Our record against Chelsea stretches back eighty-five years but in that time, we have only met the Blues on ten occasions.
Albion’s only victory came in the first meeting, an FA Cup third round tie in January 1933, when goals from Arthur Attwood and Tug Wilson brought a 2-1 victory at The Goldstone.
For this week’s column, I am going back to a time when Chelsea and Manchester City were battling at the top of the table.
Not, as you may think, in the top flight, but in Division Two. When the Blues travelled to Hove for a Wednesday night fixture in March 1989, they were second, just one point behind City in the race to get back to Division One.
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Albion had been promoted the previous season but were struggling towards the foot of the table, despite a decent home record. Leading up to the Chelsea game, we were unbeaten in 11 games at The Goldstone. The previous home game against Blackburn Rovers had seen an impressive 3-0 victory and Albion Manager Barry Lloyd was hoping the run would continue. “We extended our run with a thoroughly professional team performance, especially in the second half”. He went on to praise striker Garry Nelson, who scored twice. “Garry could have had a hat trick in the end and we could have finished up with four or five”.
He stuck with his tried and tested formula on the pitch, with John Keeley in goal behind a back four of Gary Chivers, Ian Chapman, Larry May and Keith Dublin. In midfield, Johnny Crumplin, Dean Wilkins, Mike Trusson and Adrian Owers were tasked with supplying Garry Nelson and Kevin Bremner with chances. Paul Wood and Alan Curbishley were on the bench.
Chelsea had Dave Beasant in goal and with Graham Roberts and Steve Clarke in defence, along with Kerry Dixon up front, Albion knew they were in for a tough evening.
We knew that the only way to stand a chance of getting a result was to take the game to Chelsea and the team carried out Lloyd’s instructions well. We had a number of chances to go ahead, with Kevin Bremner causing problems for the Blues’ defence and Larry May a real threat at set-pieces. Dave Beasant said after the game that he had had one of his busiest games of the season, but we couldn’t find a way past the giant goalkeeper. We eventually succumbed to a goal from striker Kevin Wilson, but the 1-0 scoreline was perhaps more than Chelsea deserved.
The rest of the season was tough for Lloyd’s men and although we finished nine points clear of relegation, it was a troubled return to Division Two. John Keeley won the Player of the Season award and Garry Nelson, with 16 goals, topped the scoring charts, just ahead of Kevin Bremner on 15.
Chelsea won 11 of their remaining 13 games and ended up seventeen points clear of Manchester City to win the division with ease.
That was to be our last meeting until the Premier League clash last season. Our recent good form will hopefully hold us in good stead on Sunday afternoon.