Christmas Day proved only the warm-up for Boxing Day in 1979, as Albion supporters enjoyed a festive treat at the Goldstone, with the thrashing of Crystal Palace.
December 26 1979: Albion 3 Crystal Palace 0 (Football League Division One)
Albion served up the perfect festive treat for the fans on Boxing Day 1979 – a first victory over rivals Palace for three seasons, and a convincing one at that.
Palace arrived at the Goldstone for the clubs’ first top-flight meeting in confident mood. They had settled better after promotion than Albion, briefly topping the table and hailed by some as ‘The Team of the Eighties’. They were also unbeaten at the hands of the Seagulls since Alan Mullery and Terry Venables had taken over the reins of their respective clubs in summer 1976.
During that time, the clubs had played nine times, Palace winning three and six ending in stalemate. One of the key factors had been Palace skipper Jim Cannon’s dominating performances against Albion top scorer Peter Ward, with Ward even dropped to the bench against the Eagles on occasion. Significantly, Mullery had taken Ward aside before this match and told him to show Jim Cannon that he was not his master.
Ward, whose confidence had been boosted by a hat-trick in a 3-1 victory over Wolves at Molineux five days before, responded with a five-star showing. He tempted Cannon into an ill-judged tackle in the North Stand penalty area after only five minutes, skipper Brian Horton scoring from the spot, and he scored his own first goal against Palace in the 33rd minute after Horton had intercepted a wayward Palace corner and burst upfield. Ward then laid on the third for Gerry Ryan in the second half.
But it was no one-man show. Horton led the side with a steely determination that this match would be different from the nine that preceded it, and the defence, with Steve Foster and Gary Stevens shackling David Swindlehurst and Mike Flanagan, restricted Palace to only three shots on target, none of which troubled Graham Moseley.
Best of all, the points took Albion out of the bottom three and they would not return. In fact, they built on it by sweeping aside Manchester City 4-1 three days later to see out the 1970s in style.