Late season form protects third tier status in 1992.
- Latics keep most of squad from previous campaign with Peter Atherton the most notable departure.
- Young full back moved to Coventry City for club record £300,000.
- Paul Gray arrives from Luton Town but injury curtails his campaign whilst captain Neill Rimmer also suffers bad early season setback.
- Dave Philpotts moves up to managerial role in November with Bryan Hamilton remaining chief executive.
- Phil Daley cleans up at end of season awards after notching 14 league goals.
- Gary Worthington top scores in all competitions with 18.
- Latics finish 15th after recovering from run which saw them second bottom at the turn of the year.
It was seemingly customary that Latics would start seasons badly in this era, and the 1991-92 campaign proved no different.
Full back Peter Atherton left to join Coventry City for £300,000.
Granted things didn’t go exactly to plan as an irresistible bid for full back Peter Atherton came in from Coventry City after he’d impressed in last season’s FA Cup tie with the Sky Blues whilst influential captain Neill Rimmer and new signing Paul Gray picked up season-ending injuries early in the campaign.
Paul Gray, signed from Luton Town, made just five appearances before his season was ended due to injury.
Bryan Hamilton’s side would win just one of their opening 12 league games in what was a turbulent period for the club in their fight to protect their third tier status, a season after narrowly missing out on the play-offs.
The campaign began with a trip to Shrewsbury Town, who would go on to be relegated, where Cliff Carr’s goal just after half-time made it six consecutive seasons without a first day win.
The Rumbelows Cup threw up the prospect of a north-west derby with Burnley, who would win the Fourth Division by the end of the campaign, with the first leg at Springfield ending in a 3-1 Latics victory thanks to goals from Darren Patterson, Bryan Griffiths and Gary Worthington.
Latics’ only league win of the opening two months of the campaign came in their next fixture as Chester came to Springfield. Stuart Rimmer gave the visitors the lead before Worthington levelled with an audacious chip and bagged the winner when he tapped home after Phil Daley’s shot came back off the post.
Hamilton’s side progressed through the First Round of the Rumbelows Cup 6-3 on aggregate after a 3-2 second leg victory over Burnley at Turf Moor. All the goals came in the second-half as Patterson, Rimmer and Phil Jones gave Latics the lead on three occasions on the evening.
A severe dip in form followed that win in Lancashire, though, as a draw at West Bromwich Albion, again thanks to a Worthington goal, was followed by home defeats to Stockport County, Hull City and Huddersfield Town.
Tony Kelly, against his former club, gave Latics the lead at Bolton with a bizarre chip over his own goalkeeper before Julian Darby levelled in the second-half with a superb strike to extend the visitors’ winless run.
Dave Bassett’s First Division strugglers Sheffield United were next at Springfield in the Rumbelows Cup and Latics sent the tie back to Yorkshire level as Worthington and Patterson secured a 2-1 half-time lead before Brian Deane, a regular scorer against Latics, added his second after equalising in the first-half to leave the game set at 2-2 at half-time in the tie.
Despite the positives of holding the First Division Blades, Latics’ league form failed to improve in the short term as defeat at Darlington, marred by a season-ending injury to Rimmer, was followed up by a 4-3 defeat at Hartlepool as Brian Honour and Paul Dalton gave Pools a 2-0 lead inside seven minutes before the north-east outfit held firm despite two goals from Daley and a Gary Powell effort.
The Rumbelows Cup adventure ended at Bramall Lane three days later as Jamie Hoyland struck in the second-half despite a spirited performance from Hamilton’s side.
A home draw with Reading was followed by a six-goal thriller at Birmingham City as Jones gave Latics a fifth minute lead before Simon Sturridge levelled and Daley scored to give Latics the advantage at the break. Nigel Gleghorn levelled for the Blues just after the break before Daley made it 3-2 to the visitors with his second. However, Ian Rodgerson scored in the 90th minute to share the spoils and extend Latics’ winless run to ten games.
Gary Powell in action against Reading's Keith McPherson after the Royals had to wear Latics' away shirt on their visit to Springfield.
