Albion Nostalgia: A look back on when Brighton picked up a crucial win against nine-man Leicester
Brighton & Hove Albion have played Leicester City just 31 times in our history. The first was an FA Cup third round tie in 1931 but we then had to wait until the 1978/79 season for the next meeting.
Since then, there have been some dramatic encounters. Who can forget the incredible night at Withdean in 2008, when after being two goals down at half-time, Albion fought back to claim a victory. In 1994, we triumphed in the League Cup after a fantastic 3-0 aggregate victory.
Perhaps the most dramatic game of all was the Easter Monday game in April 1981. Albion were languishing at the bottom of Division One, and faced with having to win our last four games in order to have any chance of staying up.
The first stage of the task had been completed just two days previously, with a thumping 3-0 win at already-relegated Crystal Palace. The Foxes were also hovering on the brink of a return to Division Two, so the stakes couldn’t have been higher.
Seagulls boss Alan Mullery, perhaps mindful of the importance of this game, and those coming up, made a couple of changes from the excellent win at Selhurst Park.
In goal, Graham Moseley came in for Perry Digweed and Gary Stevens replaced Chris Ramsay in the back four. Otherwise it was an unchanged team with Steve Foster, Mark Lawrenson and Gary Williams joining Stevens across the back.
In midfield, Brian Horton, John Gregory, Peter O’Sullivan and Gordon Smith were tasked with supplying the ammunition for Andy Ritchie and Michael Robinson to (hopefully) score us the goals that would take us closer to safety.
Things didn’t start too well, as Kevin MacDonald gave Leicester City the lead, which they held until half-time. The crowd of 21,179 were getting restless and Mullery demanded a big 45 minutes from the Albion team.
The spectators certainly got what they wanted, not without a little help from the City players. With two of their players receiving red cards, the advantage was handed to the Seagulls and we took full advantage. Goals from Robinson and Gregory gave us a crucial win and a real chance of avoiding the drop.
The drama was not yet over that season. The following Saturday we travelled north to Roker Park for a game against Sunderland and a last-gasp winner from Williams gave us a famous victory, our third in a row.
The final day defeat of Leeds United sealed a Houdini-like escape for Albion. The Easter win against the Foxes had all but sealed their fate, but they almost pulled a rabbit out of the hat on the last day of the season. They won away at Norwich City, but an unlikely win for Sunderland at Anfield left them in the bottom three, along with Crystal Palace and Norwich City.
The game on Saturday won’t be quite as tense as that Easter game in 1981, but the stakes are just as high and lets hope the result is the same!
More Albion programmes, fanzines and handbooks can be viewed at www.seagullsprogrammes.co.uk
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