Sammy’s double puts Palace on the rocks

After spells with Port Vale and Aston Villa, the Northern Ireland centre-forward Sammy Morgan joined Brighton in December 1975. Although a regular in the Albion side, it took him under the Goldstone clash with Crystal Palace on 24th February 1976 for him to get on the scoresheet. Here’s how Jack Steggles of the Daily Mirror reported the action the following morning:

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Irish international Sammy Morgan last night repaid a large chunk of his £35,000 transfer by shooting the goals that brought Brighton’s dream of Second Division football a step nearer.

The goals were Morgan’s first since he joined Brighton from Aston Villa eight games ago. And he could not have chosen a better time to score them.

The victory lifted breezy Brighton into second place and proved another League setback for poor Palace who have now notched just one win in their last 12 matches.

Morgan struck his first blow in the 13th minute to set the full house crowd of 33,300 – Brighton’s biggest for four years – roaring.

A long cross from Ernie Machin was headed on by Ian Mellor and Morgan darted in behind a static Palace defence to apply the killer touch.

And in the 55th minute Morgan did it again.

This time Tony Towner set it up with a probing run deep into the heart of the Palace defence.

His final shot was kicked away by Paul Hammond – and Morgan had the rebound in the net in a flash.

Brighton’s delighted manager Peter Taylor said: “In view of the tremendous tension and atmosphere generated by the crowd I thought we gave a magnificent performance.

Palace are still a skilful side and I have no intention of knocking them.

“I am delighted for Morgan. It must have given him a great boost to get a couple of goals like this.”

Palace boss Malcolm Allison put on a customary bold face, and predicted his faltering side would still win promotion.

He said: “It was an excellent match for the third division and I have no doubt that we will still go up.”

Palace have often claimed, with justification, that they were superior to most of the teams who have beaten them during the deplorable League run that has put their prospects of promotion in grave danger.

They could offer no such argument last night. Brighton were worth their victory – for the basic reason that they were prepared to work much harder.

Palace, in patches, showed some of their smooth skills.

But they seemed to turn their noses when the going got rough – and in the Third Division that is tantamount to signing your own death warrant.

Brighton had the game’s outstanding individual in Welsh international Peter O’Sullivan, who turned in a glittering midfield performance.

By comparison Palace’s England Under-23 star Peter Taylor had a disappointing return from a two-match suspension.

Taylr made little impression as Brighton bustled Palace out of their stride and Palace’s frustrations were shared by an unruly section of their fans.

Louts wearing Palace colours hurled smoke bombs and metal objects onto the pitch after Morgan’s goals.

Referee Ron Challis threatened to abandon the game and police moved in with dogs to restore order.

It was only fair to Brighton that the police did win their battle for it would have been criminal if their hard earned victory march had been checked.

The win completed a league and up double over Crystal Palace, with Albion having won 1-0 at Selhurst Park earlier on in the 1975/76 season.

Growing in confidence and sharpness, Morgan went on to hit five goals in five matches in a prolific spell in March as Albion strode confidently towards promotion. However, the debut and form of Peter Ward put the Northern Ireland striker’s starting place in jeopardy. Never Albion nor Palace gained promotion from Division Three in 1975/76, with Brighton undone by their away record and Palace distracted and overstretched by their impressive FA Cup run that took them to the semi-final.

When the new campaign was in sight, Morgan got off to a bad start in the Alan Mullery era, fracturing a cheekbone in a pre-season friendly with Luton in August 1976. When he recovered, he was unable to break the winning Ward-Mellor partnership and, as a consequence, was a perennial substitute. He was sold to Cambridge in August 1977 for a £15,000 fee.

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