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Club News

LATICS IN THE THIRD TIER: 1984-85

1 June 2015

A look back at memorable campaign which saw Latics win inaugural Freight Rover Trophy.

  • Bryan Hamilton arrives as manager in March.
  • Latics finish 16th in Division Three, with two points less than previous season.
  • Memorable Wembley win over Brentford secures Freight Rover Trophy success for Latics.
It was a season the club will never forget. OK, it wasn’t our greatest Wembley success but it was our first and for those who saw the club lift the inaugural Freight Rover Trophy it will live long in the memory.



The season began with a trip to Bristol City and a rarity of all 11 players who featured on the final day of the previous season, appearing again on the first day of the new campaign with the only change to Harry McNally’s starting XI seeing Neil Bailey replace Alex Bruce before the former Preston North End man came on as a substitute.

The Robins, who would run close to promotion come the end of the season, ran out 2-0 winners thanks to a second-half double from Glyn Riley before Latics shocked eventual Third Division winners Bradford City at Springfield a week later with Steve Johnson on the score-sheet.

A defeat at Brentford and home defeat to Gillingham left Latics with just three points from a possible 12 as they headed into a midweek clash with Lincoln City as Springfield, though just over 2,500 witnessed  first-half Johnson penalty get McNally’s side back on track.

The former Rochdale striker’ penalty was only a temporary reprieve, though, as 4-1 and 2-1 defeats against Millwall and York City respectively left Latics in 18th place having struck just four goals in their opening seven games.

McNally’s side improved in October, though, beginning a seven-game league unbeaten run with a 1-0 win at Reading thanks to a John Butler strike before a Tony Pulis own goal helped Latics draw 1-1 with Newport County at Springfield.

After drawing 0-0 at Springfield against First Division West Bromwich Albion in the Milk Cup, Latics lost the second leg at the Hawthorns and exited at the Second Round stage.


Goals from Steve Hunt, Garry Thompson and Nicky Cross saw the Baggies through on aggregate against Latics in the Milk Cup second round.

Latics stayed in the Midlands for their next league assignment as Walsall held McNally’s side to a 0-0 draw before Johnson scored twice in four days to earn a point at Cambridge United and all three in a home win over Bristol Rovers.

McNally’s side had failed to scored more than once in their opening 12 league games but they put that record to bed when a Johnson double, including a penalty which took his tally for the season to eight, and strikes from Barry Knowles and Mike Newell (their first for the club) secured a 4-2 win over Orient.


New signing Barry Knowles, who signed for the club from Barrow in early October, opened his Latics account in the win over Orient.

Graham Barrow and John Butler then bagged to earn a point at Swansea before the run came to an end at Bournemouth, with a Billy Rafferty strike proving the difference.

Latics bounced back, though, with Newell on the mark in a 1-0 home win over Plymouth Argyle before his double gave McNally’s side a two-goal lead at the Baseball Ground against Derby County only for Bobby Davison to strike twice in reply.

Third place Hull City, who would go on to win promotion, visited Springfield next and Newell was on the mark once again with the 18-year-old continuing to make a big impression, scoring in a 1-1 draw as Latics once again failed to take advantage of taking the lead.


Young Mike Newell in action for Latics as he strengthened his growing reputation with four goals in three games.

A Yorkshire double followed in the build up to Christmas for Latics with trips to Doncaster Rovers and Rotherham United extended the unbeaten run to five with both returning a point each.

Barrow was on the mark at Belle Vue whilst his double, along with a Tony Kelly strike, earned another point at Millmoor.

Local rivals Bolton Wanderers arrived at Springfield on Boxing Day as over 8,800 fans packed in to watch a Gerry McElhinney own goal give Latics all three points.

That derby win spurred McNally’s side on for a second in four days as second-half Steve Johnson and David Lowe strikes secured all three points over Preston North End.

A young Paul Jewell, who had made his Latics debut prior to Christmas against Rotherham, then made his mark with the first Wigan Athletic goal of 1985 as Burnley were defeated at Turf Moor after Wayne Biggins had cancelled out Barrow’s opener, lifting Latics up to tenth in the table – their highest position of the season.

