For supporters of my generation who grew up watching Salford in the 1980s and 90s, this fixture saw a fair amount of torment and one sided matches. Then Wigan said goodbye to Central Park and moved to their new stadium. The results didn’t improve and through the early 2000s Salford were thumped there on a regular basis. It seemed a morale victory to keep the score under forty points.
In 2017 Salford came up with an excellent win beating Wigan 16-31. That result along with a 14-21 victory at Central Park in 1997 were are only victories since 1979 in a Wigan away fixture. That’s what made the playoff match of 2019 that little bit sweeter. You can read about that in the Match to Remember a bit further down.
Since 2019 a lot has happened at both clubs, Jake Bibby and Jackson Hastings were both favourites at Salford and now are first team regulars with the Warriors. This season has been a bit up and down for Adrian Lam’s side though with six defeats so far in their seventeen matches. Wigan have lacked something, particularly against the stronger sides towards the top of the table. Having said that they are always a tough side to beat on their own ground and Salford will get tested to the limit on Friday night.
I’ve always felt their is something special about away fixtures against the likes of Wigan, St Helens and Leeds. You can add Warrington to that list these days as well. It’s the atmosphere and the expectation of the home crowd. We all know you need a very thick skin at times watching Salford, it can feel a bit like walking into the lions den. It’s fair to say we’ve not really got the best record in these kind of games but when victories come along they are very much savoured.
Salford’s last two matches were postponed due to Covid protocol. That was the Hull Kingston Rovers home fixture last Thursday and the Wakefield Trinity away match on Monday. The Red Devil’s last outing was on the 23rd July against Leeds at Headingley.
Once again Richard Marshall will be forced to make changes with quite a few names missing but Elijah Taylor, Kevin Brown and Danny Addy all returned to the squad this week after lengthy absences.
Super League away record.
1997 Wigan 14 Salford 21
1998 Wigan 34 Salford 6
1999 Wigan 64 Salford 2
2000 Wigan 52 Salford 20
2001 Wigan 70 Salford 4
2002 Wigan 32 Salford 0
2004 Wigan 20 Salford 10
2005 Wigan 40 Salford 12
2006 Wigan 20 Salford 12
2007 Wigan 40 Salford 16
2009 Wigan 34 Salford 18
2010 Wigan 60 Salford 10
2011 Wigan 52 Salford 18
2012 Wigan 38 Salford 6
2013 Wigan 46 Salford 6
2014 Wigan 45 Salford 4
2015 Wigan 19 Salford 12
2016 Wigan 20 Salford 16
2017 Wigan 16 Salford 31
2017 Wigan 42 Salford 0 ( Super eights)
2018 Wigan 30 Salford 0
2019 Wigan 28 Salford 12
2019 Wigan 18 Salford 12 (Top Five Playoffs)
2019 Wigan 4 Salford 28
2020 Wigan 58 Salford 12 ( behind closed doors, St.helens)
They played for both.
Over the years there have been plenty of players who’ve been at both clubs at some point in their career. Here are a few of them,
Mal Aspey, Neil Baynes, Wayne Reid, Steve Blakeley, Gavin Clinch, Andy Coley, Michael Dobson, Mark Flanagan, Martin Gleeson, Sean Gleeson, Wayne Godwin, Bobbie Goulding, Andy Gregory, Steve Hampson, Ged Byrne, Paul O Neil, Harrison Hansen, Gareth Hock, Nathan Mcavoy, Lee Mossop, Jack Murphy, David Myers, Martin Offiah, Sam Panapa, John Pendlebury, Luke Robinson, Tim Smith, David Stephenson, Trevor Stockey, Ged Stazicker, Scott Taylor, Logan Tomkins, Colin Whitfield, Peter Smethurst, Stephen Wild, Phil Ford, Jackson Hastings, Greg Burke, Morgan Escare, Jake Bibby and Gil Dudson.
David Stephenson, a prolific try scorer.
A match to remember Friday 4th October 2019.
Wigan 4 Salford 28.
Coming into this match the two sides had met a few weeks before in he opening round of the payoffs. In a frantic match Wigan edged it 18-12 but many Salford supporters felt their side had been very unlucky to lose the match.
The following week Salford played Castleford off the park at the AJ Bell Stadium as the confidence seemed to soar through the side. That memorable try saving tackle from Niall Evalds on Castleford fullback Jordan Rankin will live long in the memory. Wigan were thumped at St Helens the previous night which saw the Saints march on to the Grand Final at Old Trafford this set up an epic semi final between Wigan and Salford.
