The roller-coaster months of October and November saw a number of high and low moments. It appeared that December could prove to be a more fruitful month for David Wagner and his side.
Whilst many were concentrating on the shortening days with Christmas just around the corner, for football fans, the attention was fully on the action-packed and highly congested festive football schedule.
The clashes with Chelsea and Burnley looked extremely difficult but there was a run of fixtures where David Wagner’s side had the opportunity to get their season back on track.
One thing was certain, Town would definitely not be relegated before fans took down their Christmas trees.
Everton (A) – Calvert-Lewin’s defence-splitting touch
Much of the talk prior to Town’s trip to Goodison Park was centred around Everton’s newly appointed manager. It seemed apt that Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge was against his former club.
In a tight and evenly-contested battle on a crisp December afternoon, it was a moment of inspiration from England’s Under-21 forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin that proved to be the defining moment.
Coming in the forty-seventh minute, after a strong in-field run from Aaron Lennon, it was an instinctive back-heel flick from Calvert-Lewin which exposed a gap which Gyfli Sigurdsson intelligently filled.
Without the need for a second invitation, the Icelandic international clinically swept the ball past Jonas Lössl into the bottom corner to break the deadlock.
Calvert-Lewin’s defence-splitting touch would prove to be a decisive moment and a decisive goal that David Wagner’s side would not be able to recover from. Town’s winless streak away from home extended to seven games.
Brighton & Hove Albion (H) – Mounié answers his critics
After a memorable Premier League debut, there was a vocal minority amongst the fan-base who began to question Steve Mounié’s commitment and work ethic, following his return from a heel injury.
It took the Beninese centre-forward a number of substitute appearances to get back to match fitness but once he had, he was immediately unleashed against fellow newly-promoted side Brighton & Hove Albion.
If there were any questions or criticism aimed in the direction of Steve Mounié, they were quickly drowned out after a stellar performance from the 23-year-old.
Like against Crystal Palace, Steve Mounié’s movement and aerial superiority was too much for the opposition to handle, even against the dominant duo of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk.
The parallels could be drawn further as a well-worked corner was flicked on by Christopher Schindler at the near post and Mounié was left all alone to bundle the ball in at the back post. This was a move we had seen previously on the opening day of the season, albeit with Joel Ward turning the ball into his own net.
The second goal came just before half-time to round off a dominant performance but it was Steve Mounié who was the difference and it was he who ensured that Town came out on top in this clash of the two newly-promoted sides.
Chelsea (H) – Willian’s killer blow
With the pressure continuing to mount against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, there was a sense that Huddersfield Town may have the opportunity to take another significant scalp at the John Smith’s Stadium.
However, like a wounded animal, a struggling top-six side was an extremely dangerous opponent to face.
Whilst Chelsea may not have been in the greatest form, they sat joint-second in the table for a reason and the sheer amount of quality that they had at their disposal proved too much to handle for Town.
Having already conceded due to Tiémoué Bakayoko’s effort in the twenty-third minute, the decisive moment came in the forty-third minute.
As Town continued to struggle to deal with Chelsea’s formation and shape, once again, Marcos Alonso was afforded far too much time and space in the wide left channel.
With just a single step taken to compose himself, he shifted the ball out of his feet and whipped in an enticing delivery which hung in the air and allowed Willian to steer the ball past Jonas Lossl into the bottom corner.
It was a decisive goal and a decisive moment as it killed off any chance of Town mounting a comeback in the second half, despite Laurent Depoitre’s late consolation goal courtesy of an excellently executed glancing header from a Flo Hadergjonaj cross.
Watford (A) – Mooy’s brace breaks the voodoo
Following the comprehensive opening day victory against Crystal Palace, Town quickly found life on the road hard.
Whilst there had been some brief moments for optimism, seven games without a win passed and not a single goal was scored in any of them.
Heading into the clash with Marco Silva’s Watford side, it would take a special performance both collectively and individually if Town were to arrest their drop in form away from home.
