Writer: Barry Worthington
Date:Saturday March 5 2011
Back in the 1998/99 season Wigan Athletic and Manchester City were competing on equal terms for the same prize, promotion from the third tier of English football.
Wigan Athletic had just started out on the Dave Whelan revolution programme and were due to move into the brand new 25,000 all seater JJB stadium the following season, with Ray Mathias at the helm the Latics played exciting football and had a three pronged strike force of Stuart Barlow, Simon Howarth and Andy Liddell , City in contrast were going through something of a rehabilitation period, trying to get their financial house in order through a succession of chairmen, Peter Swales, Francis Lee and now David Bernstein, on the field the team had mirrored the poor performances off it and fell from the top division to the third in successive seasons, but with Joe Royle in charge there was genuine optimism that the club could get back some of its former glories.
At the end of a gruelling season Latics and City met in the play-off`s, City were the big boys on the block, whilst the Latics were the up and coming side.
The first leg was at Springfield Park, the last competitive game ever to be played there and within 15 seconds of the kick-off the Latics were in front when Stuart Barlow pounced on a poor back-pass to side-foot past a helpless Nicky Weaver.
City equalised in the second half through Paul Dickov and both sides had chances to win the game.
The 2nd leg was played at Maine Road, City won 1-0 though the game was full of controversy, Latics fullback Kevin Sharpe was scythed down in the box for the most cast iron penalty ever, but appeals were waved away, and Shaun Goaters winning goal was scored by the big striker using his arm to put the ball in the net.
So City went to Wembley and beat Gillingham in the final, but the two legs of the semi were most definitely a classic encounter.
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Date:Saturday March 5 2011
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