Looking back at Brighton and Hove Albion's first win against West Bromwich Albion 44 years ago
The 24 meetings between the two Albions date back to a League Cup tie in September 1976. Since then, we have met ten times in the top flight, eight in the second tier and three more cup-ties.
The most recent of these was in January and February 2019 when we won 3-1 in a replay, on our way to the semi-final.
The Seagulls have emerged victorious on six occasions and I’m going back to the first of those victories, the League Cup win 44 years ago.
Brighton 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 of the table. 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 having been beaten 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.
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 Peter 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 as well as 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. Alan Mullery however, had different ideas and he sent the team out to really take the game to The Baggies. We were magnificent throughout and never gave our first division opponents a single chance.
We took the lead after just three minutes, when brilliant play between Gerry Fell and Ian Mellor led to Pater Ward going through to slot home. The Albion striker doubled our lead on 30 minutes but this time, it was all his own work. His quick footwork took him clear but as he ran towards goal, the angle seemed impossible. Ian Mellor had made up ground and everyone expected Ward to square the ball. Instead, he crashed the ball into the net to send the travelling Albion fans into delirium.
The second half was more of the same and things got worse for West Brom when Willie Johnston was sent off. The volatile Scotsman had been dismissed nine times already in a career dogged by controversy. He was sent off for kicking out at referee Derek Lloyd!
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 Wardy, 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 Peter Ward wrote himself into the history books with 36 goals in all competitions.
We meet on Monday for the 25th time, with Graham Potter’s men looking to build on an encouraging start to the season. A win could well provide another springboard for a successful season, just like the one in 1976.