Before the home match with Everton in October 1980, Gordon Smith received The Sun’s Golden Ball award for his hat-trick at Coventry City three days before. Making the presentation was a man who knew all about finding the net, Jimmy Greaves, who hit 44 goals in just 57 matches for England:
It was the second hat-trick of Smith’s career, having scored three of Rangers’ six against Aberdeen two years previously. It was also Albion’s second ever hat-trick in the top flight, following Peter Ward’s three at Molineux in 1979/80.
The result at Highfield Road, in front of just 11,462 supporters, seemed rather unpromising when Coventry raced to a rather flattering 2-0 half-time lead. At the far post, the unmarked Paul Dyson had nodded in Tommy Hutchison’s drive to give the Sky Blues the lead. Then, just before the interval, a lay-off by Mark Hateley set Garry Thompson up to curl a beautiful 20 harder past Albion keeper Graham Moseley. In the second half, Steve Hunt capitalised on a Mark Lawrenson mistake to set up Hutchison for Coventry’s third. Game over… or was it?
As Jack Welling of the Sunday People reported:
Coventry, in front of their smallest crowd in the First Division reckoned without Brighton skipper Horton. He drove his men and fashioned things for the mighty Smith to finish off. The first goal came when Horton slid the ball to Smith to score with Coventry’s defence in a mess.
Then Dyson was beaten by Ward and there was Smith to finish the move with goal number two. With the match almost over, Williams floated a free-kick over to the far post and Smith went up amid a clutch of Brighton players to score.
The three goals in 19 minutes rocked a Coventry crowd that had been chanting ‘We want five’. Alan Mullery summed up his never-say-die approach when he said:
‘All the way through I didn’t think we would lose. Even at half-time when we were two down, I told the lads they could still win it.’
Smith, a £400,000 signing in the summer, even had a chance to win the match late on, something he regrets to this day. He beat Coventry keeper Les Sealey with a fine header but a defender cleared it off the line. Neverthless, he is proud of his goals that afternoon. After the match, he said:
‘We never deserved to be three goals behind, although I admit I was surprised that we got them back. It was a matter of persevering and that’s what we did. Now I’ve got seven goals for Brighton and when the manager bought me he said he expected me to get 12 goals this season so I haven’t got far to go.’