We go into Sunday’s game with our survival confirmed, but with a potentially huge role to play in matters at the top of the table.
Much has been written about our chances of victory and whether we are going to roll over to help Manchester City win the Premier League.
There is, of course, the small matter of avenging the FA Cup semi-final defeat and it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Chris Hughton will be anything other than committed to getting a win.
Back in our first ever season in the top flight in 1979, we endured a difficult few months and found ourselves bottom of the league in the middle of November. A brilliant 1-0 away win at European Champions Nottingham Forest lifted the gloom and by the time Manchester City came to the Goldstone just after Christmas, there were definite signs of recovery.
The Christmas period had been very productive; a 3-1 win against Wolves just before Christmas, was followed by a 3-0 Boxing Day win over Crystal Palace. Albion were in confident mood three days later, as Malcolm Allison brought his team to the south coast.
Albion manager Alan Mullery named the same team that had started the game against Palace. Graham Moseley was in goal, behind John Gregory, Gary Williams, Gary Stevens and Steve Foster. The midfield of Peter O’Sullivan, Gerry Ryan and Brian Horton, was supplemented by Mark Lawrenson. In his early career at Albion, Lawrenson was a centre-back but after a long injury lay-off earlier that season, Mullery placed him midfield for the game at Forest. He was superb in that game and retained his place in that position for the rest of the season. Up front was Peter Ward and Ray Clarke, who had been signed from Belgian club Bruges in November.
The Seagulls got off to the perfect when, almost straight from the kick-off, Clarke took advantage of a missed tackle to lob the ball over the head of City keeper Joe Corrigan. Further goals in the first half from Ward and Clarke again, gave Albion a comfortable lead. Stuart Lee pulled one back for City before the break, but the 28,093 crowd were being treated to a third successive great performance from Albion.
The second half didn’t produce as many goals, but the one they did see, was worth the admission price on its own. After Lawrenson had hit the bar when through with just Corrigan to beat, came the moment that was to live long in the memory of Albion fans.
Collecting the ball just outside his own area, Ryan set off on a mazy dribble that took him fully 75 yards to the edge of the City penalty area. He cut through between the last defenders and as Corrigan hesitated on the edge of the six-yard box, Ryan stroked the ball into the net in front of the South Stand. The goal was even more remarkable as Ryan’s close control had to take him across a pitch that was in a terrible state.
The 4-1 victory that day remains our joint-biggest win in the top flight, matched by victories by the same score against Coventry City (1980/81), Manchester City again (1981/82) and Swansea City last February at the Amex.
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