Having suffered defeats to Oldham and Bradford in the run up to the clash with Division Three leaders Aston Villa on 25th March 1972, Brighton boss Pat Saward made some brave changes. Out went Stewart Henderson and captain John Napier, and in came Bert Murray and Ian Goodwin. Brian Bromley was installed as the new skipper.
The changes paid dividends, and the promotion push was back up and running thanks to a famous 2-1 victory. Here is how the Sunday Mirror reported it:
Brighton manager Pat Saward bounced to the edge of the pitch at the end of this ding-dong Third Division promotion battle.
And he ordered his Albion troops: “Get back into the middle and take a bow. You deserve it.”
Saward’s tribute to his swashbuckling side was deserved. They fully earned a victory which takes them one step closer to Second Division soccer next season and which dented ambitious Aston Villa’s own title chances.
It was the long, frizzylocks of Kit Napler which nodded bubbling Brighton to victory six minutes from time,
Villa ‘keeper Jim Cumbes should have cut out a left-wing centre from Peter O’Sullivan.
But he missed it, Napier didn’t, and Villa were beaten for only the second time in their last twenty-one League outings.
Villa boss Vic Crowe took defeat with a philosophical shrug of his shoulders. “They plaved out of their skins,” he sald.
“Yet we might well have got a point. Jim Cumbes says the sun got in his eyes when they grabbed that late winner.
“Still, I think we can go top and I don’t care who goes up with us.
“Brighton play Bournemouth next-Saturday, and as far as I’m concerned they can both lose.”
Villa were dodgy at the back. And stodgy up front.
Brighton looked the likelier Championship bet all through.
Said Saward: “Tremendous, tremendous. We tore them apart in the first quarter of an hour of the second-half.”
He was not exaggerating.
In that spell. Villa’s £275,000 centre half Chris Nicholl twice had to scoop what looked like certain scoring-chances off his own goal-line.
The first was from Ken Beamish and that was followed by another from Napier.
But Brighton began tearing Villa apart as early as the sixth minute when Willie Irvine shot them into the lead with as good a goal as anyone will see this Season,
Beamish launched it. John Templeman drove, a magnificent pass with surgical precision diagonally through a floundering Villa defence.
And Irvine finished it off with a searing shot from the edge of the penalty box.
Villa looked like salvaging a point when skipper Bruce Rioch rifled a fifty-fifth minute equaliser which was every bit as good as Brighton’s opener.
Willie Anderson. who looked such a weary Willie until that moment, sent Charlie Aitken sprinting along the left.
The full back’s cross was played back into the middle by Ray Graydon and Rioch met it on the volley to almost burst the Brighton net.
Rioch’s joy was shortlived. He was booked in the the seventy-seventh minute after a clash with rival skipper Brian Bromley.
Referee Norman Burdenshaw had no alternative but to take Rioch’s name.
Others were more fortunate, avoiding a similar fate in this beefy promotion battle.
The Midlands’ moneybags have now taken only one point fronx their last three outings, and the promotion boat is beginning to rock.
But Brighton look if their Second Division intentions are honourable, Seldom has any side have run Villa so ragged.
The Sports Mirror editorial also spotlighted the crucial match:
Hands all those who deserve an ice lolly! Brighton’s team will probably get the freedom of the town’s ice cream parlours after licking Aston Villa 2-1. This happy threesome are Peter O’sullivan, Willie Irvine and Kit Napier after Irvine had fired Br!ghton’s first goal in the sixth minute at sunny Hove. And by the look of him he wouldn’t swap that moment for all the pebbles on the Brighton beach.
Cut open any Aston Villa player this morning and it wiil probably say “Brighton” all the way through.
Villa, with tradition a mile high and just as long on optimism about playing in the Second Division next season, found it was too hot by the seaside yesterday.
Brighton and Hove Albion, to name just one side, have never hit the heights. And apart from one stay in the Second Division, have never reached for them.
Yesterday afternoon Brighton took Villa apart. They won 2-1 with goals by Willie Irvine and Kit Napier, Napier leaving the fans biting their fingers until six minutes from the end when he popped in the winner.
It was a shock to Vllta’s sophisticated system.
Irvine cheekily nosed Brighton in front after six minutes. And it was another fifty minutes before Bruce Rioch put the leaders level.
Villa still head the table but they are now only one point ahead of second-placed Bournemouth who dropped a point at Rochdale.
BournemouttL who have played two more games than Villa or third-placed Brighton, had a lucky escape when Gowan missed a penalty for Rochdale,
Our forecast of next week’s hottest soccer spot must be Bournemouth, Brtght0n are the visitors and they want to cut two more points off that four-point gap between them and Villa.