Albion Nostalgia: When ten-man Brighton held on to win at Wolves
Not many people would have predicted the extent to which Wolverhampton Wanderers have coped in their first season back in The Premier League.
Nuno Espírito Santo has taken the division by storm and they will be pushing for a good end to the campaign.
It was the same in 1990/91, albeit in a different division. Albion under Barry Lloyd, and Wolves with Graham Turner at the helm, both had ambitions of promotion into the top flight.
When we travelled to Molineux in January 1991, the teams were separated only by goal difference. Wolves were in eighth place, just outside the play-off positions, which went down to seventh place, due to an increase in the top flight numbers for the following season.
Barry Lloyd’s Albion side were struggling for consistency, with terrible performances at Sheffield Wednesday and Oldham Athletic, interspersed with superb displays at Ipswich Town and Port Vale. Striker John Byrne had been injured since mid-December, so Lloyd decided to shuffle his pack slightly.
The ever-dependent Perry Digweed stayed in goal, behind a back four of Steve Gatting, Johnny Crumplin, Gary Chivers and Paul McCarthy. The midfield comprised Dean Wilkins, Mark Barham and Clive Walker, with Mike Small and Robert Codner joined by Brian Wade.
Wade had impressed Barry Lloyd by scoring a hat-trick for the reserve team during a trial period the previous September. His one previous appearance had come from the substitute’s bench in October 1990, but the game against Wolves was his full debut. He certainly made an impression, scoring after just 17 minutes.
Albion’s joy was short-lived, as Wolves equalised just a minute later, through their prolific striker Steve Bull. Robert Codner restored our lead after 33 minutes, before being sent off in controversial circumstances. Dean Wilkins had gone down under a heavy challenge and Codner was remonstrating with the referee to stop the game. His forceful protests did not impress the man in black, who sent him off.
Barry Lloyd was furious. “I felt it was totally unnecessary. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on referees but let’s hope that a great deal more consistency and common sense is in evidence during the second half of the season”.
The game remained finely-balanced in the second half, and Albion must have thought they had the points in the bag, before Andy Mutch equalised for Wolves with just 14 minutes remaining. This time, it was Albion’s turn to produce a swift response, as Mark Barham popped up with the third Albion goal on 81 minutes. We held on for a brilliant 3-2 win, that lifted us up to tenth.
For Wade, the story was not quite over. The following week he scored all four goals in the home win against Newcastle United. Unfortunately, he couldn’t maintain that kind of form, only making a handful of further appearances that season.
While Albion went on to scrape into the play-offs on the final day of the season, Wolves finished 12th, after a poor run of form that brought them just two wins in their final fifteen matches.
With just five games to go in this Premier League season, Albion know that despite Wolves’ success, we must go to Molineux with purpose. Just two years ago, almost to the week, our 2-0 victory took us closer to the top flight.
Some of that battling spirit will be very welcome on Saturday.
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