Over the years Latics’ fortunes have varied in the competition, but it could never be said the club had made any significant impression. With promotion to the Premiership in 2005 it seemed that survival in that division would be the absolute priority, and no-one expected any sort of cup run when the team played their first Carling Cup tie of the season against AFC Bournemouth on 20 September 2005. A late goal by Jason Roberts saw what was effectively reserve Latics team through to the next round.
Watford, Newcastle and Bolton all came to the JJB Stadium and left empty handed as Latics, surprisingly made their way to the semi-final and a two-legged tie against Arsenal. In a thrilling game at the JJB Stadium a goal by Paul Scharner gave Latics the advantage for the return at Highbury. Some bizarre refereeing decisions meant that the Gunners pulled back two goals, until in the dying seconds Jason Roberts bustled his way through the home defence to give Latics an away goal, and sealed a place for the first time ever in a major final.
|12.||Mike POLLITT||2.||Pascal CHIMBONDA||16.||Arjan De ZEEUW||6.||Stephane HENCHOZ||26.||Leighton BAINES||21.||Jimmy BULLARD||11.||Graham KAVANAGH||18.||Paul SCHARNER||20.||Gary TEALE||7.||Henri CAMARA||30.||Jason ROBERTS||Substitutes||1.||John FILAN (for 12)||10.||Lee McCULLOCH (for 6)||23.||Reto ZIEGLER (for 11)|
|Referee||Alan WILEY (Staffordshire)|
Some people were even interviewed by the BBC World Service prior to the game!!
With the lead only at a single goal at half-time Latics were not yet beaten, and Henri Camara had a shot soon after the restart that could have changed things. But as Latics were starting to get back into the game a period of 7 minutes saw a gallant attempt turn to damage limitation.
Ryan Giggs picked his way past a couple of tackles in midfield before sweeping a pass out to Ronaldo, who in turn laid the ball into Neville’s overlapping run. Neville’s cross was met by Saha and although Filan saved his first effort, the Frenchman converted at the second attempt.
4-0 down with half-an-hour still to play, even the most faithful Latics fan feared even worse, but we battened down the hatches and survived without further loss. So ended the most important day in the club’s history, our first major final. Certainly the result was disappointing. We had perhaps expected to lose, but by such a margin was disappointing. But we have been there, and who knows what the future will bring. We were after all, only 90 minutes away from Europe!!
The photographs on this page are reproduced by kind permission of Paul Simpson. They must not be reproduced elsewhere without his permission.