A look back at the 2014-15 season for the Wigan Athletic Development Squad.
- Latics finish runners-up in Final Third Development League West.
- Development Squad players step up for first team debuts.
- International recognition for forward Matty Hamilton.
Latics narrowly missed out on defending their Final Third Development League West and FTDL Cup crowns, finishing second in the league on goal difference behind Port Vale, with the Valiants also brushing past Latics in the cup semi-final.
A series of eye-catching results were recorded in a high goal scoring season, with Latics winning 4-0 on three separate occasions, as well as 5-0, 5-4 and 4-3.
Ryan Jennings, who was offered a one-year contract at the end of the season, finished 2014-15 as top goal scorer on eight goals. Matty Hamilton finished second with six, claiming two caps for the Republic of Ireland’s Under 21s in the process.
Below we take a closer look at each month of the season, documenting Latics’ results.
PRE-SEASON – JULY AND AUGUST
Latics endured a tough pre-season, losing twice and drawing twice in non-competitive fixtures.
Southport and Birmingham City were victorious over Joe Parkinson’s side, with draws against Charnock Richard and Blackburn Rovers, before the 2013-14 Lancashire FA Senior Cup was finally settled in early August against Bury.
A cruel penalty shootout defeat was in-store for Latics, with the Shakers victorious 4-2 from the spot.
Hamilton had given Latics the lead in the first half when he followed in a saved penalty, but Andrew Tutte’s spot kick at the same end in the second half helped to take the game to extra time. Scott Burgess dealt the hammer blow with the winning penalty.
After a rough end to pre-season as runners-up in the LFA Cup, Latics made sure they got maximum points from the opening fixture of the league season, coming back from 3-1 down at home to Wrexham with Tim Chow netting the winner in the first minute of stoppage time. Martyn Waghorn had opened the scoring for Latics, with Fraser Fyvie’s double drawing them level at 3-3.
Latics took part in three separate competitions during the first month of the season, travelling to Fleetwood Town’s Highbury Stadium, as a youthful side drew 0-0 in the opening game of the FTDL Cup group stage.
September ended in the Under 21 Premier League Cup, and things were looking rosy for Latics who breezed past local rivals Preston North End 5-0, the game garnering arguably the goal of the season from Jennings as seen below.
Latics’ Under 21 PL Cup progress continued in impressive fashion, with the first game of the month a 3-1 victory against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.
Forest’s line-up included first team experience in the form of Dorus De Vries, Chris Burke, Lars Veldwijk, Ben Osborn and Jamie Paterson, but Latics more than impressed, pouncing in the final 15 minutes to seal a place in the first round proper.
Another stunning goal from Jennings started the scoring, before Joey Johnson danced between defenders and lobbed De Vries, with Declan Poole making it 3-0 on the stroke of full time. Osborn did manage a stoppage time consolation, with his deflected effort beating Lee Nicholls.
Unfortunately for Latics their back-to-back wins were soon ended, with a 5-1 defeat away at eventual league winners Port Vale. Despite a bright start and another goal for Jennings in the early stages, the Valiant’s experienced and physical outfit was too much at Vale Park.
Latics looked likely to bounce back immediately from the defeat with a home game against Tranmere Rovers, but it proved difficult at Christopher Park despite twice going two goals up.
Waghorn added to an early opener from Andy Delort, with Jordan Flores then putting Latics 3-1 up shortly after half time, but as the rain battered the training ground, Tranmere rescued a late point with a second half double.
Latics were about to start their longest unbeaten run of the season, stretching from 28 October 2014 to 27 January 2015, beginning at home to local rivals Bolton Wanderers in the Lancashire FA Senior Cup, the competition Latics finished runners-up in just three months earlier.
This season’s campaign started with a bang, a win over a local rival and a winning goal from Wigan-born forward Flores booking Latics a place in the semi-final.
Just two fixtures were played in November, with the month ending on a high, a 4-0 victory at home to Morecambe in the league as Delort grabbed a double, with Rob Kiernan and Flores also on target.
