Blackpool 1, Luton Town 1, FA Cup February 28, 1959
It is extremely sad to see vast acres of empty spaces at what passes for a crowd at Bloomfield Road these days - the ultimate indignity was the sight of the home fans being out-numbered by the supporters of Kidderminster Harriers, as happened this season.
But it wasn’t always like that - far, far from it.
For the big cup-ties at Blackpool’s ground, it was a feat in itself just to get into Bloomfield Road, such was the demand.
That was the case when the Seasiders took on Luton Town in the sixth round of the FA Cup.
Not only was a place in the semi-final of the FA Cup at stake, but not for the first time there was a will-he-won’t-he? debate about whether Stanley Matthews would be able to take his place on the wing for ‘Pool.
Though the 44-year-old Matthews was very much in the autumn of his career then, the great man was still the number one drawing card in the game.
Whether or not he played had a great effect on attendances and there was much debate about whether he would be fit for this important match after suffering a knee injury.
The crowd would not know until 10 minutes or so before kick-off if Matthews had past his fitness test, which indeed he had.
Matthews was to play his part in a dramatic match, which had a cracking finale.
Luton had looked to have clinched it with a goal by Billy Bingham (a future Blackpool director of football) after 85 minutes.
It seemed to be the clincher until, with 15 seconds remaining, Ray Charnley earned a replay thanks largely to a huge error in the Hatters’ defence.
It was a busy day of sport on FA Cup quarter-final day and only one tie was decided.
That honour went to Nottingham Forest, the eventual winners, who beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1.
The other two ties between Aston Villa and Burnley and Sheffield United versus Norwich City ended up in stalemate, requiring replays.
Blackpool Borough RL team were at Central Park to take on the might of Wigan and went down 29-11.
Tries were nonexistent at Twickenham that afternoon as England fought out a 3-3 draw with France, while Fylde RFC got the better of Sale at the Woodlands by 19-8.
Horse racing was still taking place at the now defunct Manchester racecourse at Castle Irwell, while Fleetwood Town suffered the embarrassment of a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Chorley at Highbury.
Over in New Zealand Tony Lock, a spinner with a distinctly dodgy action, helped England to an innings victory over the Kiwis, while one of the best checked items in the Gazette Green that Saturday night was the pools service.
There was big money to earned with the right results on the coupon,
The Littlewoods advert in The Green reported that the biggest win so far that season was £300,684 - nowadays, that would equate to something in the region of £6.3 million.
The jackpot for both teams that afternoon was to get to Wembley and with so much at stake naturally enough it proved to be a keenly-contested affair with little to split the two sides.
The Gazette reported that Allan Brown and Bingham were proving a menace to Blackpool on the Luton right-wing.
Brown had been a Blackpool player between 1950 and 1956.
He would surely have figured in the Seasiders 4-3 win over Bolton Wanderers in the 1953 FA Cup Final, but for the fact that by a cruel stroke of luck he broke his leg while scoring a late winner for the club in the quarter-final against Arsenal.
The Scot left Bloomfield Road for Luton for a fee of £10,000, but that was not the end of his association with Blackpool for he came back to the club to have two spells of manager there.
If the Bingham-Brown axis was causing problems on the Luton right, then Jimmy Armfield had his side of the field well bottled up, his display sending Gazette reporter Cliff Greenwood into raptures.
He wrote: “No-one anywhere on the field was anywhere near England class as Jimmy Armfield, a superb full-back in this game.”
South African-born Peter Hauser was also picked out for special mention.
Greenwood was incredulous at the finale to the match and the circumstances leading up to the Charnley goal, which set up the replay.
Before that Luton had gone ahead with five minutes to play.
Luton’s Bob Morton made a darting run down the right and crossed the ball to Bingham, who was racing towards the Blackpool goal.
Bingham managed to get a touch on the ball with his head and there was a tangle between goalkeeper George Farm and Hauser, who seemed to collide with each other.
The ball ended in the net and it looked like Luton were through to the semi-final, but to their credit Blackpool battled to the end.
That Blackpool managed to get a last-ditch equaliser was down to the opportunism of Charnley and a defensive howler by Luton’s Ken Hawkes.
With the ball at his feet, Hawkes looked as though he had time to boot the ball to safety.
Instead, he dithered and made the mistake of trying to pass the ball back to the Luton goalkeeper Ron Baynham.
According to Greenwood, what happened next ‘resembled a slow motion sequence in a modern version of Alice In Wonderland.’
The back-pass was nowhere near hard enough and the ball became motionless - Charnley swiftly seized on the error, hooking the ball away from Baynham and the ball slowly bounced on and on until it brushed the inside of the far post and into the net.
BBC cameras were at the game to film for Sports Special at 10.30pm, a forerunner of Match Of The Day. Maybe the film of the tie is lying somewhere, long forgotten.
Pathe film of the replay IS available, showing Luton beating Blackpool on Wednesday afternoon (!) Brown getting Luton’s winner.