The home roar of the Amex could well prove crucial for Brighton against Watford
By Ian Hine
All Premier League games are vital, but some are more vital than others. This is certainly true of this weekend’s game at The Amex, when Albion welcome Watford.
The Hornets have featured throughout Albion’s Football League history and Saturday’s meeting will be the 116th in our history. Albion have 45 wins, Watford 36, with 34 draws.
The first game between the two sides came in April 1921, when Watford won 3-0 at The Goldstone in front of a crowd of 10,000. Our paths diverged in 1958 when we won the old Division Three (South) and Watford moved in the opposite direction to the newly-formed Division Four.
It was a 6-0 defeat of Watford that secured the title and our first ever promotion. It is difficult to assess the relative importance of games across different eras, but I would argue that the game on Saturday is as important as that one back in 1958.
We have met just seven times in the top flight, the most recent of which was Albion’s opening day win this season.
For this week’s look back however, we drop down a division to the Division Two campaign in 1990/91, a season that saw us reach the play-offs and Watford flirt with relegation.
In January 1991, we were beginning to show signs of the form that would see us at Wembley just five months later. In his notes for the game, Albion boss Barry Lloyd talked about the need for consistency from his players.
He also asks for consistency from referees and looks back to a recent game in which Robert Codner was dismissed for “asking the referee to stop play and allow immediate medical attention for a player”.
Watford, under boss Steve Perryman, were playing well following the appointment of the ex-Spurs defender. He had only been at Vicarage Road for two months, in which time he had overseen an eight-game unbeaten run.
Their defence included Keith Dublin, who had been signed from Albion in the summer of 1990. In goal was 20-year-old David James, who was to enjoy a distinguished career with (among others) Liverpool and England.
The previous week had seen us dispose of Newcastle 4-2, with Brian Wade scoring all four. It was his debut, after being offered a trial by Barry Lloyd and he took his chance with aplomb. He retained his place in what Barry Lloyd was hoping to be a settled line-up for the second half of the season.
Perry Digweed continued in goal, behind a back four of John Crumplin, Steve Gatting, Paul McCarthy and Gary Chivers. In midfield, Robert Codner was joined by Dean Wilkins, Clive Walker and Mark Barham. Up front, Wade partnered Mike Small.
The first half was a stroll for Albion and we were two goals up at the break, thanks to a Mike Small penalty and Robert Codner. Lloyds message at the break was “more of the same” and we obliged with a professional second half display.
Substitutes John Byrne and Ian Chapman came on for Wade and Small and our dominance was rewarded with another penalty, this time converted by Codner.
The win kept us in 6th position and proved to be the impetus that Barry Lloyd wanted. After the Watford game, we stayed in touch with the top-six, until the drama on the last day, when Dean Wilkins sublime free-kick took us into the play-offs.
Saturday’s game is crucial for both teams but with home advantage, Albion will be hoping to pull clear of the teams at the bottom of the table.