Albion secured their Football League status exactly 20 years ago today.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of Brighton & Hove Albion’s historic fixture against Hereford United on the final day of the 1996/97 season, when Steve Gritt’s team avoided relegation from the Football League on goals scored.
After a worrying start to the campaign, which saw the Seagulls slip to the bottom of the Football League, manager Jimmy Case was relieved of his duties at the club, making way for Gritt to come in midway through the season.
Albion’s form improved under their new manager, but the club was hit with a two-point deduction after supporters invaded the pitch in protest against the sale of the Goldstone Ground, which made Gritt’s task even tougher, as relegation loomed for the Seagulls.
A 1-0 victory against Doncaster Rovers in their final game at the Goldstone meant Albion would only need a draw at Hereford on the last day of the season to secure survival, as the league’s bottom two came face to face at Edgar Street.
The team’s were level on 46 points heading into the final game, however the Seagulls had scored three more goals throughout the season, which meant the club’s superior goal record would relegate the Bulls to the Conference.
Albion’s hopes of survival were dented after just 20 minutes, when Tony Agana’s cross-shot was turned into his own net by young defender Kerry Mayo, which momentarily moved the Seagulls to the foot of the Division Three table.
But one of the most famous goals in the club’s history was scored in the 62nd minute, and it was Robbie Reinelt who reacted quickest to Craig Maskell’s half-volley that struck the post, as he raced into the penalty area and found the bottom corner to equalise.
The Seagulls faced a nervy finish to the game but held on to save their position within the Football League, and now 20 years later, the club that was on the brink of Conference football are now set for their first season in the Premier League. That’s some turnaround!