Football: Dickov keeps City in the hunt

Wigan Athletic 1 Manchester City 1
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SOMEONE LOOKED around the bare room under the stand that serves as the players' lounge, interview area and probably the place they store the pies and surmised that Wigan Athletic had already begun to move out of Springfield Park.

Not so, he was told - it has always been like that. Bleak and cheerless it might be, but the ground they left for the last time on Saturday holds fond memories for those who have seen them climb from non-League to the brink of the First Division.

For a long time in this first leg of their play-offs, it looked as though the Latics would depart with a memorable result to send them on their way, after leading the nearest thing the Second Division possesses to aristocrats from the opening minute through a goal by Stuart Barlow.

Long after that, it was still obvious why Wigan have come with such an impressive late charge to seize a play-off place. They play an enterprising 3-4-3, with a trio of front-runners of contrasting styles and a pair of wing-backs who make the whole thing tick.

Particularly outstanding against City was the former Leeds United starlet, Kevin Sharp, who not only marked Terry Cooke out of the game, but also found time to spark some of the game's more incisive attacks down the left flank.

One thing that City do have is a variety of options and it was moving the energetic Michael Brown to the right that produced an equaliser for Paul Dickov.

At the end, the police and stewards confronted the City fans - dayglo jackets meet dayglo replica shirts - but gave the Latics faithful free run of the redundant turf. Shreds of the goal-nets were the most popular souvenirs; Wednesday will tell whether they have something else to remember the week by.

Goals: Barlow (1) 1-0; Dickov (76) 1-1.

Wigan Athletic (3-4-3): Carroll; McGibbon, Greenall, Balmer; Bradshaw (Green, 83), Porter, O'Neill, Sharp; Barlow, Haworth (Jones, 31), Liddell (Lee, 80).

Manchester City (4-4-2): Weaver; Crooks, Wiekens, Vaughn, Edghill; Cooke (Allsop, 65), Brown, Whitley, Horlock; Goater (Taylor, 73), Dickov. Sustitute not used: Pollock.

Referee: A.Wiley (Stafford).

Bookings: Wigan: Bradshaw, Porter, O'Neill. City: Edghill, Whitley.

Man of the match: Sharp.

Attendance: 6,762.