Latics have a history with Man City

icon facup211 May ~ Wigan Athletic are renewing an old rivalry when they face Manchester City in their first ever FA Cup final today. In 1971 the non-League Latics travelled to Maine Road to face League Cup and Cup-Winners Cup holders City for an FA Cup third-round tie in front of 46,212 – City's highest gate of the season. City escaped with a 1-0 win after the Wigan goalkeeper Dennis Reeves split his boot from a goal-kick and the ball went straight to striker Neil Young. He passed to Mike Summerbee, who sent Colin Bell in for the face-saver.

Since Dave Whelan took over the club in 1995, Wigan's rivalry with City has grown and until recently our record against them was pretty good – including a 4-0 demolition in 2006. Overall our record as a League club has been won six, drawn four and lost 12. City have won the last seven games, which is not surprising given their new-found wealth; mere millionaires such as Whelan struggle to compete with the likes of Sheikh Mansour.

One of the most controversial fixtures between the two teams was the Division Two play-off semi-final second leg in 1998-99. Two dreadful refereeing decisions ensured City progressed to the final but the result also contributed to the sacking of Wigan's manager Ray Mathias. Early in the game Wigan full-back Kevin Sharp galloped into the City penalty area only to have his legs sliced from beneath him by Gerard Wiekens. The crowd expected a penalty to be awarded but the referee waved away the appeals. City's luck continued later in the game when Shaun Goater blatantly handled the ball into the Wigan net to clinch the win.

Despite the setback Wigan subsequently followed City through the divisions and joined them in the Premier League in 2005. Roberto Martínez and his team have overachieved in maintaining their top-flight status for eight seasons. Latics ran City very close at the Etihad Stadium a few weeks ago, with City scraping a 1-0 victory, but the starting line-up has been weakened since that game. We are now playing four games in 13 days with a desperately thin squad and the backline especially is now a makeshift affair.

Four defenders are ruled out – Iván Ramis, Maynor Figueroa, Jean Beausejour and Ronnie Stam – while Antolin Alcaraz, recovering from a hamstring injury, has only a slight chance of playing. But there is strength going forward with the creative talents of Shaun Maloney, Arouna Koné and Callum McManaman, all capable of penetrating the City defence. We go into the FA Cup final as clear underdogs but have pulled off some miraculous results in recent seasons and are capable of doing it again. Ian Aspinall


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