The League Cup captured the imagination of Sussex in the autumn 1969. In August, Freddie Goodwin’s side put one over south coast rivals Portsmouth, with Alex Dawson getting the only goal, Then the Albion toppled First Division side Birmingham City, 2-0, in front of 24,232 supporters to set up a mouth-watering third round tie with mighty Wolverhampton Wanderers on 24th September.
With Brighton going well in Division Three, the level of interest in the floodlit match was such that the Evening Argus produced a four page A3 colour supplement as a preview to the game:
Back row: Mike Yaxley (coach), Terry Stanley, George Dalton, Barrie Wright, Bobby Smith, Mike Everitt, Dave Armstrong, Ken Blackburn, Joe Wilson (trainer);
Middle row: Tom E. Whiting (chairman), Brian Powney, Andy marchant, Stewart Henderson, Dave Turner, John Napier, Norman, Gall, John Templeman, Paul Flood, Geoff Sidebottom, Harold Paris (vice-chairman);
Front row: Howard Wilkinson, Alex Dawson, Kit Napier, Eddie Spearritt, Freddie Goodwin (manager), Nobby Lawton, Willie Bell, Allan Gilliver, Brian Tawse.
Sitting: Martin Tew, Keith Watkins, Michael Stanley, Garry Parsons.
Rather generously, the back page was mainly devoted to a colour photo of the visitors:
As you can see, Wolves’ skipper was Mike Bailey, who would go on to lift the League Cup trophy four and half years later, in an entertaining 2-1 victory over Manchester City in 1974. Unfortunately, injury kept him out of this match. Had he travelled to the Goldstone, he would have seen a huge crowd of 32,539 supporters. What a contrast to the falling gates when he took over as Brighton boss in 1981.
In John Vinicombe’s match report, the Argus writer declared:
Albion should have beaten Wolves out of sight at the Goldstone last night. For close on 70 minutes they were Wolves’ masters and thoroughly deserved a 2-1 lead with Hugh Curran, the player Albion tried hardest to subdue, won the game with a two-goals-in-eight-minutes burst. So Wolves entered the fourth round of the Football League Cup when it looked for so long like a major upset before a 34,000 crowd that set up a floodlit ground record.
The 3-2 skin-of-the-teeth success was highly flattering to a side standing fourth in the First Division. But in the final analysis they displayed their class by twice coming back to steal a place in the last 16. They owed it all to Curran whose stealth stamped him as a superb turner of half-chances into goals.
Yet Wolves were given a tremendous fright by an inspired Albion, and were unable to find their bearings without Mike Bailey supplying the drive and Derek Dougan his own brand of inspiration.
Napier (left) and Gilliver rise to head…
Dawson holds his hands aloft as Gilliver tumbles between the defenders, with ball in the net
On nineteen minutes, Albion took the lead when Kit Napier’s inswinging corner was missed by Wolves keeper Parker, who seemed more worried by big Alex Dawson. He seemed to push Dawson, which may have warranted a penalty, but Allan Gilliver showed his goal touch to squeeze the ball home at the far post.
However, Wolves hit back twelve minutes later when Wagstaffe intercepted Nobby Lawton’s pass. The Wolves player ran on and on, and it became one on one with Geoff Sidebottom once John Napier slipped. He then fed Woodfield who slotted home the equaliser.
Eddie Spearritt plants his head onto the ball…
…which disappears in a mountain of toilet roll in the back of the net.
On the stroke of half-time, though, Brighton delighted the home crowd by retaking the lead. Kit Napier’s free-kick found Eddie Spearritt who guided a header just under the crossbar.
With Albion dominant, an upset was on the cards. But Wolves were not finished, and Hugh Curran raced on to a huge defence-spliting goal kick from Parkes to equalise with twenty minutes to spare. Curran then broke Albion hearts on 78 minutes, making the most of a mix-up at the far post. Sidebottom and Turner had left it for each other to deal with Wagstaffe’s harmless looking cross, allowing Curran to nip in.
Even so, Albion played stoutly during the evening, none more so than Stewart Henderson who had a storming match.
Henderson, a small and classy right-back, would go on to be voted by supporters as their Player of the Season.