Albion Nostalgia: Brighton will look to channel the spirit of 1983 against Manchester City

There is only one place to go for this week’s column, and that is Highbury, April 16, 1983.

Friday, 5th April 2019, 4:42 pm
Updated Friday, 5th April 2019, 4:47 pm
The front cover of the programme when Brighton met Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-final of the FA Cup in 1983

Our only previous appearance in an FA Cup semi-final came on that day nearly 36 years ago, and what a day it was. Much like this season, our run to the last four came with a few tense moments. After a draw in the third round at home to Newcastle United, we had to endure an absolute onslaught from the Magpies in the replay, as we clung on to a 1-0 lead, courtesy of a Peter Ward strike with half-an-hour to go.

The fourth round brought another home draw, this time against Manchester City. They were a team in transition and Albion, in a complete reversal of our league form, thrashed City 4-0.

That set up a tie away at Liverpool, the reigning league champions and almost invincible at Anfield. Gerry Ryan scored in front of the Kop to make it 1-0 and Liverpool then turned on the style and got an equaliser with 20 minutes to go, when Craig Johnston volleyed home. Instead of collapsing under the barrage, Albion held firm and were rewarded when a shot from Jimmy Case took a wicked deflection to sail past Bruce Grobbelaar in the Liverpool goal.

It was another home draw for the quarter-final, with Norwich City the visitors. A tense affair was settled by that man Case. Lucky to be on the field after some earlier, fairly robust, challenges, Case latched on to a through-ball from Andy Ritchie. Despite being fouled, he buried the ball in the back of the net, triggering a classic North Stand surge. This set up a semi-final against Sheffield Wednesday.

Albion had confirmed the charismatic Jimmy Melia as full-time manager, and he was forced to make some changes for the game. Chris Ramsey was suspended, so Gary Stevens came in at right-back with Steve Gatting moving to the centre of defence alongside Steve Foster.

Graham Pearce returned at left-back. In midfield, Tony Grealish, Case and Neil Smillie continued, and with Neil McNab cup-tied, Gary Howlett came in. Up front, Terry Connor was also cup-tied and Gerry Ryan had picked up an injury. Gordon Smith came in to partner Michael Robinson. The substitute was Kieran O’Regan.

It was a glorious, sunny day and Albion fans packed out the Clock End at Highbury, among a total attendance of 54,627. After 14 minutes, the Albion fans erupted when Jimmy Case thundered in a free-kick from all of 35 yards. This was his fourth goal in as many cup games and Albion built on this start to have the better of the first half.

Wednesday were revived by the half-time break and equalised on 57 minutes, when Ante Mirocevic scrambled the ball over the line. Both sides then went all out for victory but the Albion defence, with Foster outstanding, repelled all attacks.

The breakthrough for the Seagulls came with 12 minutes to go. Case fed Smith, but his shot was blocked by Bob Bolder in the Wednesday goal. The ball rebounded to the Scot who passed inside to Robinson. His turn and shot seemed to take ages and although his strike was a clean one, the ball evaded Mel Sterland on the line and rolled into the back of the net.

The drama wasn’t over, as Graham Moseley produced a great save to deny Mike Lyons right at the death. Almost immediately afterwards, referee George Courtney blew the whistle and Albion were at Wembley.

Not too many people give us any hope this coming Saturday against Manchester City. Back in 1983, no-one even thought we would get past the third round, let alone beat Liverpool at Anfield.

Who knows what will happen on Saturday but one thing is for certain, Albion fans will have a fantastic day out.