Albion Rewind: 'We walked off with our heads held high'

Richard Carpenter scored for the Seagulls in a 2-1 FA Cup defeat against Tottenham Hotspur in January 2005. He takes a look back at the game and what was a successful end to the season in the Championship.

By Luke Nicoli • 07 May 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
Richard Carpenter celebrates with Kerry Mayo after his free kick went in against Tottenham.

Look back at the history books and you’ll see top-flight Tottenham beat Championship side Brighton in an FA Cup third round tie in 2005 thanks to goals from Ledley King and Robbie Keane.

Not a game that would have left an indelible mark on the Spurs fans, but for the Albion players and fans present at White Hart Lane that day, it remains a vivid memory as Mark McGhee’s side put in a fantastic performance against their illustrious hosts.

“When the draw was made we were obviously buzzing,” recalls Chippy, who made 279 appearances for the Seagulls. “We said before the game that win, lose or draw, we were going to have a good time because the pressure was off us and all on Tottenham.

“We said wouldn’t change the way we play either and would make ourselves hard to beat, like we always did. They were not used to us being in their faces and making a nuisance of ourselves – and I remember Robbie Keane with his mouth open when I left him on the floor following one challenge!”

Albion held their own throughout the first half but couldn’t have conceded at a worse time, with King netting five minutes before the break with a looping header.

It could have resulted in a second-half implosion from the visitors but far from it, with Carpenter netting a superbly struck free-kick low into the bottom corner of Paul Robinson’s net, just three minutes after the restart.

“I had already hit the crossbar from outside the box after Harty [Gary Hart] had teed me up,” Richard recalls. “It went like slow motion and I thought it was going in, so you don’t expect another chance especially against that level of opposition.

“But obviously we’ve won the free-kick; I looked at the wall and my mind was made up to hit it. I knew it was going in by the flight of the ball and it was obviously a great feeling to score at White Hart Lane, especially with our fans behind the goal.”

It was an emotion Keane experienced countless times during his two spells with Tottenham, and he won the game in the 83rd minute with a superb volley on the turn from the edge of the box.

“It was a great goal to win the game – that’s the difference between the Premier League and where we were at the time,” Chippy adds. “It all but ended our hopes of taking them back to Withdean but we walked off with our heads held high. We did ourselves justice and even now, after all these years, it’s one of those games that all of us who played in it will have fond memories of.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Richard Carpenter's free kick is on its way into the Tottenham net.

It also showed the flexibility of the players and, indeed, McGhee – who set the team up with three at the back and three centrally in midfield that day. “He doesn’t get enough credit for that,” Carpenter points out. “It was one of those things, you know; we had the lion’s share of the play, they were on the back foot and didn’t quite know how to deal with us. From working with him, Mark was a good manager.”

While the cup sojourn was a welcome distraction during Albion’s league campaign, the main target that season for McGhee and his team was to secure the club’s Championship status for a second season – and it was confirmed on the final day following a 1-1 draw with Ipswich Town at Withdean.

“The Ipswich game was a great day for everyone connected with the club. To stay up, and to do it against a good side, showed again the character we had – nothing was beyond us.  At that stage we felt, as pros, that we’d never get beaten when we walked across the line. It was also a great feeling knowing your team-mates were there to back you up, that the respect was there for each other, and if you were down they’d pull you up.

“That spirit counted for so much and so did our surrounds at Withdean. We were playing against teams like Leeds, West Ham, Sunderland and they would come to us and maybe wouldn’t expect such a tough game; but we always knew our strengths and would capitalise on them on the Saturday.

“We had hard work, endeavour and a solid foundation, and when you’ve got ability as well you can take it as far as you want. We had that throughout my time at Brighton and to go from the basement division to mixing it in the Championship and doing ourselves justice at places like White Hart Lane. Well I look back on it all with immense pride.”

By Paul Hazlewood
Thousands of Albion fans were at White Hart Lane for the FA Cup tie in 2005.