A look back on Albion's 1996/97 season.
Against Wigan Athletic
Under John Deehan, Wigan were crowned champions of the Third Division at the end of a superb campaign with 87 points. They pipped Fulham, also on 87 points, merely on the number of goals scored, despite having an inferior goal difference. After a traumatic campaign, the Seagulls also made the most of the brief rule change, as they tied with Hereford at the foot of the table on 47 points. However, the Seagulls saved their Football League status by virtue of more goals scored. Despite the disparity in fortunes, the league matches produced narrow scorelines, with Graeme Jones getting the only goal at Springfield Park. The result took Brighton to the bottom of the table, but a resurgent Albion turned the table on its head in April, with Craig Maskell’s header ensuring a 1-0 win in the penultimate match at the Goldstone.
1996/97 season’s highs and lows
August: Albion begin the season brightly with a 2-1 home win over Chester with Ian Baird and George Parris on the scoresheet.
September: The Seagulls complete another month unbeaten at home in the league, with Craig Maskell’s double seeing off Scarborough in a 3-2 victory. On their travels, Jimmy Case’s team are on a six match losing streak.
October: Three pitch invasions in a 3-1 home defeat eventually leads to a two point deduction. Supporters also protest in Bill Archer’s home village, Mellor, in Lancashire, on the day of the Wigan match, which the Seagulls lose 1-0. A 0-0 draw with Fulham provides respite from a dismal run of six successive defeats.
November: Brighton record their first away win of the season, 3-2 at Hartlepool, but lose to non-league Sudbury in a replay at the Goldstone.
December: Jimmy Case is sacked after a 3-2 home loss to Darlington, but Steve Gritt’s reign, amidst a whistle protest by fans, starts with an emphatic 3-0 victory at home to Hull.
January: Three successive defeats ends with another decisive win, as the Seagulls win 3-0 against Rochdale with Craig Maskell getting two goals.
February: Fans United day sees football supporters all around the world coming to Sussex. The team responds with a 5-0 win over Hartlepool with a Maskell hat-trick.
March: The Seagulls play out an eventful 4-4 draw with Leyton Orient.
April: Stuart Storer scores a priceless winner against Doncaster in the final match at the Goldstone. The result is the club’s fourth successive win at home and takes the club off the bottom of the Football League.
May: Brighton have done it! Robbie Reinelt’s equaliser at Hereford ensures survival in the Football League on the last day of the season.