Football: City set up for the Maine chance

The Play-offs: Wigan fail to maintain the momentum after a first- minute goal: Wigan Athletic 1 Manchester City 1 Barlow 1 Dickov 76 Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 6,762

PAUL DICKOV'S equaliser 14 minutes from time ensured that two sides approaching the Second Division play-offs from opposite directions will go into the second leg on Wednesday all square, but with City in pole position to reach the final.

The fact that it took them all of 76 minutes to recover from the earliest of shocks to their promotion ambitions will have given City a healthy respect for opponents who have arrived at the climax of the season full of momentum.

That was the way Wigan started this match, even if they owed their lead to a crass defensive blunder after only 19 seconds. Gerard Wiekens' backpass caught Nicky Weaver unprepared and Stuart Barlow merely had to nip into the communication gap between them and prod the ball inside the post.

The City supporters, including several dozen without tickets who had vaulted over the perimeter fence shortly before kick off and 9,000 more watching on the big screens at Maine Road, were seeing all their revived optimism turn sour before their eyes.

For Wigan, it was shaping up as a most memorable farewell to Springfield Park, the old ground on which they were playing for the last time before moving to their new, state-of-the-art stadium a few streets away. "We went at them and if our quality had been a bit better, we would have got a few more goals," said their manager Ray Mathias, of a first half that had City profoundly worried.

Even during a second half in which their manager felt they fell well below their best, Latics had chances through Andy Liddell and Graeme Jones, plus a penalty appeal that could have turned into a second disaster for Wiekens when Liddell's shot appeared to strike his arm.

Wigan approached this game as a club aiming to go higher than ever been before, building on the belief acquired after their Auto Windscreens victory at Wembley last month that football can thrive at a high level in a rugby town. City, by contrast, still feel that their rightful place is among the elite - although for a long time yesterday, they showed little idea of how to propel themselves in that direction. The few exceptions only served to underline it. Michael Brown hit the bar after one incisive run and Shaun Goater had a couple of close range half-chances. They also saw a free-kick from their acknowledged danger man Terry Cooke, deflected just over the Wigan bar.

The fact that this was the only meaningful contribution from a potential match-winner was a tribute to how well Wigan policed him. Indeed Manchester City did not make their breakthrough until after Joe Royle had made the difficult decision to replace Cooke, and Brown had shuffled across to use the right flank in his absence. His low early cross found Dickov, who met it perfectly and tucked it past Roy Carroll without fuss.

"It was the sort of thing he used to put over the bar," said Royle of a player who has been so frequently on and off the bench himself during his City career. "But he's worked very hard on his finishing; precision finishing rather than power finishing."

If everyone's finishing had been of the same standard, Royle implied, City could have been going back to Maine Road with a handy lead rather than just home advantage.

"It wasn't the best of starts, but I thought we recovered very well, he said. "Territorially we were on top, and apart from those few seconds I thought we were the better side."

Gareth Taylor missed one inviting chance and Tony Vaughn could have headed City in front deep into injury time. "Hopefully they will think it's all over, said Mathias. "We'll be going there to show them that it's not."

As Joe Royle will tell his players, it should not be assumed that a bear- pit atmosphere at Maine Road on Wednesday will intimidate and overwhelm Wigan. After all, they have recently been to Wembley, were there heavily outnumbered by Millwall's raucous throng, and still managed to come away with the prize.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears