CITY 1 WIGAN ATHLETIC 0
Division 2 Play-off Semi-Final 2nd Leg
19th May 1999
City Weaver, Crooks, Edghill, Vaughan, Horlock, Wiekens, Brown, Jeff Whitley, Dickov, Goater, Cooke – subs Allsopp(unused), Taylor(73), Pollock(76)
Wigan Carroll, Green, Sharp, McGibbon, Balmer, Porter, Liddell, Greenall, Lowe, Bradshaw, Barlow – subs Jones(54), Lee(75), Kilford(66)
THE PLAYERS CELEBRATE, CITY ARE BACK AT WEMBLEY FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 14 YEARS
… With the first leg ending 1-1 at their former Springfield Park home (this despite City falling behind after just 17 seconds after a comical mix-up between Gerard Wiekens and Nick Weaver), the tie wasperfectly balanced for the sell-out Maine Road crowd to enjoy.
The carrot of a Wembley final against Preston or Gillingham awaited the winners. Just two defeats in the last 22 games meant Joe Royle’s side were the Division Two form team but none of that mattered ahead of what was in effect a one-off cup tie.
The Latics had just snuck into the play-offs on goal difference, bettering Bournemouth by five goals, but still fancied their chances of pipping their North West rivals at the post. With expectations so high among City fans and the team on such a rich vein of form, the visitors were well aware the hosts would be under tremendous pressure in what was bound to be a nervous atmosphere.
Wigan had been forced to play seven games inside a fortnight due to fixture congestion and their boss Ray Mathias had several injured players going into the game. He had already seen his side lose both league games to the Blues by a solitary goal, but knew his team were unfortunate not to be taking at least a slender lead into the second leg.
City were missing skipper Andy Morrison and Ian Bishop and Royle’s alreadt threadbare squad appeared to be limping towards the finishing line rather than galloping apace,but the Blues started brightly with Shaun Goater and Paul Dickov both going close early on.
Yet it was Wigan who felt they should have had the opportunity to take the lead when Wieken’s clumsy tackle on the Latics number 3 could easily have resulted in a penalty, Horlock the fired just wide before the moment Maine Road had been waiting for arrived.
Michael Brown whipped in a deep cross from the right and Goater bundled the ball past Roy Carroll to send the home fans wild. The Latics players appealed furuiously that it had struck The Goat’s arm gut the goal stood.
TV replays were inconclusive and in later years Goater would deny it hit his arm, more his hip and stomach, all totally believable given Goat’s knack of scoring off every conceivable part of his body over the years!
Wigan gave as good as they got and in the second half were arguably the better side and with just five minutes remaining, Graeme Jones thundered a header against the crossbar from six yards out.
Had it gone in, the Blues’ fate could have taken an entirely different path, but Royle’s side hung on abd the joyous scenes and subsequent pitch invasion that followed the final whistle were testament to just how much this result meant to the City fans.
News filtered through that Gillingham had beaten Preston in the second leg at Deepdale and would face City at Wembley in the Play-Off Final.
If the City fans thought the semi-finals had been dramatic, they couldn’t have imagined what waited in the game agaibst Gillingham.
DAVID CLAYTON WRITING IN THE CITY PROGRAMME 17TH APRIL 2013
The truth is the ball never touched any part of my arm, but that didn’t matter to the Wigan players and fans. Matt Jackson and another lad were going spare, claiming I had handled it. “That was handball Shaun and you know it!” Jackson shouted. “That was no handball believe me” I replied, but the actions and body language of him and a few of his team-mates incited the Wigan fans, who clearly though I had scored an illegal goal. If I had, I would (pardon the pun) hold my hand up willingly. Why wouldn’t I have nothing to lose now.
…. Wigan clearly felt a sense of injustice, particurlarly after they’d been denied what seemed to be a clear cut penalty for a foul on Kevin Sharp. Graham Jones crashed a late header against our bar, but we held out to win 1-0 and book our place at Wembley.
From FEED THE GOAT by Shaun Goater with David Clayton.