Brighton and Hove Albion aim for a repeat of their 5-4 thriller at Sheffield United

Albion travel north on Saturday, for the first top-flight meeting with Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.

Thursday, 20th February 2020, 8:40 pm
Updated Friday, 21st February 2020, 1:25 pm
Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Graham Potter will need an inspired performance at Sheffield United

Graham Potter’s men will be hoping to avenge the narrow defeat at The Amex last December. It will be a difficult task for Albion. Just three of our nine victories over the Blades have come on the road, the last in 2005, courtesy of a last-minute Leon Knight winner.

I always try and look back to a famous Albion victory when I’m researching this column. For Sheffield United away however, there really is only one place to go, a nine-goal thriller at Bramall Lane that saw fluctuating fortunes for both sides, before United ran out winners by the narrowest of margins.

The 1989/90 campaign, under Barry Lloyd, had started impressively, to the amazement of most fans. Wins at home to Bournemouth and Port Vale sandwiched a narrow defeat to Barnsley and expectations, as is usual with Albion fans, were beginning to build.

Albion had John Keeley in goal, with a back four of Gary Chivers, Steve Gatting, Nicky Bissett and Ian Chapman. In midfield, Alan Curbishley and Dean Wilkins were alongside Paul Wood. Up front, Garry Nelson, Kevin Bremner and Robert Codner were hoping to continue the good start to the season.

In the Sheffield United team was Bob Booker, who was to become part of the successful management at Albion in the early 2000s, working alongside Mickey Adams.

It was Booker who opened the scoring after just 10 minutes and after half an hour, Albion found themselves 3-0 down, after further goals from Ian Bryson and John Francis. Despite this disastrous start, Albion hit back and Paul Wood reduced the deficit after 34 minutes. It stayed that way until half-time, when Barry Lloyd was grateful to have his team back in the dressing room.

His words had an immediate impact, as Kevin Bremner scored within 3 minutes of the re-start to make it 3-2. Fifteen minutes later Albion found themselves level as Bremner smashed home his second of the game. After 68 minutes, Albion were in dreamland when another from Wood put the Seagulls into the lead.

At 4-3, away from home, it would have been sensible for Albion to sit back and protect their hard-won lead but to Barry Lloyd’s annoyance, we let Bryson in for his second. This made it 4-4 with less than 15 minutes left in the game. United snatched victory with minutes remaining, as Francis scored his second and United’s 5th of the game.

In his programme notes for the following home game, Barry Lloyd looked back at the post-match inquest. “For a good 15 minutes we had a bit of a ding-dong argument in the dressing room afterwards. To throw the points away in the manner we did was, I thought, irresponsible”.

He did however recognise the fighting qualities of the team. “Credit must be given for our tremendous fightback. Many sides would be dead and buried at 3-0 down after half an hour”.

The week after this incredible game we went to Wolves and won 4-2. This was followed by another victory at The Goldstone, 3-0 against West Ham United. A home defeat to Newcastle United on 21 October was to be the turning point and we slipped from 6th to 22nd in just three months.

Despite demonstrations against Lloyd, we managed to salvage some form and finished the season 18th, six points and four places above the relegation zone.

The memory of the game at Bramall Lane has lingered long for Albion fans and whilst we would not want to see a repeat of the result, a thrilling game like that one in September 1989 would be very welcome.