The Bolton News:

IT would prove to be one of the greatest FA Cup finals of all – but for Wanderers, their showpiece match against Blackpool at Wembley in 1953 started on a rather bizarre note.

More than 100,000 people packed into the stadium, many wishing to see if Stanley Matthews could finally lift the trophy at the age of 38.

For most of the players, such a grandiose occasion was enough to unsteady the nerves. Those with international experience, however, were said to be swapping jokes as the two sides lined up in the tunnel waiting to walk out on to the pitch.

Evidently, the banter continued as Wanderers lined-up on the half-way line to meet the Duke of Edinburgh, who had stepped in on behalf of The Queen.

Bolton had commissioned a new kit for the occasion, one made of satin silk rather than the normal cotton.

In David Tossell’s book, The Great English Final, it is claimed that the Duke – having stopped for a chat with Nat Lofthouse about his injured hand – then remarked that the Bolton team looked like “a bunch of pansies” in their new outfits!

Around 10 million people tuned into the final – five million or so on TV sets after the BBC had procured the rights to the game for the fee of £1,000. Farnworth-born commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme would guide viewers through the action.

Kick-off was almost delayed as Blackpool’s star defender Harry Johnston dashed to the touchline to pass his dentures on to 12th man Johnny Crossland. In the excitement after the game he nearly forgot to replace them before collecting his winner’s medal. “Quick John,” he is said to have shouted to Crosland. “My teeth, my teeth, I’ve got to meet The Queen.”

Within a couple of minutes Bolton were ahead, as Nat Lofthouse’s mis-hit shot deceived Blackpool keeper George Farm.

“There was plenty of sting in my effort, but I must admit I didn’t make contact as I wanted to,” he would later admit, as he joined a rare band of players to have scored in every round of the cup.

An injury to Eric Bell – and the consequent reshuffling of the team – would provide a pivotal feature of Bolton’s afternoon.

Limited to hobbling on the left wing because of a tear in his hamstring, Wanderers effectively had a passenger for the last 70 minutes of the game, which on Wembley’s wide pitch would eventually play into the hands of a certain Stanley Matthews.

Lofthouse hit the post but Blackpool hauled themselves level with a brilliant piece of dribbling by Stan Mortensen, his shot deflected into the net by Harold Hassall. Although Wolstenholme saw it was a clear own goal in the press box, the record books log it as the first of Mortensen’s hat-trick.

There was also ambiguity about Bolton’s second just before half time as Willie Moir looked to have got the decisive touch to take Bobby Langton’s shot past keeper Farm – but never officially got the credit.

Wanderers looked to have earned an unassailable lead 10 minutes after the restart when Bell bravely threw himself at Doug Holden’s cross to head a third.

Bolton had been warned at half time by Bill Ridding not to be over-adventurous, and sure enough they retreated to protect what they had for the last half hour.

Matthews revelled in the extra space, looping a cross for Mortensen to make it 3-2.

Later that evening, Bolton’s captain had told a gathering at the Café Royal: “We lost because the game was five minutes too long. Every man in the side had ran himself into the ground.”

With a minute left – and four minutes of stoppage time – Mortensen completed his hat-trick to bring his team level with a thumping free kick.

Wanderers were dispirited, clinging on to the hope of a replay, but in the dying embers of the game Matthews got space again, slipping as he hooked the ball from the byline past Ralph Banks for Bill Perry to pounce for the day’s seventh goal, and a winner that would be shown for many decades to come.

“It was an extra thrill outside the stadium after what is being called the Final of Finals, to see the Bolton players leaving to cheers of many of their supporters,” reflected The Bolton Evening News’ Hayden Berry.

"“Sunshine roof flung back, the coach moved slowly away with the on top, showing themselves and waving cheerfully just as if they had won the battle instead of losing it.

"That was the way to do it, no hiding away from the sympathetic gaze of the soccer legions for they had nothing to be ashamed of, this team of plucky fighters. All that was missing was the cup, and they were unfortunate not to have that too.”

The Bolton News: