When Ian Wright's Crystal Palace missed three penalties but still beat Brighton

Albion’s rivalry with Crystal Palace covers 103 games and 100 years, right back to the first meeting on Christmas Day 1920.
Ian Wright scored a fine goal against Albion but missed a penalty in 1989Ian Wright scored a fine goal against Albion but missed a penalty in 1989
Ian Wright scored a fine goal against Albion but missed a penalty in 1989

Palace won that festive encounter by 2-0 but over the years, Albion shade things by 40 wins to 37, with 26 draws.

The majority of games between the sides (62) have taken place in the third tier, with 24 in Division Two/Championship and five in the FA Cup.

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Sunday’s clash will be the eleventh top-flight confrontation, with Albion hoping to build on their tally of five victories at that level. In case you were wondering, the other two games came in the Full Members/ZDS Cup.

Crystal Palace match day programme cover picture March 27, 1989Crystal Palace match day programme cover picture March 27, 1989
Crystal Palace match day programme cover picture March 27, 1989

The rivalry has seen many thrilling matches, no more so than in the 1976/77 season when the teams met no less than five times. Twice in Division Three and an FA Cup First Round tie that went to a second replay.

The 1988/89 season saw the clubs together in Division Two, with Albion, under manager Barry Lloyd, freshly promoted from the third tier. We had made a terrible start, with six straight league defeats. Form recovered slightly but much of the run-up to Christmas was spent towards the bottom of the table.

Palace were the visitors on Boxing Day, bringing back memories of an epic Division One match nine years previously. On that occasion, the Seagulls overcame the Eagles with an emphatic 3-0 win but in 1988, things didn’t look too good for Albion.

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Ahead of just Birmingham City and Walsall in the table, we were 10 points behind Palace, who were tucked in 10th place, just four points outside the top six.

Brighton vs Palace match day programme picture December 26, 1988Brighton vs Palace match day programme picture December 26, 1988
Brighton vs Palace match day programme picture December 26, 1988

We chose the game the game to put in one of our best performances of the season, although it was a shame only 13,515 were there to see it. This was due in no small measure to the dilapidated state of The Goldstone, which was literally crumbling away beneath our feet.

The North-East terrace had been closed and away fans were accommodated in a pen on the East Terrace North, more in keeping with a prison.

First half goals from Kevin Bremner and Gary Chivers sent us in at the break two goals up. Garry Nelson added a third and not even a late consolation could take the gloss off a superb team effort. It baffled Barry Lloyd, who wondered why we couldn’t do that every week?

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The return fixture came on Easter Monday at the end of March 1989, with Palace still chasing a play-off place and Albion looking nervously over their shoulders. Another disappointing crowd, 14,384, saw an unbelievable game with referee Kelvin Morton taking centre stage.

The drama started after just 12 seconds when Palace striker Mark Bright lobbed an effort over the bar when clean through with only Albion keeper John Keeley to beat.

It was a typically-competitive derby with tackles flying in and Dean Wilkins went into the book for a crude challenge on Eddie McGoldrick. Palace’s early dominance was rewarded after 23 minutes when Ian Wright put them ahead with a superb strike from the edge of the area.

Just five minutes after the goal, Albion were down to ten men. Mike Trusson received his marching orders after a reckless challenge on McGoldrick. In yet more drama, Palace were then awarded three penalties in a frantic five minutes after Trusson’s sending off.

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Bright scored the first, but his second was saved by Keeley. Just a minute later, Bright was tripped in the box and referee Morton again pointed to the spot. With his miss still fresh in the mind, Bright gave the ball to Ian Wright but he also missed, his shot rebounding off the post.

Palace went in at half time with just a 2-goal advantage, although it should have been more. Soon after the break, Mr Morton obviously felt the need to redress the balance, awarding the fourth penalty of the game to Albion, after Jeff Hopkins’ rather soft challenge on Kevin Bremner.

Alan Curbishley made no mistake, giving the Seagulls a glimmer of hope. Morton appeared to extinguish that light when he awarded his fifth penalty in 27 minutes, following an Ian Chapman handball.

John Pemberton was given the responsibility and his effort was by far the worst of the match. He blasted the ball high over the bar and nearly into the adjacent Holmesdale Road.

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It looked for one moment as though Morton was going to order a retake, but it was not to be, with Ian Chapman going into the book for backchat.

Incredibly, Albion nearly capped off a crazy day by grabbing an equaliser, Alan Curbishley being denied late on by a fine save by Perry Suckling. It finished 2-1 to Palace and they went on to finish third, gaining promotion to the top flight via the play-offs.

Albion meanwhile, avoided relegation with some comfort in the end, but it was to be thirteen years before another league fixture between the clubs.

Football is facing uncertain times at the moment, but even in the midst of a global pandemic, it will be difficult to repeat the drama of 31 years ago.

Albion will be hoping to build on their record against our nearest neighbours and victory number 41 will bring a welcome three points to Graham Potter’s men.