That run would be ended when Exeter visited Springfield at the end of October as Alan Johnson, Powell, Dean Connelly – signed recently on loan from Barnsley – and Daley downed the Grecians with a superb performance.
Johnson was on the mark again a week later as Swansea City came to Springfield struggling themselves and ended up in even more trouble, losing 1-0. The Welsh outfit would narrowly survive come the end of the campaign.
Heavy defeats at Preston North End and Brentford put Latics on the back foot once again, though fears of another long winless run were appeased when Andy Pilling’s first goal of the season, and a Worthington strike, secured a 2-0 win at Scarborough in the First Round of the FA Cup.
By the time Bury visited Springfield in the next fixture, Dave Philpotts had been installed as manager of Latics’ first team with Hamilton moving back to the role of chief executive. The change proved to have an instant impact as goals from Worthington and Griffiths secured a win that moved Latics out of the relegation zone before a 1-1 home draw with Leyton Orient made it three unbeaten in all competitions.
Dave Philpotts, who had been coaching with the first team, took control on the pitch whilst Bryan Hamilton continued as chief executive.
Griffiths was on the mark again when Latics made the FA Cup Third Round at the expense of Stockport County with Powell also notching for a 2-0 victory.
Unfortunately, Latics were back in the bottom four at Christmas as defeats at Stoke City and at home to West Bromwich Albion were followed up by a draw with Shrewsbury Town, leaving Philpotts’ side 23rd at the turn of the year.
A thrilling 3-3 draw with Stockport County kicked off 1992 with Daley earning a late point at Edgeley Park.
The FA Cup run ended with defeat against Notts County, the Magpies winning 2-0 at Meadow Lane with Phil Turner and Michael Johnson on the mark.
Bradford City were next up at Springfield with Latics’ full attention now focused on staying in the division, and their first home league game of the calendar year ended in victory as Kevin Langley opened his account for the season from a Joe Parkinson cut-back before Lee Duxbury levelled for the Bantams. It was Daley again who bagged the winner, scoring a trademark header in what was a superb season for the frontman.
A heavy defeat at Bournemouth and draw with Fulham left Latics still deep in trouble moving into February.
Griffiths struck in the 89th minute for a smash and grab victory at Exeter at the start of the month but defeats at Leyton Orient and Chester, dissected by a home win over Stoke, with Griffiths again on the mark.
Bournemouth, who had smashed Latics two months earlier, visited Springfield to kick-off March as Johnson and Worthington bagged the goals in a much-needed 2-0 win.
A long trip to Torquay ended in a 1-0 win with Daley scoring the game’s only goal before local rivals Preston were downed 3-0 at Springfield to make it three consecutive wins. Another Worthington double and Daley strike jumped Philpotts’ side up to 18th.
Defeat at Swansea had Latics back in the drop-zone but they wouldn’t drop into the bottom four again after victory over Brentford thanks Pilling and Parkinson goals and a 4-1 win at Bury with Parkinson again on the mark, along with Worthington, Daley and Powell, lifting Latics into 18th.
A draw at Hull City was followed up by a 3-0 home win over Peterborough United that had Philpotts’ men in 15th, their highest position since August.
A three-game winless run, starting with a 0-0 draw at home to Torquay that moved Latics eight points above the relegation zone, meant Latics would still need points from their final four games to be sure of survival.
A 1-0 win at Darlington, thanks to a Worthington strike, secured safety before a 1-1 draw with Hartlepool United, with John MacPhail grabbing a late equaliser for the visitors, prevented Latics from moving comfortably into mid-table.
Birmingham City travelled to Springfield for the final home league game of the season with the Blues back by heavy support from the Midlands as they looked to continue their pursuit for the title. Latics hadn’t read the script, though, as a Worthington double and Pilling strike secured a 3-0 win and Brentford went on to win the title.
A 3-2 defeat at Reading completed the campaign with Latics finishing 15th as a result of the defeat to the Royals but, having spent most of the season in the relegation zone, they were happy to be bringing Third Division football back to Springfield in 1992-93.
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