Best results series: Hornets dismantled at the Goldstone

United beaten 4-0 at the Amex, Villa defeated in the Community Shield, but what goes down as our best ever result?

By Nick Szczepanik • 21 June 2022

Goal hero Adrian Thorne leaves the pitch following his star showing against Watford.

Second up in our best ever Albion results series is the visit of Watford in 1958, when the Seagulls ran out 6-0 winners at the Goldstone Ground to secure promotion.

We kicked off the series last week, starting with Albion's victory in the Community Shield over Aston Villa in 1910.

April 30 1958: Albion 6 Watford 0 (Third Division South)

Local boy Adrian Thorne scored five goals against Watford in the final game of the season to fire the Albion to the first promotion in their history as a league club. The 20-year-old former Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School pupil was making only his seventh first-team appearance and owed his place in the side to an injury to Dave Sexton.

It was a momentous evening for the player but also the club. Albion had been stuck in the old Third Division since most of the top division of the Southern League had joined the Football League in 1920. In those days only the champions of the two regional divisions were promoted and only once before, in 1956, had Albion even come within a point of the eventual winners.

Now Billy Lane’s talented team knew that a point at home to the Hornets would be enough, but exhaustion and nerves were potential factors. This was the third of three games in five hectic April days, and although Albion had already beaten Watford 1-0 at Vicarage Road four days earlier the late winner had come against the run of play. And they had lost by the same score at Brentford two days later, a result that sent the Bees above them into top slot on goal average.

But Brentford had played all their games while Albion had one remaining. So, on Wednesday 30, 31,038 packed into the Goldstone for the 6.15pm kick-off in the days before floodlights. And any nerves they or the team may have felt were soon blown away as Thorne completed a perfect hat-trick between the fifth and ninth minutes.

He scored first with his right foot, then his head and left foot. According to George Harley of the Daily Mirror, the crowd “went wild with joy” at the first and “absolutely delirious with delight” at the third.

Glen Wilson, the captain, converted a penalty after 35 minutes and Thorne made it five before the interval after a 30-yard run, prompting a half-time pitch invasion. Only one more goal was scored, by Thorne late on, but the crowd invaded again at the final whistle. Scenes, as we say nowadays. 

Thorne was top scorer for Albion in the second division with 14 goals the following season, but never fully established himself as a regular and left for Plymouth Argyle in 1961 after requesting a transfer. His name, however, is etched in the Albion annals.