Norman Gall, amongst others, helps Brighton defend a corner at Villa Park in September 1972:
The Division Two match was a reunion of the sides that had gained promotion from the Third Division in magnificent style and to huge crowds in the previous campaign; Villa taking the Third Division championship on 70 points and the Albion as runners-up on 65 points.
Having lost 2-0 at Villa Park twelve months previously, Brighton made a better fist of it here as Peter O’Sullivan’s goal helped Pat Saward’s side to a 1-1 draw. It was the first away point of the season. The match also marked the debut of Barry Bridges:
Brighton stood in 19th position after the result, but were to sink in Division Two, finishing bottom by the end of 1972/73, despite gaining goalkeeper Tommy Hughes on loan from Villa in February. As for the Villans, they found the waters of the Second Division were to their liking. Vic Crowe’s side finished 3rd, one place off promotion back to the top flight, although they were nine points adrift of QPR as runners-up.
Still, it was a magnificent achievement for the Midlands club. A sign of the changing fortunes of the two promotion rivals of 1971/72, came in the match at the Goldstone Ground in January 1973. Alun Evans gave Villa a half-time lead before his side went on to secure a 3-1 victory thanks to further goals by Ray Graydon and Jimmy Brown. The win took Villa from 5th to 3rd. A dispirited Brighton, who scored via a John Brown own goal, had to face up to their twelfth successive defeat, and remained in 22nd place.
Sleeping giants Villa eventually rejoined the top flight in 1975 and, in a rapid revival, Brighton followed four years’ later.
The Seagulls’ first away game in Division One? Yes, at Villa Park in August 1979. But despite losing 2-1, Mullery’s men had the know-how and ability to adapt to playing in a higher division.