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
Sunday 16 May 1999
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.
Latest in Sport
Andy Murray tells how coach Amélie Mauresmo revealed her pregnancy
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: The biggest fight of all time, or maybe just the most lucrative?
What time does Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao start?
Everton 3 Manchester United 0 player ratings: Who scored lower - Marouane Fellaini or Radamel Falcao?
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: What time does it start and where can I watch it?
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...