The week building up to the match was a nervous one. Ian Watson’s Salford side we’re playing with a real belief and confidence. Despite being let down for decades the Salford die hard supporters sensed something was in the air. A change of the guard if you like. This 2019 squad wanted to make history.
Arriving at the ground that night in Wigan you could feel the energy. I was lucky enough to be on the press list but wanted to watch the match with my dad behind the sticks. I left the press box and walked towards the stand were the Salford supporters were packed in about five minutes before the kick off. The noise was amazing, spine tingling. All the disappointments of years gone by seemed to be disappearing behind me. The hairs on my neck stood on end, the familiar faces in the crowd chanted and cheered away its a time I’ll remember forever.
Salford came out with an attitude and desire that Wigan couldn’t seem to fight. Ferocious defence forced the Warriors into errors, in a whirlwind opening the hosts didn’t know what had hit them.
Krisnan Inu nailed an early penalty goal to settle the nerves. The roar from the Salford end was magical. Shortly after it was 0-4 as Inu thumped another long range penalty over.
Gil Dudson smashed his way over for a try in the thirteenth minute as the Salford pack began to dominate.
The Red Devils were rarely troubled in defence in the first half. They completed their sets well as the Watson game plan unfolded to perfection. Inu converted another penalty right on the half time hooter to send Salford in at the break 0-12 up.
Salford started the second half with another quick tempo. Joey Lussick burrowed over the line from dummy half with referee Ben Thaler calling on the video referee for assistance. Watson prowled the touch line, arms folded, no emotion. The try was given and the lead extended.
With twenty minutes remaining Salford led 0-20. So many times we’d had our dreams smashed so it was going to be the longest twenty minutes of most supporters lives. What happened next seem to play out in slow motion. Dudson took the ball in and offloaded neatly to Lee Mossop who crashed over against his former club. The emotion on the pitch and in the stand was the stuff of dreams.
That famous Lee Mossop try.
Wigan scored a try in the closing stages from Bevan French but the night belonged to Salford.
A match none of us will ever forget. The team put the City back on the map, made the supporters proud. It was very special and something we will remember forever.
Salford lay a fair few ghosts to rest that night. Despite not getting the victory in the Grand Final the club once again did us proud giving everything they had in another monumental effort.
The teams that night,
Wigan Warriors: Hardaker; Marshall, Hankinson, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Leuluai; Flower, Powell, Partington, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin.
Subs, Clubb, Byrne, Smithies, French.
Salford Red Devils: Evalds; Sio, Welham, Bibby, Inu; Lolohea, Hastings; Mossop, Tomkins, Dudson, Jones, Griffin, McCarthy.
Subs, Flanagan, Lussick, Walker, Burke.
Referee, Ben Thaler.
Both sides face some tough fixtures in the coming weeks and Wigan coach Adrian Lam is under pressure to deliver another playoff finish. The Warriors have won four of their last five matches and looking at their squad for Friday night it’s starting to take a stronger shape. After a fiery encounter with Leigh last time out the Warriors will be missing two forwards who picked up suspensions. Brad Singleton and Oliver Partington received bans for their part in a mass punch up against the Centurions.
Wigan confirmed on Wednesday that Dom Manfredi has immediately retired from Rugby League.
After another consultation with a specialist, the 27-year-old has now decided to call time on his playing career. Dom had a short spell at Salford on loan back in 2014 scoring two tries. A prolific try scorer in his career Domhas been desperately unlucky with serious injuries. He scored two tries in the 2018 Grand Final for the Warriors in their victory over Warrington.
As previously mentioned Salford welcome back Kevin Brown, Elijah Taylor and Danny Addy to the squad but are missing some key players once again. The influential Krisnan Inu isn’t available along with French fullback Morgan Escare. It will be interesting to see who Richard Marshall picks to play fullback with Tui Lolohea, Dan Sarginson and Ken Sio potential candidates. The half back pairing will also be pivotal. Dec Patton, kevin Brown, Tui Lolohea, Chris Atkin and Ata Hingano are all available in the squad to pick from.
Wigan have plenty of star names to look out for. Salford supporters know all about the leadership qualities and influence Jackson Hastings can have on a match. John Bateman and Zak Hardacker have bags of big match experience too. The Warriors have plenty of pace in this side with Liam Marshall and Jake Bibby both in good try scoring form.
A testing eighty minutes awaits Salford on Friday night.
The action gets underway at 7:45pm.
Keep safe and enjoy the match.
Photos courtesy of, Wigan Today, Salford Scene, The Guardian.