Inaugural JJB Stadium campaign sees Latics once again challenge for promotion.
- John Benson replaces Ray Mathias as Latics boss.
- Treble-winning Manchester United open new stadium in packed out pre-season fixture.
- Latics unbeaten in first 24 league games of the campaign.
- Arjan de Zeeuw signs for Wigan Athletic.
- Wembley defeat to Gillingham sees Latics miss out in the play-offs once again.
The appointment of John Benson was Chairman Dave Whelan’s next throw of the dice in an attempt to win promotion to the second tier after Ray Mathias, a surprise appointment himself, parted company with the club after losing out in the play-offs to Manchester City a season earlier.
Alex Cribley and Brendan O’Connell either side of manager John Benson, who replaced Ray Mathias as boss.
Benson’s summer business saw Mark Bowen (Charlton Athletic), Arjan de Zeeuw (Barnsley) and Darren Sheridan (Barnsley) all arrive at the new JJB Stadium whilst Paul Rogers, scorer of the winning goal in the Auto Windscreens Shield final victory over Millwall, failed to agree a new deal with the club and joined Brighton and Hove Albion and Jorg Smeets returned to Holland.
Arjan De Zeeuw, pictured in action in his first season with the club against Millwall, went on to become a club legend after joining from Barnsley.
The JJB Stadium was opened with the visit of Manchester United for a pre-season fixture with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side fresh off the back of winning their famous treble of the FA Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League.
Paul Scholes and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored to give the Red Devils a 2-0 victory on a memorable evening in the club’s history.
Chairman Dave Whelan and Sir Alex Ferguson pictured at the opening fixture for the DW Stadium, Wigan Athletic v Manchester United.
The league programme began with the visit of Scunthorpe United and Latics proved far too strong for the Iron as a Simon Haworth double and Stuart Barlow penalty secured a 3-0 win.
Next up was a clash with York City in the Worthington Cup First Round, with the first leg being held at Bootham Crescent where Haworth was again on the mark to give Benson’s side a lead to bring back to the JJB.
A trip to Millwall was on the agenda next for an in-form Latics side, and they should have made it three wins in three in all competitions as superb goals from Andy Liddell, Stuart Balmer and Barlow gave the visitors a 3-0 lead before Paul Shaw, Tim Cahill and Neil Harris – from the penalty spot – notched in the last 12 minutes to complete a superb comeback for the Lions.
Back at the JJB, Barlow and Haworth strikes, either side of a Tony Thorpe penalty, lifted Latics to second at expense of Bristol City.
Two Barlow goals set up a Worthington Cup Second Round tie with Premier League Watford as York were defeated at the JJB before the frontman produced arguably his best performance of the campaign. Barlow’s treble, as well as a Haworth header, earned a 4-1 victory and a move to the top of the Second Division table.
Pat McGibbon registered his first goal of the season to give Latics the lead in their next fixture against Cambridge United, but the U’s were level when John Taylor equalised 13 minutes from time.
Top at the beginning of September, Latics were rampant in a 3-1 win over Bristol Rovers at the JJB, extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to eight games as Sheridan, Barlow and Haworth were on the mark.
A trip to Vicarage Road to face Premier League Watford in the Second Round of the Worthington Cup ended in defeat with Clint Easton and Micah Hyde scoring to give the Hornets a 2-0 first leg lead as Benson’s side left themselves with it all to do in the reverse fixture.
After a draw at Stoke City, the second leg took place at the JJB Stadium and Latics went so close to progressing to the next stage as Carl Bradshaw’s late penalty, after Simon Haworth had twice given the hosts the lead either side of a Paul Kennedy strike, forced the tie to extra time. However, Latics failed to add to their goals tally in the added 30 minutes and thus were knocked out on away goals.
A goalless draw at Cardiff City followed before a home win over Luton Town, thanks to a 75th minute Barlow strike, kicked off October and moved Benson’s side up to second, with the run now nine league games unbeaten.
