By Ian Hine
Albion’s first meeting with Aston Villa came in January 1955, in a Third Round FA Cup tie at The Goldstone Ground.
A crowd of 24,822 saw a great game, with goals from Albert Mundy and Bernard Moore earning Albion a 2-2 draw against their Division One opponents.
Our other FA Cup encounter came in January 2010, when a huge contingent from Sussex saw Gus Poyet’s men lose narrowly by the odd goal in five.
With only 23 meetings in total between the two teams, and just three wins for Albion, success has been in short supply. All of those victories have come at home, with the most famous coming back in March 1972, as both sides were pushing for promotion from Division Three.
At the start of the season, after an absence of seven years, Albion manager Pat Saward had re-introduced the traditional blue-and-white stripes and had decided on an entertaining policy of all-out attack.
After a good start to the season, inconsistent results in September and October left the team in 12th place. A recovery, bolstered with a number of loan signings, brought six wins from seven games leading up to Christmas. Over 30,500 saw a win over Bournemouth at the end of December and the attacking philosophy carried on into the new year.
A break-away group of four clubs formed through January and February, with Albion, Bournemouth and Notts County battling it out with ‘glamour club’ Aston Villa. Two defeats in the run-up to the game against Villa led to the team being shuffled.
Brian Powney, ten years after his debut, was having a magnificent season in goal, behind a defensive line of Bert Murray, Ian Goodwin, Norman Gall and Eddie Spearritt. The strong midfield partnership of John Templeman, Peter O’Sullivan and Willie Irvine was behind an equally potent attacking force of Brian Bromley, Kit Napier and Ken Beamish.
Aston Villa were two points clear of Bournemouth in second, with Albion a further four points back. The game was absolutely vital to both clubs and the BBC chose the game to be highlighted on Match of the Day. An all-ticket crowd of 28,833 witnessed a thriller in the Spring sunshine.
Albion took an early lead, with a goal that was worthy of a game at any level, let alone a third division fixture.
Brian Bromley gathered the ball inside his own half before slipping a pass to John Templeman. He played a firm pass to Ken Beamish and took the return ball in his stride, 15 years outside the Villa penalty area. He surged to the edge of the box before sliding a pass out wide to Willie Irvine on the left edge of the area.
The winger then cut inside before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner. It was a magnificent team goal that was runner-up in the Goal of the Season competition on Match of the Day.
Villa equalised early in the second half through Bruce Rioch but Albion took the points with a late winner from Kit Napier.
The win marked the start of a twelve-match unbeaten run that saw Albion finish as runners-up to Villa. The run-in was not without drama. In seven of those twelve games, Albion scored decisive goals in the last ten minutes, including a stoppage-time screamer from Ken Beamish that gave us the points against Rotherham United.
Promotion was clinched at the beginning of May, with a 1-1 draw against Rochdale. The crowd that day was 34,766, the third highest in Goldstone history.
Promotion won’t be at stake this Saturday, but the visit of Villa is just as important to both clubs. We haven’t beaten Villa since December 1980, when Michael Robinson scored the only goal of the game.
Another full house at The Amex will be roaring Albion on.