This Saturday match was Brighton boss Alan Mullery’s first competitive game in charge.
There was considerable relief for his side in the pre-match team news. Southend’s sharp-shooting Peter Silvester had put the Sussex club out of the FA Cup that January, as well as scoring all four goals in a 4-0 league defeat of Brighton a month later.
However, Albion’s nemesis was unavailable due to his playing commitments in the USA. Having been relegated from Division in 1975/76, the Shrimpers had a new boss Dave Smith, who had played for Albion in 1961-62. Smith declared: “We will go out against Brighton with fire in our bellies.” The first leg ended all square, with Brighton winning 2-1 at the Goldstone three days later in a game where Paul Clark made his Southend debut.
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Southend Neil Freeman- A close-season signing from Grimsby Town who ended up making 36 appearances in Division Four that campaign.
Alan Moody- The club’s penalty king, with six of his seven goals that season coming from the spot. Gave away the penalty for Horton’s spot kick.
Neil Townsend- This defender was signed from Northampton at the beginning of the 1973/74 and played 28 league games that season.
Tony Hadley- A defender who had previously been an amateur with the Shrimpers who made 31 league appearances in 1976/77.
Andy Ford- A defender who was signed on a free transfer and was ever-present in the 1976/77 league season.
Terry Nicholl- The brother of top division footballer Chris Nicholl and cousin of Jimmy Nicholl. Terry transferred to Gillingham early on in the season, where he became a regular in midfield.
Alan Little- Another player with a famous footballing brother, in Brian Little of Aston Villa. Alan had previously played for Villa.
David Cunningham- A midfielder who signed from Brechin in April 1973. Scored a ninth-minute opener in the return match at the Goldstone, a beauty from the edge of the box.
Ron Pountney- Ron’s clever looping cross set up Parker’s equaliser. Although he played 23 League games in 1976/77, both his goals that campaign came in the FA Cup.
Stuart Parker- The main danger up front, bundling in the equaliser after 80 minutes. Parker ended the season with 13 League goals in Division Four.
Steve Goodwin- A free transfer from Norwich City. Steve’s brother Reggie was formerly with Brighton.
Peter Grummitt- Slightly embarrassed by Southend’s equaliser. Nevertheless, a superb goalkeeper who was in his last season with Brighton. In March 1977, a knee injury put an end to his career.
Ken Tiler- Reliable right-back who made 38 League appearances in the campaign that ended in promotion to Division Two.
Chris Cattlin- Made his Albion competitive debut in this match after being signed by Peter Taylor before his departure.
Brian Horton- The club captain scored his first goal for Brighton with a comprehensive penalty past Freeman’s right hand. Despite a groin injury, he grabbed both Albion goals in the return leg in a 2-1 victory.
Andy Rollings- A great season for Rollo who matured enormously through the support of Graham Cross.
Graham Cross- Another debutant, having been signed by Taylor. This was his last season as a professional after a distinguished career.
Gerry Fell- A winger with lightning pace who almost scored in the return leg.
Peter Ward- Caused panic to Southend with his precocious flair. Broke free and looked likely to score before he was upended by Moody on 70 minutes.
Fred Binney- He and Peter Ward were described as ‘two of a kind’ by an Argus reporter, which Mullery seemed to agree with, as Albion’s top scorer was soon to lose his place to Ian Mellor.
Steve Piper- This was the season Steve was converted from midfield into a tough-tackling defender.
Peter O’Sullivan-Sully ended up with 43 League appearances in 1976/77, winning promotion again from Division Three, having achieved this with Brighton in 1972.