which seemed to delay the reactions of Mathew Ryan in the Brighton goal.
Town’s record-signing from Montpellier had netted both his first and second goals in the opening 45; a brace which handed the Terriers with a firm command of the encounter at the break after looking solid and composed at both ends.
Chris Hughton introduced winger Solly March at the interval and that move came close to paying off as the sub laid Bruno in down right-hand side before a cross was agonisingly missed by former loanee Brown towards the far-post.
Town’s own ventures of the second half began with Tom Ince having a flurry of chances. The match had by now become extremely stretched with both sides committing men forward, and Ince found a clear route through the heart of the Seagulls’ defence – only to be caught by a recovering Lewis Dunk.
The visitors were under the cosh once again shortly after Ince’s siege as Quaner strode forward before squaring to Ince, who had taken up a menacing position on the penalty spot. Town’s number 22 saw his tame effort hastily booted away, however.
As the stretched pattern remained in-tact, Brighton kept pouring yellow shirts forward, only to see Dutch central-midfielder Davy Propper blaze high and wide into the travelling support behind.
Albion would have a combination of good goalkeeping to thank to ensure that Town were only two goals ahead. Firstly Ryan produced a magnificent save with quick reflexes at the near-post to keep out Ince’s sharp flick from Tommy Smith’s drilled cross, before Steve Mounié fired well off-target as a result of a neat Collin Quaner cut-back to the edge of the 18-yard box.
Brighton well and truly had their backs to the wall in the face of a resurgent Terriers team. Ryan showed excellent reflexes yet again soon after, this time to deny Kachunga’s shot from sneaking in, before Zanka mistimed his attempted half-volley in the area from the resulting corner.
Mounié’s eventful afternoon rolled on, this time with an attempted square to Ince being cleared by Lewis Dunk on the slide. Both Town players – and most of the crowd in the Fantastic Media Stand – to call for potential shouts of handball.
As the hour mark approached, the Terriers’ coaching staff would have been supremely impressed with the way Town hadn’t gone into a shell and consolidated the dangerous two-goal lead. Town were on the front foot and still taking the game to the Sussex visitors, and there was no sign of that faltering anytime soon.
Tommy Smith had a great afternoon and went close to netting his first goal of the season with a beautiful curler bound for Ryan’s bottom right corner, but the ball would roll disappointingly round the wrong side of the post.
Ince still had to wait for his first competitive Terriers goal after blasting over from an angle from Mounié’s slide-rule ball and, despite a tireless performance, the former Derby man just couldn’t catch a break to find the net. Next opposing skipper Bruno made a mess of a sliding interception, which allowed Tom to square up with Suttner one-on-one. He beat the defender onto his left but a defiant Ryan between the Seagulls’ sticks batted away the final effort to let the visiting defensive ranks of the hook on yet another occasion.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1)
Jonas Lössl; Chris Löwe, Christopher Schindler, Mathias Zanka, Tommy Smith (c); Jonathan Hogg, Aaron Mooy; Collin Quaner, Tom Ince (Joe Lolley, 86′), Elias Kachunga (Danny Williams, 89′); Steve Mounié (Laurent Depoitre, 85′)
Joel Coleman, Martin Cranie, Florent Hadergjonaj, Dean Whitehead