Monday 27th March 1989
League Division Two (nka Championship)
Crystal Palace 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 1 HT: 2-0 Att: 14,384
Wright 18; Bright 35 (pen), Bright missed pen 38, Wright missed pen 40, Pemberton missed pen 70 : Curbishley 60 (pen)
from Selhurst Park
It was Easter Monday and perfect weather for the old grudge derby between Palace and Brighton. Little did I know that the much anticipated game, 47 miles north, was going to break three British records, at the time going back 127 years, and subsequently lasting another 29 years to this day.
Yes, one of English football’s oddest rivalries broke the following records:
- Most penalties awarded in a game
- Most penalties awarded to one team in a game
- Most penalties missed by one team in a game
Add to this a sending off, and a cast list of memorable players because, despite being second tier, there were a load of household names that supportes of a certain age will well remember. Ian Wright, Mark Bright, Eddie McGoldrick, John Salako and Gary O’Reilly for Palace and Alan Curbishley, Kevin Bremner, Garry Nelson and Dean Wilkins (Ray’s brother) for Albion. With a screamer by a young Ian Wright, it’s probably the most memorable and bizarre game I’ve ever seen, or likely to again. I am proud to have witnessed it.
The rivalry, by the way, is a mixture of proximity and seventies provocation between two football legends. Palace is Brighton’s nearest club (or was in 1989, before Crawley (22m) crawled out of the Southern League). It is 47 miles away, a few nearer than Pompey, another rival of Brighton’s. Obviously Palace have much nearer London rivals, but the choice of Brighton as their number one sworn enemy was cemented in the seventies, when our respective managers were Alan Mullery and Terry Venables.
Team mates at Tottenham, they both started their management careers in the 1976-77 season, with both clubs in the third division and ambitious. As well as getting promoted together and seeming to stick together in the league table, the true grudge started in an FA Cup match that season that, after a draw at each ground, was finally replayed at Stamford Bridge, after two postponements due to bad weather. Palace won the game through a penalty; but Mullery was apoplectic at referee Ron Challis’s decision and that of a disallowed goal. The rivalry was not so competitive now as murderous, helped by both the Croydon and Brighton press.
This beef between the two clubs continued to be fraught, with a violent boxing day encounter at the Goldstone Ground in 1986, when Mullery had done the unthinkable and joined Palace as manager. Fights had to be dispersed with CS Gas.
The game is remembered in the chant:
Hark now hear, the Brighton sing
The Palace run away
And we will fight forever more
Because of Boxing day
Anyway, back to 1989, with Barry Lloyd our manager and Steve Coppell Palace’s, it was a short 45 minute trip by train to East Croydon and then one stop to Thornton Heath. Back then Palace housed the away fans in their enormous end terrace; thousands of Albion fans soaked up the sun and the pre-match chanting:
Stevie Coppell’s got VD
With a knick-knack paddy whack, give the dog a bone
Crystal Palace, fuck off home
Eagles, Eagles, Eagles!
Seagulls, Seagulls Seagulls!
You’re gay…and you know you are
Mark Bright was put through on goal in less than 10 seconds, but his lob was too high over John Keeley. Palace continued to dominate and show their promotion credentials, but missed a few chances, until Ian Wright collected a bouncing ball on the left and smacked home a 25 yard perfect lob from the edge of the area, into the far corner – a sneak preview of Wrighty’s football genius.
Brighton’s Mike Trusson was then given a straight red card for a high challenge by the now infamous referee, Kelvin Morton.
Not long after, Mr Morton pointed to the spot for the first time for an alleged push – it was a soft one, but duly put away by Mark Bright, past John Keeley. A few minutes later, his arm was outstretched to the spot again, this time for a blatant foul in the area. However, this time Bright smacked it against Keeley’s legs. Still 2-0.
Moments later, in a crazy five minutes before half time, Morton awarded another. It was another good call, but knowing the reaction to his recently acquired penchant for pointing to the spot, Morton absolutely sprinted towards the corner flag, his arm trailing towards the spot with a trail of yellow shirts in angry pursuit. It was truly Vaudevillian stuff now and more amusing than anything, even though we were a goal and player down and staring 3-0 in the face.
Ian Wright stepped up this time, despite having missed a couple that season. His shot hit the post half way up and bounced out again. Another cheer from the away end – half time and the end to a truly bizarre half. Brighton fans were strangely upbeat, despite the 2-0 score and down to ten men. With Palace’s two penalty misses just before the break, it felt like we were on top somehow.
The second half was not quite as incident packed, but Morton did manage to get it into the record books with two more pens. The first on about the hour mark, was probably the softest of the lot; like the first pen, another perceived push. Alan Curbishley gave a masterclass in how to put a spot kick away – bang into the top corner for 2-1. We were right back in the game, against all the odds.
However, a Chapman handball meant a fourth Palace spot kick. I would say the third correct decision out of five. This time defender John Pemberton stepped up from defence to show the home crowd how it’s done. His kick is somewhere near the edge of the solar system, a few years behind Voyager, in what was the worst kick of the game – made delicious by the fact that it soared over the away end to rapturous Albion fans. Their fourth kick and third missed, added another two records to the books.
Ultimately, it was a narrow defeat, but exiting this game wasn’t the usual comedown after your team loses; disbelief hijacked every other emotion.
Kelvin Morton – a name I’ll never forget.