Auto Windscreens Shield winning campaign also sees play-off semi-final defeat.
- Ray Mathias returns as Latics boss.
- Simon Haworth and Andy Liddell arrive at Springfield in October from Coventry City and Barnsley respectively.
- Latics finish sixth in the Third Division and lose out in play-off semi-finals to Manchester City.
- Paul Rogers’ 93rd minute winner sees Latics defeat Millwall 1-0 at Wembley in the Auto Windscreens Shield final.
- Stuart Barlow top scores with 21 in all competitions.
Ray Mathias was appointed new Wigan Athletic boss ahead of the 1998-99 season, replacing John Deehan to return to the club he had previously served as manager between 1986 and 1989.
It was all change at Springfield as Ray Mathias returned as manager ahead of the 1998-99 campaign.
Signings arrived in the form of Gareth Griffiths (Port Vale), Leigh Jenkinson (St. Johnstone) and Michael O’Neill (Coventry City) whilst Simon Haworth, also from the Sky Blues, Stuart Balmer (Charlton Athletic) and Andy Liddell (Barnsley) signed not long after the season’s start.
The campaign began, in typical Latics fashion, with defeat at home to Millwall as Paul Shaw’s delicate finish secured an opening day away success for the Lions.
Attentions turned to the Worthington Cup three days later with the visit of Rochdale opening Latics’ cup campaign. The first leg ended in a 1-0 victory for the hosts with Dale’s Keith Hill converting into his own goal early in the second-half.
Defeat at Lincoln City extended Latics’ run of customary bad starts with Tony Battersby notching in the second-half for the Imps at Sincil Bank.
The second leg of the Worthington Cup tie with Rochdale also ended in victory at Spotland as David Lee scored in the second-half to make it 1-0 on the night and 2-0 on aggregate.
Latics’ campaign points total began to tick after the visit of Blackpool as a delightful Stuart Barlow chip opened the scoring on nine minutes before victory over the Tangerines was confirmed with his second and a Lee strike.
A 3-2 defeat at Bristol Rovers and 3-1 home loss to Luton Town had Latics in 18th at the start of the month with the Third Division typically close and unpredictable.
September began with an away assignment at Notts County as Barlow’s fifth goal in four games earned a 1-0 victory over Sam Allardyce’s Magpies.
Roy Carroll saved a first-half penalty against Colchester United in the first home game of the month but the spoils would still be shared as Mark Sale’s strike was cancelled out by a late Lee volley.
A defeat at Bournemouth hindered progress before Latics were at Carrow Road in the Second Round of the Worthington Cup, to take on First Division Norwich City. A Carl Bradshaw own goal gave the Canaries a lead to bring to Springfield for the second leg a week later.
In between, Macclesfield Town visited Springfield for the first time as a Football League side with Lee and Barlow again the goal-scorers in a 2-0 victory.
Norwich were then at Springfield for the second leg of the Worthington Cup Second Round tie in which they held a 1-0 lead, they were 4-0 up in the tie by the 66th minute as Craig Bellamy’s opener was followed by an Iwan Roberts double, though Mathias’ side earned some respect with a late double from Griffiths and Barlow.
Over 10,000 were at Turf Moor to Pat McGibbon bag his second goal of the season in the 90th minute to earn Latics a point against Burnley after Brian Reid had given the hosts the lead.
A clean sheet on what was £600,000 signing Haworth’s debut, saw Latics run out 1-0 winners over Northampton Town thanks to a 67th minute own goal from Tony Dobson.
Simon Haworth signed for Latics from Coventry City and went on to make 117 league appearances.
Oldham Athletic were then downed 3-2 on the following Friday at Boundary Park. Bradshaw opened the scoring before Richard Graham levelled for the hosts. Barlow and Paul Warne made sure of the points with second-half goals before Mark Allott added a late consolation.
Shaun Goater earned Manchester City a win at Springfield as Latics struggled to build on consecutive victories before defeat at Stoke City dropped Mathias’ side close to the relegation zone.
Next up was the visit of York City and Latics turned on their style to secure what would be their biggest win of the season as Barry Jones diverted into his own goal before Colin Greenall’s first goal of the season made it 2-0 at the break. A second-half Haworth double, his first two goals for the club, either side of a Liddell, signed for £350,000 from Barnsley, strike, his first Latics goal to, made it 5-0.
A 2-0 defeat at Gillingham summed up the early season mixed fortune for Latics but they recorded a 1-0 win at Reading in their next fixture with Bradshaw’s ninth minute goal the only strike at the Madejski Stadium.
FA Cup progress was secured as Latics continued their improvements by edging a seven-goal thriller with Blackpool as Greenall and Haworth both gave Mathias’ side the lead before Jason Blunt and Brett Ormerod twice levelled. Barlow and David Lowe struck for 4-2 before Martin Aldridge set up a tense finish with a neat finish for the Tangerines.
