The 21 meetings between the two Albions have all been in the league, apart from the very first one, a cup-tie back in September 1976. The Baggies have the edge, with nine wins to our five, with seven draws.
The cup meeting came not in the FA Cup, but the League Cup. The Seagulls were at the start of what was to be an incredible season that ended in promotion from Division Three. We also had a new manager, Alan Mullery having taken over less than 24 hours after the resignation of Peter Taylor in July 1976.
We started the season strongly and in mid-September, we were unbeaten and top. A 2-0 defeat to Grimsby Town was followed by a 7-2 thrashing of York City, which set us up nicely for the trip to the Hawthorns. We had already disposed of one top flight team, Ipswich, 2-1 at the Goldstone in the previous round.
Mullery was still tinkering with his line-up, but the team was beginning to take shape. In goal for the match at West Brom was Peter Grummitt. Originally signed on loan by Brian Clough, the 34-year-old was a fan favourite and he was to play a key role in our promotion in 1976/77.
Across the back were full-backs Ken Tiler and Harry Wilson, alongside centre-backs Graham Cross and Dennis Burnett. In midfield, Brian Horton was beginning to show the qualities that had persuaded Taylor to sign him the previous March. He was alongside Steve Piper, Peter O’Sullivan and Gerry Fell.
Up front, Fred Binney lost his place to Ian Mellor, who was the perfect foil for the livewire Peter Ward, who was embarking on his best ever goalscoring season.
The Baggies were managed by the veteran Johnny Giles, who was still playing at the time. Also in the side, was future England captain Bryan Robson and Scottish international winger Willie Johnston.
Despite our good start to the season, no-one gave us too much of a chance against a team that had made a good start to their first division campaign. However, we were magnificent throughout and never gave our first division opponents a single chance.
We went ahead after just three minutes, when brilliant play between Fell and Mellor led to Ward going through to slot home.
The Albion striker doubled our lead on 30 minutes. His quick footwork took him clear and he crashed the ball into the net from a tight angle.
The second half was more of the same and things got worse for West Brom when Willie Johnston was sent off.
It was all over for the Baggies and the Seagulls had another first division scalp. We went out in the next round, but not before we gave Derby County a real scare. A 1-1 draw at the Goldstone saw another goal from Ward, in front of 33,500. The replay was a step too far for Mullery’s men and we slipped to a 2-1 defeat. The cup run gave us added impetus for the rest of the season, as Ward wrote himself into the history books with 36 goals in all competitions.
It will be our first meeting in the FA Cup on Saturday and this could provide fresh impetus, this time for Premier League survival and who knows, maybe a cup run all the way to Wembley!
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