In a season of big games, they don’t come much bigger than a ‘winner stays up’ clash with your local rivals.
The game on Saturday will be our 99th competitive fixture against Crystal Palace and the result may well go a long way towards deciding how long we will have to wait for the 100th!
This column is all about nostalgia and this week, I’m going to have a look at the games from the 1988/89 season, with the home fixture on Boxing Day, 1988, turning out to be the last league game we played against Palace at the Goldstone.
It was a difficult season for the Albion. In July, 1988, Mike Bamber, the former chairman of the club, passed away at home in Jersey. He presided over the successful period from 1973 to 1984, which included two promotions and the run to the FA Cup final in 1983.
On the pitch it was also a disaster and by the time Palace arrived on Boxing Day, we were sitting 22nd in the table, while Palace were in the top half, just outside the play-off places. We chose the game to put in one of our best performances of the season, although it was a shame only 13,515 were there to see it. This was due in no small measure to the dilapidated state of the Goldstone, which was literally crumbling away beneath our feet.
First half goals from Kevin Bremner and Gary Chivers sent us in at the break two goals up and after a third from Chivers, the Palace goal was just a consolation. It was a superb team performance and one that baffled manager Barry Lloyd, who wondered why we couldn’t do that every week.
The return fixture came on Easter Monday at the end of March, 1989, with Palace still chasing a play-off place and Albion looking nervously over their shoulders.
All this was forgotten as referee Kelvin Morton took centre stage. Albion’s Mike Trusson was sent off and Morton gave no less than FIVE penalties in the game. Four of these were awarded to the home team, but Palace contrived to miss three of them. We scored our solitary penalty, Alan Curbishley slotting home. The game itself finished 2-1 to Palace and they were destined for promotion via the play-offs.
Albion comfortably avoided relegation in the end, but it was to be 13 years before another league fixture between the two clubs. Saturday’s game is one that the Seagulls simply must not lose if we are to play our 100th game against Palace in the Premier League.