The final month of 2014 ended with Latics’ third FTDL victory of the campaign, as Delort scored scored his fourth in three appearances to put his side top of the table with three wins, one draw and just one defeat.
Walsall were the visitors to Christopher Park, and although only a slender victory, the goal was well worked and well taken.
The year ended on a mixed note, elimination from the U21 PL Cup in another cruel penalty shootout, this time after a 4-4 draw over 120 minutes against Bolton, followed up by a 4-0 win against Tranmere in the FTDL League Cup.
Bolton was to be Latics’ second defeat on penalties at the LFA’s Headquarters in the space of just four months.
Jennings gave Latics the lead inside a minute, but the early start was soon blown away with hosts Bolton powering into a 3-1 lead. The determination of Parkinson’s side never faltered though, and goals either side of half time from Matty Hamilton drew the game level at 3-3.
Jennings restored the lead of 54 minutes and Latics looked good for progression, but with five minutes remaining Georg Iliev completed his hat-trick to send the game beyond the 90 minutes, Bolton eventually settling the tie 4-1 on penalties.
Latics responded 10 days later with goals from Hamilton, Delort, Poole and Flores making it look easy against Tranmere in the league cup.
A new year, another league victory as Latics completed the double over Wrexham, running out comfortable 3-1 winners in North Wales. Waghorn returned from injury to pull Latics almost immediately level in the first half, before a double from Joey Johnson settled it in the final ten minutes.
Six days later and Latics turned their attentions to the FTDL Cup group stage once more, needing a 2-0 victory or a victory with more than three goals for to progress to the semi-final.
It sounded straight forwards against a team Latics had previously beaten 4-0, only for the Shrimps to make it anything but.
Latics went behind early, before a swing in goals had the scores at 4-1, only for Morecambe to drag it back to 4-4 with just moments remaining. Declan Poole stepped up to grab the winner, sending Latics through as shown below.
Latics unbeaten run came to a sudden halt at the end of January, with a visit to Shrewsbury Town ending in a 4-0 defeat, against a side packed with experience.
The defeat to Shrewsbury in the final week of January was turned around in fine fashion, with four straight victories during February and March returning Latics to the summit of the FTDL West.
It began away at Tranmere, another sensational hit from Jennings giving Latics a 1-0 victory and continued two weeks later on the road to Morecambe, once again Jennings proving the difference, with both goals in a 2-0 win.
Smarting from their 4-0 defeat away to Shrewsbury in January, Latics turned the result around in the home meeting, strengthening their battle to retain the FTDL crown.
Martyn Waghorn, Leon Barnett and Louis Robles were all on the score sheet within the opening 20 minutes at Christopher Park, before Tim Chow rounded off the scoring in stoppage time in a game which arguably could have seen Latics score double their haul.
Title contenders Port Vale, who had two games in hand over Latics at the time, were next to visit, with Joe Parkinson’s side claiming three crucial points ahead of their final game of the season.
Goals from Flores and Chow at Robin Park in a 2-1 victory over the Valiants left everything to play for, with Latics set to see their league season out away to Walsall, whilst Vale would travel to Morecambe and host Shrewsbury Town.
Port Vale’s heavy 5-0 defeat away to the Shrimps left Latics needing just a point away to Walsall, but the Saddlers turned up strong, grabbing all three points in a 3-0 victory, Latics left on tenterhooks as they waited to see whether the Valiants would slip up in their final fixture in April.
Before the month was out Latics took part in the LFA Senior Cup semi-final, losing agonisingly on penalties to familiar foes Bury after a 1-1 draw at Robin Park.
Matty Hamilton gave Latics a first half lead, before a second half equaliser took the game to spot kicks, the Shakers winning 3-1.
Latics were top by three points over Vale having played all of their fixtures, meaning a victory for the challengers would see them win the league on goal difference, a result which became reality as they brushed aside Shrewsbury 5-0 at home to claim the FTDL West title.
A second bite at the Valiants came in late April, but a shot at retaining the FTDL Cup was quickly quashed at Vale Park as Latics faced a 4-0 defeat in their final fixture of the 2014-15 season.