Pat Hilton… Clough’s first match winner
After Clough and Taylor took over at Brighton in 1973/74, the club received an unprecedented number of column inches for a Third Division side fighting a relegation battle. Here’s an article entitled ‘Clough miracle wanted… but it will take time’:
Brian Clough and Peter Taylor are not expected to work an overnight miracle on Brighton. But the immediate effect they had on the Third Division club was little short of unbelievable.
Not only did three times the normal gate see Brighton’s first match under the new regime but the players admitted the mere arrival of the two had given them a new lease of life.
More than 16,000 saw Brighton draw 0-0 with York and they cheered virtually every good move made by their team. With that kind of support, Brighton must be on the right road to success.
If that was a triumph for Clough, then so was Brighton’s performance. The man himself was fairly satisfied. He said: “The lads played remarkably well considering it wasn’t an easy match for them. We were all a bit tense. I was delighted with their enthusiasm and courage and this performance has certainly given us something to work on.”
The effect that Clough had in the dressing room was described as “incredible” by Barry Bridges. “I did more running about in this game than I had in the previous 10 matches,” admitted Bridges. “I’m 32 now, but with this chap geeing me up I reckon I can go on playing for several more years. We were a bit on edge before the game and the first thing he told us was to relax. Afterwards he told us he was pleased with the effort we showed and we can work from here and go places.
“Though I was sorry to see Pat Saward go – he was a great coach – I think Brian’s got what it takes to make us a good side. He’s just what the club have been waiting for.”
Brighton chairman Mike Bamber, who talked Clough and Taylor into joining, says Brighton have acquired: “the best football parmership in the world.” And Bamber added: “We’re hoping for the very best, but we are not expecting them to perform miracles overnight.” But it seems already that small miracles are about to happen in this South coast holiday resort.
Such an assertion was given weight in the next match against Huddersfield, on 10th November 1973, at Leeds Road, when Brighton stormed back from 2-0 down. Minus the skills of Frank Worthington, the Terriers had slid down two divisions in two seasons, been relegated alongside Albion in a mutually cataclysmic 1972/73 campaign. However, against Brighton, Huddersfield seemed to be running away with it, when Terry Dolan scored on 38 minutes and then Phil Summerhill doubled the margin ten minutes after half-time.
However, the lead was not to last, due to some hitherto unseen Albion resilience. Ken Beamish headed Albion back into the game 25 minutes from the end and Bridges earned the point with a searing shot from the right wing following a pass from the impressive George Ley.
Three days later, Brighton travelled to Walsall for a Tuesday evening match, achieving a morale-boosting victory at Fellows Park in the pouring rain. As John Vinicombe reported:
Albion gave manager Brian Clough his first Division III win at Walsall last night when Pat Hilton headed the only goal of a hard-fought match 12 minutes from time. Said Clough: “They fought very hard. I was delighted with them; they showed a bit of heart.”
A deserved victory saw Hilton with most cause to celebrate… it was his first-ever League goal in 12 appearances (three last season). His header from Lammie Robertson’s free-kick was beautifully placed and crowned a lot of hard work. An unobstrusive player, Hilton ran hard on a number of decoy runs to pull out defenders. Albion’s approach was altogether more skilful than Walsall’s but in terms of effort both teams gave everything.
The goal from man-of-the-match Hilton was enough to move Albion two places higher, to seventeenth in Division Three. With another bumper crowd at the Goldstone expected on the Saturday against Chesterfield, and an easy FA Cup draw against the amateurs Walton & Hersham just announced, things were definitely looking up.