1973: Brighton 0-4 Walton & Hersham – Albion’s worst FA Cup defeat

Here is the team photo of amateurs Walton and Hersham, with ex-Albion players Colin Woffinden and Dave Sargent, plus future football manager Dave Bassett in the back row. And, in the front row, if Brighton supporters were not familiar with Clive Foskett at the start of the FA Cup 1st Round replay at the Goldstone, his name would be on everyone’s lips by the end.

Back row: Colin Woffinden, Dave Sargent, Russell Perkins, Dave Bassett, Gary Bloom, David Donaldson, Chris Lambert. Front row: Billy Edwards, Dave Morris, Bob Wingate, Clive Foskett, Willie Smith.

Back row: Colin Woffinden, Dave Sargent, Russell Perkins, Dave Bassett, Gary Bloom, David Donaldson, Chris Lambert.
Front row: Billy Edwards, Dave Morris, Bob Wingate, Clive Foskett, Willie Smith.

Forty years today, the Argus carried its match report of one of the most shameful displays in the club’s history. Having got lucky in scraping a 0-0 draw in Walton, Brian Clough’s Brighton & Hove Albion contrived to lose 4-0 at home to the Isthmian League side who had won the FA Amateur Cup in 1972/73. The match was played at 1.45pm on Wednesday afternoon as the country’s power crisis meant floodlight use could not be guaranteed.

In a piece titled ‘Albion’s worst in 75 years of cup history’, John Vinicombe described the nightmare performance. Read it and weep!

Ronnie Howell challenges for a high ball in the Walton goalmouth, with Lammie Robertson in attendance

Ronnie Howell challenges for a high ball in the Walton goalmouth, with Lammie Robertson in attendance

Albion’s total humiliation by amateurs Walton and Hersham was the worst defeat suffered by the club since they entered the FA Cup as Brighton United in season 1898-99 [sic].

The manner in which they were swept aside and plunged to a 4-0 First Round replay defeat stunned the 9.857 Goldstone crowd. For Walton’s jubilant fans, who had come prepared for the worst, it turned into a storybook occasion.

There was always a feeling of anxiety about this momentous second meeting that began at the unusual hour of 1.45. Albion’s supporters were strangely muted from the start, and the sparsely populated North Stand, without its youthful choir, hardly made themselves heard.

A sense of foreboding gripped the fans when schoolmaster Russell Perkins stooped to conquer after 20 minutes, and the tie turned into nightmarish proportions for Albion when Clive Foskett, a 28 year-old joiner who works at the British Natural History Museum, hammered a hat-trick in the last eight minutes.

Perkins heads the opener

Perkins heads the opener

The result gives Walton a place in the record-books as sensation makers of the first order. But where does that leave Albion?

The club have entered into an exciting new era with one of the best managers in the game. Yesterday’s display was too bad to be true. Some players gave everything; others did not.

Afterwards Clough betrayed no emotion. He is too well disciplined for that. When he spoke of his ‘poor lads’ it was his way of expressing the deep-felt understanding he has for the position of the professional who is always expected to win such confrontations.

The Clough honeymoon is over as he watches the 4-0 defeat with Glen Wilson.

The Clough honeymoon is over as he watches the 4-0 defeat with Glen Wilson.

What he says privately to his players can only be imagined; the point is that with such a small staff there is not a lot he can do right now.

Until Clough and assistant Peter Taylor move permanently to Brighton, the full impact of their presence will not be felt by the players. The side have yet to score at home under Clough. When Albion were without a manager for a short time, they hammered Southport 4-0. That was just over a month ago.

Is there some sort of moral here? Has the arrival of a man so steeped in success, and possessing such a reputation, suddenly caused the players to seize up?

A goal blight of 270 minutes at the Goldstone is a curious state of affairs, and in the context of this debacle pinpoint the structural weaknesses of the side.

Albion lost to Walton primarily because the midfield was wanting, while up front only Tony Towner, the substitute, provided the sort of service that wins matches.

Pat Hilton did all that could reasonably be expected of him, but elsewhere were performances that must have brought an angry blush to Clough’s cheeks.

The dramatic Foskett hat-trick came at a time when Albion were pushing numbers up in a frantic attempt to equalise. They had more of the game territorially than Walton, but failed to use the ball as well.

In midfield they were outsmarted. Only in terms of fitness were Albion superior, and they relied too much on running Walton off their feet.

