Ground Nº 3 – London Road Ground
Saturday 15th Feb 1986
FA CUP 5th Round Peterborough United 2 Brighton 2 HT 0-0
By 1986 Brighton and Hove Albion was in my blood. I was infected with the Seagull virus. I was BHA positive. The West Brom game a distant memory now but unfortunately not forgotten. It was almost another 2 years after West Brom that my Dad took me back to the Goldstone. As it happened the few games I saw that season (82-83) were to be last ones
Brighton played in top-flight football. Since the uneventful February game 2 years hence
Brighton had changed their manager from the conservative ‘0-0 merchant’ Mike Bailey for the exuberant Jimmy Melia. The few First Division games I saw only included two wins against West Ham Utd (3-1) and Manchester City in the Cup (4-0) but the best game was undoubtedly the 3-3 draw with Liverpool from 2-0 and 3-1 down.
The 85/86 FA Cup campaign was another good one. We’d reached the 5th round again and the draw had been kind to us – Peterborough United away. They were then an average Division 4 club on a freak cup run. They’d knocked out Leeds the round before 1-0 despite the two-division gap. But surely we’d roll them over no problem – the quarter finals were beckoning.
Peterborough are relatively new club, founded in 1934, although they didn’t become a league club until 1960 when they were elected to Division 4. Until that time they played in the Midland League. The club was formed to replace Peterborough and Fletton United who had folded two years previously. It was as Peterborough and Fletton United that the club gained its peculiar nickname of ‘The Posh’. This epithet is thought to have originated from the remarks by the Player Manager of the 1921 side who said that he was looking for ‘Posh players for a Posh team’. That side, nicknamed the ‘brickies’, folded in 1932 but that single quote by the then manager lives on in the new Peterborough United.
My Dad suggested we go and I remember it being an awakening to me that people actually went to away matches too. I was only 13, and with my Dad not being as rabid a football fanatic as I was to turn out, the idea of travelling to another ground was alien to me. So it was with immense excitement that I looked forward to my first away match.
As my Dad drove my stepmother, brother and I up to Peterborough the excitement seamed to increase with proximity to the ground. There must have been at least 5,000 other Albion fans heading in the same direction. My stepmother had draped an Albion scarf out of one of the windows and I absolutely loved the camaraderie of other cars honking us and waving their fists (not in anger!) at us as they overtook. I still love all that pre-match build-up just as much now. It’s another great part of the whole away experience that you just don’t get for home games. Because there’s fewer fans that go to away games everybody who does is a real die-hard and there’s this togetherness, a kind of ‘comrades in adversity’ bond between like-minded people.
The London Road ground has one of the best away sections of any venue I’ve been to due largely to the fantastic acoustics it generates. It was a large covered end terrace that held about 6,000 and was full on this particular afternoon. In days of yore I’m sure they squeezed much more in. The atmosphere was electric. I remember being surprised at how big London Road was considering Peterborough were a fairly unobtrusive Division 4 outfit. Their main stand was much like the Goldstone’s but stretched along the whole side. There was another covered terrace for home fans behind the other goal and a smaller stand down the other side.
To add to the atmosphere the game was played with an orange ball (my first orange ball game). I recall thinking that it seemed bouncier than its white counterpart, probably an association with Space Hoppers or something! Another thing that stood out about this game was how quick the time passed. To this day I always think the time goes quicker at away matches regardless of the quality of the match. After what I thought was about 10 minutes played I saw somebody’s watch read 3:33. I couldn’t believe it. Nothing seemed to have happened.
Peterborough gave us a great game and belied their two-division gap from us. It was a close tight game but still had that special FA Cup excitement about it. It was heading inexorably towards a 0-0 draw when the unthinkable happened. Fourth Division Peterborough went 1-0 up. 73rd minute. A speculative 25 yarder rolled towards Perry Digweed’s outstretched arm, hit a divot, arced over his arm and rolled in the back of the net. As I was contemplating our embarrassing exit from the cup we equalized. All I know is that it was a bit of a scramble. I was not tall enough to see over the many heads in front of me – my vision stopped around the six yard line. I saw the ball bobbling around then heard the roar.
I will always regret my celebration at this goal. I did a home celebration – a ‘yesss’, punch the air a bit and then clap. As I clapped I looked around in sheer wonderment at how berserk the other thousands were going. Arms and legs were everywhere. It was like an explosion in a prosthetic limb factory. Men, women and children were jumping up and down in ecstasy for a good minute. I tried to join late and jumped up a bit but the moment had passed – it was just a token gesture. Being my first away match I wasn’t prepared for this and have been irked ever since at my restraint.
As the clapping died down Peterborough scored again. This time it was The Posh fans’ turn to go mad, but as the chants of ‘You’re not singing anymore’ went round the ground for the third time that day, Steve Jacobs put us level again. The Albion fans went even more berserk than the first equalizer. I didn’t think it was possible but at least this time I got caught up in it a bit more.
There were four goals scored in eight minutes after what looked like a banker goalless draw. The game was amazing, the ground was great and when packed like it was that day had an unrivalled atmosphere.