Strange days indeed for Brighton - but it's not the first time they have seen action in June

Albion will be playing nine games over the coming weeks, when the players would normally be enjoying holidays, swiftly followed by a pre-season.

The restart fixture on June 20 against Arsenal at the Amex, will be just the second time in the club’s history that a competitive fixture has been played in that month.

The only previous June match played by Albion’s first team came in 1991, at the end of a campaign that began on August 25 1990, 281 days earlier.

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Barry Lloyd’s team were in the second division and with a re-shuffling of league numbers, four promotion places were available. Three clubs would be promoted automatically, with one going up via the play-offs.

Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Graham Potter

Fans were not optimistic of the team’s chances. These fears were fuelled by the failure to secure Sergei Gotsmanov on a permanent deal, as well as the departure of defender Keith Dublin and goalkeeper John Keeley. Kevin Bremner and Alan Curbishley also departed.

The opening game at Barnsley was lost and Albion were beaten in the first round of the League Cup by Northampton Town.

September was slightly better and the four wins pushed them to seventh place. The season continued in topsy-turvy fashion. A terrible 4-0 home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday and horrible defeats at Oxford United and Oldham Athletic, were interspersed with excellent wins at Ipswich and Port Vale.

John Byrne had joined from French Club Le Havre and strike partner Mike Small was having a great season.

Play-off finals

In January 1991, ex-Swansea City forward Brian Wade, who had been unemployed until offered a trial by Lloyd, made his full home debut and scored all four goals against Newcastle United.

The 4-2 victory lifted Albion into the play-off places and five consecutive wins kept them in the hunt through February.

Another run of poor results, together with an injury to key defender Paul McCarthy, led to Colin Pates, the experienced Arsenal defender, coming in on loan.

At the end of March, Albion were fourth and dreaming of automatic promotion. The wheels started to come off with a 2-1 home defeat by Port Vale and subsequent results meant the play-offs were their only hope of promotion.

Coming to the last game of the season, Albion knew that a win against Ipswich Town would secure a play-off place.

The Seagulls took a first half lead when Mike Small slotted home a penalty. Fifteen minutes from time Ipswich were awarded a penalty but Perry Digweed pushed away the spot-kick, amid scenes of great jubilation.

The drama was just beginning as, with seven minutes to go, Ipswich equalised and Barnsley scored at Middlesbrough, a scenario that would have eliminated Albion.

With less than two minutes remaining, John Byrne was brought down outside the penalty area. Dean Wilkins took the free-kick and his perfectly flighted ball into the top corner sparked rapturous scenes.

The final whistle went with Albion having sneaked into the play-offs, despite a goal-difference of minus-six.

Millwall were beaten by an aggregate score of 6-2, setting up a Wembley meeting with Notts County on Sunday, June 2 1991. Around 32,400 supporters made the journey from Sussex and the early signs were encouraging.

Albion, in their dazzling read and white change kit, made the early running and County goalkeeper Steve Cherry was forced into an early save from Clive Walker.

Despite the early pressure, it was Notts County who took the lead, Tommy Johnson heading home on 29 minutes.

Back came Albion and just before half time, Clive Walker hit the post with a header. Just after the break, Dean Wilkins hit the bar with a free-kick but it was County who doubled their lead when Johnson scored again with half an hour to go.

The game was sealed in the 71st minute when Dave Regis scored County’s third. Albion scored a consolation in the last minutes, through Dean Wilkins, but it was County who went up, leaving Albion’s travelling supporters disappointed.

On reflection, few Albion fans could have imagined how close we would have come to returning to the top flight.

Fewer still would have predicted that it would be ten more years before the club tasted promotion, as we went through a decade of strife and uncertainty both on and off the pitch.

June football will return in a couple of weeks in a scenario none of us would have anticipated at the start of the 2019/20 campaign.

Here’s hoping Graham Potter’s men get the necessary points to ensure Premier League survival.

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