After defeating Wrexham and Northwich Victoria in the first and second round respectively, Latics travelled to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in their next FA Cup assignment.

Jewell and Newell gave Latics a 2-0 advantage but Chelsea forced a replay thanks to goals from Pat Nevin and David Speedie. Kerry Dixon bagged four in the replay whilst Speedie was also on the mark as the First Division Blues ran out 5-0 winners.


Latics almost provided an FA Cup shock at the Bridge but the Blues, who finished sixth in the First Division, worked their way back into the game.

The cup run coincided with a downturn in league fortunes as Latics lost three of their next four in the league with Brentford, York City and Millwall all victorious against McNally’s side.

In that period, Latics played out their first two Freight Rover Trophy ties, the first at Wrexham ending a 2-2 draw thanks to a Newell double before the second leg at Springfield saw Jewell bag twice and Johnson also get on the score-sheet in a 3-1 win.

By the time of the second round, Latics had a new manager and their league winless run had extended to 11 games as Bournemouth won 2-1 at Springfield in what was Bryan Hamilton’s first game in charge following McNally’s resignation after a 1-1 draw at Newport.

Hamilton watched on as a Kelly penalty was enough to defeat Bury in the second round of the completion before a 2-0 win over Burnley thanks to Jewell and Lowe strikes steadied the ship and ended a 12-game winless run.

Later that week, Tranmere Rovers visited Springfield for the quarter-finals of the Freight Rover Trophy as a Lowe double and Kelly strike sent Latics into the last four of the Northern Section.


David Lowe’s double secured progress in the Freight Rover Trophy quarter-finals against Tranmere.

This cup proved to be beneficial to Latics’ league form and Warren Aspinall’s first goal for the club, a penalty, and a strike from Steve Walsh helped earn a 2-0 win over Derby County at Springfield to ease any relegation fears.

Points began to accumulate at a fast rate with Swansea City defeated 2-0 at Springfield before Doncaster were annihilated 5-2 in a game which saw Jewell and Kelly both notch doubles.

Barrow then grabbed himself a brace three days later as rivals Preston were also defeated 5-2 at Deepdale; Jewell, Newell and Butler were also on the score-sheet.

Latics’ busy schedule continued when Lincoln City were defeated 3-1 in the semi-finals of the Northern Section of the Freight Rover Trophy at Sincil Bank with Lowe, Barrow and Gary Bennett on the mark.

Barrow and Jewell goals helped Latics defeat Rotherham United and secure a 16th place finish as attentions turned to a trip to Mansfield for the Northern Area Final of the Freight Rover Trophy with the winner set to head to Wembley for the final of the inaugural competition.


Latics defeated the Stags at Field Mill so set up a Wembley visit with Brentford standing in the way of a first Freight Rover Trophy success.

George Foster scored at both ends to send the tie to penalties and it was Latics who came out on top, progressing with a 3-1 spot-kick victory to set up a tie with the Bees.


Goals from Mike Newell, Tony Kelly and David Lowe secured the Freight Rover Trophy for Latics in its Inaugural year.

Boss Bryan Hamilton made one change to the side that defeated Mansfield on penalties for the Wembley clash with Barry Knowles coming in for Butler.

Newell put Latics ahead just before the half-hour after getting in behind the Bees’ back-line from a ball over the top and finishing neatly beyond Gary Phillips.

Phillips was beaten again 11 minutes later as Barrow controlled the ball in the area and laid off for Kelly to smash home.

Jamie Murray crossed for Robbie Cooke to get one back early in the second-half for Brentford but Lowe made sure of the victory as Barrow headed back across goal from a corner for Lowe to acrobatically finish.



Graham Barrow reflects on Latics’ 1985 Freight Rover Trophy success. 


Mike Newell gives Latics the lead at Wembley.


Manager Bryan Hamilton and Graham Barrow celebrate with Freight Rover Trophy.

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