Draws with Wycombe Wanderers and Preston North End were followed up by a 2-0 home victory over Fulham, McGibbon and Lowe on the mark, as Latics moved up to 11th in the table.
The Auto Windscreens Shield campaign kicked off in early December with future Latics Mike Pollitt unable to stop Barlow, Warne and Balmer strikes as Mathias’ side won 3-0 at Rotherham United.
After drawing 1-1 in the tie at Meadow Lane, Latics faced Notts County in an FA Cup Second Round replay at Springfield ten days later with the Magpies running out 4-2 winners on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes.
December was an unbeaten month in the league as three further draws followed before a Barlow double closed the year out with a 2-0 home win over Walsall.
January began as the season had with a defeat to Millwall before O’Neill, Graeme Jones and Lee secured progress to the quarter-finals of the Shield with a 3-0 win over Scarborough.
And in-form Latics were back in the top-half by the end of January, a 4-0 win at Luton Town, thanks to McGibbon, Liddell, Jones and Haworth strikes, was followed up by a 2-0 win at Walsall with Jones, again on the mark, and Barlow also adding to his tally for the season.
In between, Mathias’ side had made the last four of the Northern Section of the Auto Windscreens Shield winning another tie 3-0 as Haworth, Barlow and Ian Kilford were on the mark in the success over Carlisle United.
A 2-1 loss at Colchester United was a dent to the hopes of a play-off push but Mathias got a reaction from his side in the form of seven consecutive victories in all competitions.
Home wins over Notts County and Bournemouth were followed by an away win at Macclesfield Town as Latics moved into seventh ahead of their Auto Windscreens Shield Northern Section semi-final at Rochdale.
Barlow and O’Neill struck either side of half-time to set up a final with Wrexham as Latics looked in good shape to challenge for promotion and a first Football League Trophy final since 1985.
A Haworth double, in between Rogers and Barlow strikes, earned a 4-1 win over Gillingham when Latics returned to league action before Wrexham visited Springfield for the first leg of the Auto Windscreens Shield Northern final.
Kevin Sharp and Barlow scored the goals in the second-half that would give Mathias’ side a lead going into the second leg, though a trip to York City was the main focus in the league prior to the return in Wales, despite Latics having a foot at Wembley.
Lee, Sharp and Greenall scored in the first-half to a 3-1 win over the Minstermen with Latics up to eighth, just two places outside the play-off spots.
Leading 2-0 from the first leg, Mathias’ side were in Wales next for the second leg of their Auto Windscreens Shield Northen final, and they secured their place at Wembley as Haworth twice gave the visitors the lead but equalisers from Dave Brammer and Jake Edwards kept the tie alive until O’Neill won the affair late on the night, securing a 5-2 aggregate success and a final with Millwall, who had already won twice over their counterparts in the league programme.
Six league games preceded the Wembley final, as home wins over Bristol Rovers and Oldham Athletic kept the play-off bid alive.
And so, Latics went in search of more silverware under Dave Whelan, Millwall standing in their way at Wembley.
Mathias made three changes for the final from the previous fixture, a draw at Preston North End, with Bradshaw, Greenall and McGibbon coming back into the side.
A tense affair saw chances missed by both sides and look destined for extra-time, only for Rogers to decide it with a 93rd minute strike, securing a memorable moment in the club’s history.
Back in the league and with promotion on their mind, it was Rogers again on the mark six minutes in against Reading before a Barlow double and Greenall strike made it 4-1 to keep the play-off hopes alive.
Wins over Lincoln City and Wrexham sent Latics into their final three games well in with a shout of making the play-offs.
A draw at Burnley and defeat at Wycombe meant Latics had to better Bournemouth’s result at Wrexham to secure a place in the play-offs on the final day. The Cherries drew 0-0 with the Welsh outfit whilst a Liddell double and McGibbon strike saw Mathias’ side defeat Chesterfield 3-1 to spark great celebrations at Springfield Park, in what was the club’s last orthodox league game at the ground before their move to the JJB Stadium.
The last game at the ground, on 15th May 1999, saw Manchester City visit in the first leg of the Second Division Play-Off semi-finals. Barlow gave Latics the lead in front of over 6000 inside the first minute after a lack of communication in the City backline. However, Dickov replied 14 minutes from time with a superb finish to send the tie back to Maine Road level.
Shaun Goater’s goal, in which he appeared to handle, decided the second leg and is a moment Latics fans still can’t comprehend to this day whilst Sharp was wiped out earlier in the game in the City penalty area for what should have been a penalty.
Shaun Goater's controversial goal prevented Latics from making a second Wembley trip of the campaign.
City went on to win the final against Gillingham on penalties whilst Mathias would be dismissed at the end of the season and replaced by John Benson.