On 2nd January 1982, 4,800 came to see a very tricky FA Cup tie for the Seagulls, on a sloping muddy pitch. It was a match that offered good potential for an explosive giant-killing.
John Motson had started his career in sports journalism with a local newspaper in Barnet, so he must have relished getting behind the mike before this FA Cup Third Round cup tie that pitted the non-Leaguers against First Division Brighton.
After the humiliation at the hands of Walton and Hersham and Leatherhead not so many years before, I doubt many of Brighton’s fans thought it was going to be an easy afternoon.
Barnet were in the Alliance Premier League at the time. In goal was Gary Phillips who was rejected by Brighton when Alan Mullery was in charge. Left-back Graham Pearce (left), aged 22, was keen to make a good impression, especially as the highlights would be on Match of the Day. Maybe a league manager would be interest in his services. Up front was the very skilful Gary Sargent. And, of course, in the dug-out was manager Barry Fry who was taking the Bees to the furthest they had ever been in this cup competition:
After the match, John Vincombe wrote in the Evening Argus:
Instead of a clean, quick and easy kill, Albion found themselves sucked into a war of attrition in the mud. Conditions were the ultimate leveller, but Barnet’s spirit was unquenchable.
They refused to be over-awed at playing hosts to a First Division club and this will go down as possibly the most heroic performance in their history.
Albion simply could not adjust, often making it difficult for themselves bv over elaboration and not paying heed to the classic axiom; ‘Make it simple, make it quick.’
Instead Barnet showed rather more enterprise and Robinson, on his return, could not have wished for a more redoubtable opponent than Campbell who blocked the path to goal quite superbly.
Meanwhile, Barnet manager Barry Fry fumed at the lowly crowd figure, which was half of Underhill’s capacity:
‘It’s a ioke, I’m very disappointed. If anyone let us down it was the Barnet public.’
Even so, Fry was delighted with the result. He said:
‘It would have been an injustice had we lost. We battled, played a bit of football at times and had possibly the two best chances in the match’.
Amazing to think that a season later, Pearce would be appearing for Brighton at the FA Cup Final at Wembley.