When Victoria Williams reflects on Brighton’s performance over the course of last season, the experienced defender describes it as “a bit up and down”.
They had not won a game in two-and-a-half months ahead of their visit to Bristol City at the end of January 2021 and were still licking their wounds after a 7-1 thumping by Manchester City the weekend before.
Brighton fell behind at Bristol after just three minutes – with a red card for Kayleigh Green adding insult to injury after goals either side of half-time from Ebony Salmon condemned them to a 3-0 loss against a team who would ultimately suffer relegation to the Women’s Championship.
The result seemed like the worst possible preparation for a showdown with title-chasing Chelsea but the painful away-day defeat turned out to be the catalyst for Brighton’s season.
“I had an injury late October time, then I ended up getting Covid and we went down to Bristol away, and that was my first game [back]. It turned out to be the defining moment in Brighton’s season,” Williams explains in the second episode of our four-part Brighton: Beyond the Pitch series.
Williams’ team-mate and partner Emily Simpkins has a vivid recollection of the mood in the Brighton changing room after the defeat.
“I just remember the changing room after that, like, there was tears and all sorts,” she said.
“Hope (Powell, manager) said ‘right, two players who were willing to get up call the team out and each other, like, come and deliver it’. So obviously, it was me and Trev (Victoria’s nickname). We didn’t want to stand up in front of everybody and say this is it – it was more of an open conversation.”
The message clearly got through as Brighton ended Chelsea’s incredible 33-match unbeaten with a 2-1 win at the home of the eventual champions before going on to consolidate their place in the Women’s Super League by finishing mid-table.