A post-war record crowd low - yet where does it rank in full Pompey history?

The crowd for Pompey against Bristol Rovers was a record post-war Fratton low. Picture: Joe Pepler
The crowd for Pompey against Bristol Rovers was a record post-war Fratton low. Picture: Joe Pepler
Joe Hancott in action for Pompey Reserves against Southend. Picture: Colin Farmery

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POMPEY’s second-lowest home attendance since joining the Football League structure more than 96 years ago.

Pre-war records may be sketchy, yet there can be no disguising the slice of Fratton Park history created on Tuesday night.

A turn-out of 1,200 against Bristol Rovers in the Checkatrade Trophy was the smallest in the club’s post-war era.

It beat the previous record of 1,355 set against Reading under-23s a month earlier at Fratton Park.

However, comparing attendances with those before the culmination of World War Two can be an unreliable process.

In that respect, it is far safer to focus on those recorded from the resumption of the Football League programme in August 1946.

Still, on November 9, 1940, there were 803 in attendance for the visit of Bournemouth in the South Regional League.

To this day, that remains Fratton Park’s smallest crowd since their August 1920 entry into the Football League.

In mitigation, once war was declared on September 3, 1939, the Football League was suspended for the duration.

In turn, competition structures altered and crowds dwindled, somewhat understandably.

The Football Association did sanction various regional competitions – of which the South Regional League was one – but there was little interest.

There was even the London War League and Cup in 1941-42, with Pompey finishing runners-up.

However, with Fratton Park’s attendance restricted to 8,000, numbers were below usual figures both pre-war and then after the Football League’s resumption.

Regardless, that Bournemouth encounter stands out, in which Wilkes netted a hat-trick in a 4-2 success.

Wilkes, on-loan from West Bromwich Albion, scored 29 goals in 24 appearances for the Blues during the war years.

Having emerged from Southern League to Division Three of the Football League in 1920, there have subsequently been 30 instances of Fratton Park attendances never even recorded.

In addition, the Division Three visit of Bristol Rovers on October 20, 1923, had a crowd labelled as ‘sparse’.

At least the attendance against Bournemouth on November 13, 1935, was listed as ‘poor’.

That was for a Hampshire Professional Cup semi-final, in which Pompey lost 2-1.

That same 1935-36 Division One campaign saw the visit of Sheffield Wednesday described as ‘full’.

The highest home attendance that season was 35,000 against Arsenal on October 19, 1935.

So Tuesday night remains indisputably the lowest post-war attendance at Fratton Park.

It also appears to be the second smallest since 1920 – but then again, even the record books are not accurate on that claim.