Manchester City and Brighton don’t have that much history between them. The first time the teams met was in the FA Cup in 1924, and it was another fifty five years before they met again. But the last meeting took place in the old Second Division in the 1988/89 season.
August 1988. City were one of the favourites to win promotion to the First Division. Having sold star striker Paul Stewart to Spurs for £1.7m, the blues invested by bolstering the defence, with Andy Dibble and Brian Gayle joining, along with Nigel Gleghorn, Wayne Biggins and veteran defender John Deehan. Brighton meanwhile, had just been promoted from the third division.
The visitors arrived at Maine Road having lost their first three league games. But City fared not much better. Losing their first two matches at Hull (1-0) and at home to Oldham (1-4), City then drew 2-2 with Walsall at Maine Road and 1-1 at Leeds. The early season promotion favourites were left close to the bottom of the table. A win was not only needed, but vital to give at least some hope to the Maine Road faithful.
City’s play on the day was nervy, but a goal by midfielder Ian Brightwell settled the fans. The youngster blocked an attempted pass to the right, then continued his run as the ball fell to Paul Moulden. His cross to David White was chipped back into the path of Brightwell who hit the ball over the keeper into the back of the net.
The blues went in 1-0 up at half time, but Brighton came back to equalise in the second half. But City were determined to get their first win of the season. Neil McNab’s throw in found Moulden, who turned on way then the other. Leaving the defender in his wake, the striker unleashed a curling effort from thirty yards, which found the top corner. It was a stunning finish, worthy of winning any game.
The blues held on to win 2-1, which started their march back to the top flight. As for Brighton, despite their losing start, they avoided relegation by nine points.