Classic match report by John Vinicombe from the Evening Argus in September 1975:
Fighting Albion sink pacemakers Palace
Albion shattered the unbeaten seven-match run of Third Division leaders Crystal Palace last night before a crowd of 25,606 – the best for two seasons at Selhurst Park – with a goal after only three minutes from new loan signing Barry Butlin.
Having seized a dramatic lead Albion fought to stay in front and redeem themselves after that abject defeat at Colchester.
In the physical battle Albion came out on top – a fact ruefully acknowledged by Malcolm Allison: “They marked us very tight and they kicked us. We missed three tremendous chances that should have been put away. For football we slaughtered them… how many shots did Brighton have, three, four? We were beaten by frustration. You can outplay a side and not beat them. That is what happened to us.”
As a strict contrast to the Palace manager, Peter Taylor confined himself to the pertinent comment: “I was delighted with the result, but I have talked too much this week. The lads did the talking out there tonight.”
Indeed, they did: it was a performance that could well herald the much-promised revival. This was no ordinary League match.
The exchanges were conducted in a cup-tie atmosphere, and the cut-and-thrust carried through with the zest of deadly rivals.
No quarter was asked, or given, but not once did I see a vicious or mean foul awarded by the TWO referees. The first half was run by Denis Turner of Cannock. But he strained an ankle and the second period saw John Hazell from Colchester promoted from senior linesman to the middle.
On 22 occasions Albion were penalised, while Palace had 18 free kicks given against them. This stiffening of resistance by Albion was a direct contrast to their last outing when Allison had them watched. “I was told that Brighton didn’t fight very hard. Well, you saw them tonight… the teams that will go up from this division will be those who fight every week, not just here and there.”
Albion can take this as a compliment and start believing themselves away from home. The first free kick of the match produced the only goal and a first for Albion from Butlin. Machin split Palace with his artful kick and Fell, with room to move, hit a low cross that Binney jumped over. When the ball arrived at the far post, Butlin’s shot was unstoppable.
Barry Butlin was a former Derby and Luton striker who had topped the Second Division scoring charts when his seventeen goals helped the Hatters to promotion in 1973/74. (You can see footage of him scoring for Luton in a remarkable game in the snow and fading light against Huddersfield). He had joined Nottingham Forest in a £120,000 deal in October 1974. Making smart use of his ties with Brian Clough, Brighton boss Peter Taylor was able to secure Butlin on loan in September 1975. The goal at Selhurst Park was in the second of the attacker’s five appearances with the Albion. He followed up his Selhurst winner in the next game with another goal as Brighton romped to a 3-0 win against Chesterfield at the Goldstone.
The two successive victories pushed Brighton up to sixth position, a welcome relief after three successive campaigns battling relegation. Nevertheless, inspired by the flamboyant Malcolm Allison and breathtaking wing-play of Peter Taylor (as opposed to the then Brighton boss of the same name), Crystal Palace were still sitting pretty at the top of Division Three, with the loss to the Albion their only League reverse of the season so far. It was still their sole defeat by 6th December when the South London side held a yawning seven point gap between them and second place Brighton. Surely an unbridgeable gap? In the promotion chase that followed, however, Albion completed the League double over Crystal Palace in February 1976, with Sammy Morgan getting both goals at the Goldstone. Helped by wins such as this, Brighton held the runners-up slot as late as 3rd April 1976, before a run of one win in the last five matches ended their dreams. As for Crystal Palace, they seemed distracted by a wonderful run to the FA Cup Semi-Final where they enjoyed famous victories over Leeds, Chelsea and Sunderland. The League form of Malcolm Allison’s side imploded and they finished the campaign weakly with one win in eight matches. By the season’s conclusion, they had nosedived to fifth spot, one place behind the Albion.