Brighton v Bolton, 1979: our first ever top flight victory

Match magazine published a double-spread photo-feature to commemorate the Seagulls’ first ever win in the First Division:


After defeats to Arsenal, Aston Villa and Manchester City, the taste of victory was most welcome. And it was surprisingly easy to obtain. From the Evening Argus, entitled ‘Real hot win for Seagulls’:

At their fourth attempt, Albion gained their first Division One win this afternoon, beating Bolton 3-1 before a 20,171 Goldstone crowd.

Albion were easily the better side and well deserved to beat unbeaten Bolton, who had previously drawn with Aston Villa and Liverpool and beaten Southampton.

Albion got off to a cracking start with a Peter Ward goal after 12 minutes. Paul Clark increased the lead ten minutes later.

After dominating the first half, Albion conceded a soft goal at 56 minutes when Mike Walsh sneaked in to head home following a corner.

Any doubts that Albion would be involved in a cliff-hanger finished were dispelled when skipper Brian Horton scored their third goal with 20 minutes remaining.

The disappointing crowd had full value for money as Albion triumphed with an all round team effort. They left the pitch to warm applause.

After defeat to Arsenal, Aston Villa and Manchester City, this was a satisfactory breaking of the ice – and on a day when the temperatures soared!

Albion fielded an unchanged side with Ryan as sub while Bolton dropped Nicholson and introduced Burke for only his second League game. It was Foster’s First Division debut.

Horton shot over after four minutes following a strong run by Sayer, but already Bolton looked a well organised side.

When Bolton attacked down the left and then hit long balls through the middle, Foster got up each time to head vigorously away.

After only 12 minutes Worthington, who has returned to Bolton on Tuesday after playing in the United States, was spoken to be the referee for a foul. And from the free kick Albion took the lead through Ward following a neat one-two with Clark. The return pass found Ward moving into space and his finish was quite deadly to give Albion their first Division One goal at the Goldstone.

Brighton's first ever Division One goal at the Goldstone... by Magic!

Brighton’s first ever Division One goal at the Goldstone… by Magic!

Back came Bolton and Horton did well to block a long range drive from McNab.

Next it was Lawrenson’s turn to snatch the ball off Gowling’s foot and Albion’s answer was to slow down the tempo with O’Sullivan dictating the tactics from midfield.

Maybank got his head to a long through ball by Lawrenson and it touched Walsh’s head and went for another corner. This time Foster went up for Gregory’s cross only for Bolton to clear.

The non-stop pressure paid off when Clark drove Albion further ahead at 22 minutes. Maybank pressed the ball down to him and Clark, belting in from the edge of the box, gave it everything and his shot kept low and sped very fast past McDonagh’s right hand.

Easy Tiger... Clark doubles the lead

Easy Tiger… Clark doubles the lead

It was the first time this season that Bolton had had two goals scored against them in a League match. They could not have complaint at being behind at this stage as Albion had struck a purple patch and were tearing them apart.

When Maybank was tripped he angrily demanded a foul, but the referee waved play-on. When Maybank persisted he was booked.

Horton headed just over the top at the half-hour from Williams’ cross. The move was surely worth another goal but Horton got up a fraction too high with his final effort.

The ease with which Albion were getting their crosses in was giving them a great deal of power and Gregory, in particular, was behind most of the pressure down the right. Also, Horton was winning his midfield battle with McNab.

When Ward put Sayer through, Bolton’s defence was in a terrible tangle and between them Burke and McDonagh were happy to scramble the ball away for a corner.

Only weight of numbers kept Ward out as another scramble took place by the near post as McDonagh was caught in two minds.

Albion’s work rate in the half had been tremendous considering the heat which made conditions all against good football.

Ward, receiving from O’Sullivan, had a shot charged down as the half-time whistle blew. Albion left the field to a standing ovation.

After 53 minutes Jones was booked for a foul on Ward. Before the free kick could be taken Nowak replaced Worthington. Foster moved smartly to get his head to a long through ball but could not avoid conceding a corner. The flag kick was taken by Greaves. When it swung out Walsh rushed from the edge of the area, got his head to it sharply and headed low past Moseley and a crowd of players from a good ten yards.

Now Bolton had something to fight for. Nowak had gone to the right wing and they looked to his pace to split Albion.

Bolton were coming much more into the game with 30 minutes remaining, and McNab was allowed to run 25 yards without a challenge. Luckily for Albion his final effort went past the final post.

Walsh was booked for a foul on Gregory at 65 minutes. Then came a tremendous mix up in Bolton’s goalmouth when McDonagh succeeded in grabbing the ball from Maybank on the line.

And at 70 minutes Horton eased Albion’s anxiety with a spectacular 25-yard goal. A free-kick by O’Sullivan found Horton unmarked and when he saw McDonagh off his line, he placed his shot perfectly over his head and into the back of the net.

A minute later Clark was replaced by Ryan.

In the last five minutes Williams had a tremendous run down the left, but when the pass came through Ward ballooned over the top.

Although the next Division One match was lost narrowly, away to Spurs, Brighton and Hove Albion’s fine September continued as they beat a very experienced Ipswich Town side in the next League fixture at the Goldstone. By the time the side stormed back from 2-0 down to snatch a point against West Bromwich Albion towards the end of the month, the side stood 16th in the table. Could it be that this top flight survival business was looking like a doddle?

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2 thoughts on “Brighton v Bolton, 1979: our first ever top flight victory

  1. Richard says:

    Mmmm not sure it was an unchanged side if it was Fosters debut ?

    • I’ve just had a read back and I have quoted John Vinicombe word for word. He didn’t mention the Cambridge game in the League Cup, which came before this. So the Albion were unchanged from the Cambridge game, where Foster made his actual debut.

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