Walton absorbed the pressure like a sponge, had men of heart and character, and not a few players who showed a greater desire for the ball when it was obvious somebody was going to be hurt…

The turning point came early in the second half when Barry Bridges just failed to divert a loose ball past the heroic Gary Bloom. Albion never went so close to scoring again, despite a stream of flag kicks.

Walton and Hersham goalkeeper Gary Bloom misses a cross, as Barry Bridges just fails to score at the near post.

Walton and Hersham goalkeeper Gary Bloom misses a cross, as Barry Bridges just fails to score at the near post.

Yet only minutes before hand Foskett had missed an open goal. He blamed himself afterwards and seemed more concerned about that mistake than basking in the glory of a hat-trick.

Foskett has not enjoyed much of Walton’s limelight. He was on the substitute’s bench at Wembley at the end of a strange season that saw him score 23 goals before Christmas and then lose his edge completely.

Foskett said: “This is the highlight of my career, although nothing can make up for not playing in a final at Wembley. I was left so much space at the back by Brighton, and I had all the time to think about all three goals.”

His goals, demonstrated perfect versatility, two with the right foot, the last one from the left foot.

Albion were hit by a thigh injury to Stephen Piper ten minutes from the interval. There is little doubt Towner would have come on anyway, but Piper’s loss weakened the defence.

Eddie Spearritt switched to partner Norman Gall, Peter O’Sullivan moved to the left-wing, and Bridges slotted into the midfield.

Walton prospered as a result, and seldom can such an experienced international player like Bridges have cause to be so dissatisfied with his contribution to a game. In my book it was nil…

The grim message for Albion is that Clough has a monumental task ahead. Realist as he is, there can be no illusions on yesterday’s score. Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise.

There is time to prevent the rot spreading further. But I’ll wager Clough never expected it to be like this…

Goalchart
Twenty minutes:
Smith’s corner was flicked on by Lambert. Powney failed to make contact and Gall was the wrong side of Perkins who got down like an old man with lumbago to head the simplest of goals. 0-1.

Eighty-two minutes: A long ball out of defence caught Albion upfield. Walton had Foskett and Perkins haring through the middle, and with Powney unprotected, Foskett scored from a precise Perkins pass. 0-2.

Eighty-four minutes: The same long ball caught Albion napping again, this time it was Smith who put Foskett away to crack a beauty. 0-3.

Eighty-nine minutes: Just to show it was no fluke, Foskett broke away again. The long ball came from Morris, and away went Foskett to drill in his best goal. 0-4.

Albion: Powney; Templeman, Ley, Spearritt, Gall, Piper, Bridges, Howell (R), Hilton, Robertson, O’Sullivan. Sub: Towner for Piper (injured) 35 minutes.

Walton and Hersham: G Bloom, D Sargent, C Lambert, D Donalson, W Edwards, D Bassett, C Woffinden, W Smith, R Perkins, C Foskett, D Morris. Sub R Wingate.

Referee: Mr GC Kew (Amersham).

Bookings: Ley (foul).

Walton and Hersham players raise a cheer to their 4-0 win in the dressing room

Walton and Hersham players raise a cheer to their 4-0 win in the dressing room

Years later, in Brian Clough’s ‘Autobiography’ (1994), he recalled comedian Eric Sykes’ lucky escape after the match:

‘I was involved in a first round FA Cup tie against mighty Walton and Hersham! A bunch of bloody amateurs, and they beat us 4-0. I’ve had some bad days in football but that must have been one of the worst. He won’t know it until he reads this, or until a pal reads it and tells him, but comedian Eric Sykes had never been in greater danger of a smack in the mouth than he was that day. I think he was president of the Walton club, or at least held some position there. Anyway, he was perfectly entitled to feel chuffed, having seen the little team of nobodies produce possibly the greatest result in their history and one of the big Cup upsets of the day.

As I walked through a passage after the match I could hear his raised voice as he stood with a phone in his hand, obviously giving me some right stick. I heard him gloating about something about ‘Cloughie… ha, ha, ha.’ I had never met him in my life but I’d laughed my socks off whenever I saw him on TV – and still do when they play the old clips. But that afternoon I would have taken great delight in punching him. If only I had shown similar self-control, years later, on that infamous night when supporters invaded the pitch at Nottingham Forest!’

Oh, and have I mentioned that video footage of this cup replay does exist? It clearly should be banned, though! It’s only sixteen seconds and there is no sound. I’ll leave you to decide whether to be regretful or thankful that it doesn’t feature any of the goals:

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