THE 1953 Coronation year FA Cup final was one of the greatest matches ever played at the old Wembley Stadium.
The nation rejoiced as Stanley Matthews finally got his hands on some silverware and the game is still named in his honour despite team-mate Stan Mortensen becoming the only man ever to score a hat-trick in an FA Cup final as Blackpool came from 3-1 down to defeat Lancashire rivals Bolton Wanderers 4-3.
It could have been all so different though had Everton completed an equally dramatic comeback in their semi-final clash against the Trotters.
Bolton raced into a 4-0 lead in front of 75,213 fans at Manchester City’s Maine Road on Saturday March 21 before Everton fought back strongly to make the final score 4-3 – but before they netted, the Blues missed a penalty as Tommy Clinton struck wide.
In a reversal of fortunes from this weekend’s clash, 60 years ago it was Bolton who were the crack top flight outfit while Everton were languishing in the Second Division, midway through a three-season spell outside the upper echelons of the English game.
The ECHO’s correspondent at the game, ‘Ranger’ wrote that Bolton “Took to the field first and though they were greeted with resounding cheers, the volume of their welcome was nothing like that which met Everton.”
It was also noted that Goodison chairman Ernest Green was unable to attend the game due to bronchitis but despite their underdog status, the Blues’ loss was put down to goalkeeping errors.
Ranger said: “The tragedy of Everton’s defeat was that [Jimmy] O’Neill should fail to make at least two saves if not three which he would have accomplished with ease in a normal League game.”
He added: “Bolton however just about deserved to win for they were the better balanced side and individually, the more talented team.”
Bolton took the lead after just nine minutes as Holden cut inside from the corner flag and his lobbed cross into the box deceived O’Neill and sailed beyond his outstretched fingers.
After 15 minutes the game was held up as Everton centre-forward Dave Hickson had a facial injury bathed by trainer Harry Cooke following a collision with Hartle.
The ‘Cannonball Kid’ is then recorded as coming back into the action “rubbing his head gingerly.”
Bolton then doubled their advantage on 19 minutes as a long throw from Halsall found its way to Moir who beat O’Neill with “not a strong shot” from 10 yards out that O’Neill should “no doubt have done better with.”
Hickson was still described as being in a “dazed condition” and after 25 minutes the referee stopped the contest and the Blues number nine was seen to “shake his head” as he was led off again by Cooke “looking disappointed and forlorn.”
The one-way traffic continued though as O’Neill was again blamed as being “at fault” for allowing Nat Lofthouse through to score as Hickson’s opposite number beat Tommy Jones with a clever sidestep before beating the Irish custodian from 10 yards out.
A rout looked on the cards on 41 minutes as Lofthouse netted again, holding off a challenge from Clinton after Moir’s pass had split the Everton defence.
Just before the break, Clinton spurned the Blues’ chance to pull one back as he shot wide from the spot after John Willie Parker had been sandwiched by Hartle and Barrass.
The comeback began just after the interval though as Parker cleverly headed in a corner-kick by Buckle.
Soon after, Ranger remarks: “Bolton’s forward line is much too good and has even got to the point where it has become cheeky.”
Everton pulled another goal back on 72 minutes through a re-taken free-kick in which they repeat the original routine with Buckle picking out Farrell and the Irishman netting from 20 yards with a shot through a crowd of defenders.
Six minutes later another free-kick, this time from Parker, made the score 4-3 but Everton’s plucky fightback was not quite enough and they were left to rue a significant lack of ‘luck of the Irish’ as they were denied by O’Neill’s errors and Clinton’s penalty miss.
EVERTON: O’Neill; Clinton; Lindsey; Farrell; Jones; Lello; Buckle; McNamara; Hickson; Parker; Eglington.
BOLTON: Hanson; Hartle; Higgins; Wheeler; Barrass; Bell; Holden; Moir; Lofthouse; Hassall; Langton.
Referee: A Bond (London).