Ian Hine looks back to Brighton's great escape against Leicester City in 1981

Leicester City have been frequent visitors since Albion moved to The Amex.

Friday, 22nd November 2019, 5:54 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 5:54 pm
The match day programme of Brighton vs Leicester City in 1981

In February 2012, Will Buckley’s injury-time winner gave us a 1-0 victory and in December 2013, a brace from Ashley Barnes helped us towards a 3-1 win.

We have yet to beat the Foxes in the Premier League, but perhaps our greatest victory over them came in a top-flight meeting in 1981. After a solid start to life in Division One in 1979/80, the following season proved to be more of a struggle.

Manager Alan Mullery made a number of signings at the start of the season, with Gordon Smith, Michael Robinson and Ray McHale coming in. New contracts were given to Mark Lawrenson, Steve Foster and Peter Ward, although the latter moved to Nottingham Forest in October 1980. His replacement was Andy Ritchie, signed for a club-record fee of £500,000.

Results continued to be inconsistent and as we approached the end of the season, relegation looked to be a foregone conclusion. Crystal Palace were having a terrible season and were well adrift at the bottom. With four games to go, Albion were 20th and fighting with Norwich City and Leicester City for safety.

On Easter Saturday Albion dispatched already-relegated Crystal Palace 2-0 but just two days later, came the first of two ‘four-pointers’ as Leicester City came to The Goldstone. A crowd of 21,179, above the season average, came to the ground more in hope than expectation.

Mullery made some changes from the side that had done so well at Selhurst Park. Graham Moseley came in for Perry Digweed and in the back four, Gary Stevens replaced Chris Ramsay. Steve Foster, Mark Lawrenson and Gary Williams completed the back line.

In midfield, John Gregory and Brian Horton were alongside Gordon Smith and Peter O’Sullivan, who had returned to the club earlier in the season. Up front, Michael Robinson and Andy Ritchie were tasked with firing us to safety.

Leicester City had struggled for most of the season, but they stunned the Goldstone crowd, taking the lead through Kevin MacDonald, which they held until half-time. Mullery delivered a trademark half-time volley of criticism to the players and they emerged for the second half with renewed purpose.

John Gregory was full of energy in midfield, building on a superb performance at Selhurst Park. Leicester began to lose discipline and were reduced to nine men, which only served to spur on Albion. The equaliser came when Michael Robinson swept the ball home.

Albion pressed hard for a winner and were rewarded when John Gregory was on hand to turn the ball into the net, giving Albion a crucial victory.

The following week, we travelled to Sunderland and a last-minute Gary Williams winner took us into the last game against Leeds United with a chance at an improbable escape. Another superb performance, with goals from Steve Foster and Andy Ritchie, meant that we had survived against all the odds.

We are not at the end of the season, but Saturday’s game is equally crucial, and Albion will need to be at their best if a very strong Leicester City side are to be beaten.