That performance did come. It was Aaron Mooy who stepped forward and proved to be the decisive figure in one of Town’s more entertaining fixtures in Town’s debut Premier League season.
The decisive moment came in the 23rd minute.
After neat play from Town saw Collin Quaner break in behind the Watford defence, his delivery fizzed across the six-yard box with only a single touch needed to direct it into the gaping goal.
That touch did come from an unlikely source. A late run into the box from Mooy was not picked up and the Australian was on hand to bustle the ball into the empty net to give Town a decisive two goal lead, a lead which Watford was unable to recover from.
Mooy would then have to wait until the 89th minute for him to score his second of the game from the penalty spot. However, it was the Australian who ensured that Town’s away day voodoo was broken.
Southampton (A) – Tommy Smith’s immediate impact
With Southampton severely struggling under the management of Mauricio Pellegrino, Town’s trip to St Mary’s grew all the more important.
Having released the shackles following a comprehensive victory over Watford, Town had the chance to back that up with another positive result on the road.
The chances of Town picking up points in back-t0-back away fixtures looked slim when Charlie Austin turned in a header from close range.
However, the fortunes of the game changed in the shape of a substitution. In the sixty-first minute, Tommy Smith was brought back into the fold as he came on to replace Florent Hadergjonaj.
At the time, it seemed an almost unusual substitution as David Wagner made a straight swap at right back, despite his side being a goal behind. Yet, the substitution was wholly justified within just three minutes.
As Town continued to push and probe for an equaliser, it was Tommy Smith’s perfectly weighted cross which was met by Laurent Depoitre in the centre of the six-yard box who emphatically thumped the header past a rooted Fraser Forster.
As well as being a masterstroke from David Wagner to introduce Tommy Smith into the game, it also proved to be a vital goal and a vital point in the grand scheme of things.
Stoke (H) – Ince finally finds the mark
Whilst Town’s return to the top-flight was undoubtedly one of the stories of the season, one of the more intriguing sub-plots involved Tom Ince.
Having arrived from Derby County with a point to prove, after two brief spells in the Premier League with Crystal Palace and Hull City, there were great expectations about the former England Under-21 international.
However, either as a result of a crisis of confidence or desperate bad luck, Tom Ince found himself in the uncomfortable situation of being top of the list for most shots in the Premier League without scoring.
With the total amount of shots amounting to forty-five without a goal, it seemed that Tom Ince would continue to struggle to break his own individual bad luck, despite the fans, staff and his teammates willing him on.
The goal did eventually come.
In the tenth minute, after some neat interplay between Collin Quaner and Tommy Smith, the former twisted and turned in the penalty box before rolling the ball into the centre of the goal.
With nobody tracking his run, it was Tom Ince who was first to pounce as he placed the ball past a sprawling Jack Butland to give Town a much-needed lead.
The collective reaction was one of sheer relief as Ince’s close-range finish proved to be an uplifting and equally decisive moment in which Ince’s perseverance and unrelenting hard-work was rewarded.
Burnley (H) – The penalty that never was
In the reverse fixture, it was a tight, contested and evenly fought battle between Sean Dyche’s hard-working Burnley side and David Wagner’s relentless Town side.
The major talking point was a contentious penalty appeal from Rajiv van La Parra when the Dutchman took a tumble in the box and rightly received a yellow card for simulation.
Again, on a cold December afternoon, it was a war of attrition between the two sides and again, it was a penalty call that proved to be the decisive moment.
In the 60th minute, neat interplay between Scott Arfield and Jeff Hendrick saw the latter break into the eighteen yard box. As the Irish international looked to take the ball past Jonas Lossl, the Irishman was felled but no penalty was given.
The Lancastrian side felt justifiably aggrieved with Paul Tierney’s decision. Indeed, it was a decision which Sean Dyche was extremely vocal about in his post-match comments. In spite of this, Town managed to cling on to yet another vital point which pushed them one small step closer to survival.