Barlow’s superb form continued as he bagged in a 2-0 win at Reading with a Bradshaw penalty rounding off the scoring before a 1-1 draw at Wrexham, thanks to Roberto Martinez’s 50th minute strike, extended the unbeaten run further.
The Spanish midfielder was again on the mark in a 2-0 home victory over Cardiff City as Ian Kilford also opened his account for the season.
A draw at Colchester preceded the first FA Cup fixture to be held at the JJB Stadium, a game which saw the unique occurrence of Latics being the away side on their own patch. Cambridge City’s non-league stadium was deemed unsuitable for the tie and thus Latics kitted out in their gold away kits and took on the minnows at the JJB. A Barlow double won the tie in the first-half, setting up a Second Round affair with Wycombe Wanderers.
Three league wins, including one over the Chairboys, in the four games prior to the FA Cup clash lifted Latics back to first place in the Third Division as Chesterfield and Bournemouth were also defeated. A draw at Blackpool was the only minor blip as Benson’s side moved 17 unbeaten in the league.
The clash at Adams Park saw Keith Ryan force a 90th minute replay after Haworth’s double had cancelled out Jamie Devine’s opener.
Draws with Bury and Burnley preceded the replay which Latics succeeded 2-1 in, with Haworth grabbing the winner to set up a home tie with Wolves in the Third Round.
Simon Haworth continued his fine run of form with a goal in the draw with Burnley.
December was kicked off with a trip to Scunthorpe United and Latics were back to winning ways as Liddell and Martinez secured a 2-1 win at Glandford Park.
Three days later, Benson’s side kicked off their Auto Windscreens Shield defence with the visit of Burnley, defeating the Clarets 2-1 to continue a remarkable run that had seen Latics lose just once, at Premier League Watford in the Worthington Cup, in their opening 28 matches.
Wolves made it two defeats in 29 when they visited the JJB, Carl Robinson snatching victory for Colin Lee’s side in the 90th minute to leave Latics with their focus solely on their Auto Windscreens Shield defence and promotion challenge.
Roberto Martinez in action against Wolves in the FA Cup Third Round.
Benson’s side would finish 1999 top of the pile, three wins out of three over the Christmas period extending the gap at the top even further as Brentford, Notts County and Gillingham were all defeated without managing to beat Roy Carroll in the Latics goal.
The New Year kicked off with a trip to Oxford and, as he would do later in the season, Haworth scored twice to secure a win for Latics.
Following that win, and a 24-game unbeaten run, Latics suffered their first league defeat at the JJB Stadium as Oldham Athletic came away 1-0 winners.
Simon Haworth did his utmost to find an equaliser against Oldham Athletic.
That defeat sparked a winless run stretching nine games, including home defeats to Colchester United and Stoke City.
By the end of the run, and the next win - a 5-1 demolition of Blackpool - Latics had lost their Auto Windscreens Shield place after losing to Carlisle United whilst they’d also dropped to fourth, their lowest position of the campaign.
That win over the Tangerines saw Liddell open the scoring before Gareth Griffiths, Haworth, Barlow and Sheridan scored in the second-half to reignite the promotion bid.
A draw at Chesterfield was followed by four consecutive victories with Carroll again unbeaten in successes over Bury, Wycombe, Notts County and Brentford as Latics were back in second heading into April.
April proved to be a crucial month, though, as only two wins from the final eight games meant Latics had to settle for a play-off place and a fourth place finish.
Millwall, defeated by Latics in the Auto Windscreens Shield Final a year earlier, stood in Latics’ way of another trip to Wembley.
The first leg at the Den ended goalless before Sheridan struck just after the hour mark in the second leg to set up a final clash with Gillingham.
A Pat McGibbon own goal gave the Kent outfit the lead in the final but Haworth replied just before the hour mark to send the tie to extra-time. Barlow’s penalty in extra-time looked to have won it for Benson’s side but Steve Butler and Andy Thomson struck cruel late blows to win promotion for Peter Taylor’s Gills.