Checkatrade Trophy Final: Portsmouth’s Gareth Evans seeking remarkable Wembley high against Sunderland - after record-breaking low

Gareth Evans was involved in a Wembley record-low attendance.

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 4:37 pm
Updated Saturday, 30th March 2019, 3:51 pm
Gareth Evans, left, with Ronan Curtis

Yet his return is poised to be crowned the highest crowd in the history of the Football League Trophy.

More than 80,000 are anticipated to be present for Sunday’s Checkatrade Trophy final between Pompey and Sunderland.

In its various guises, the competition’s best stands at 80,841 in 1988, when Wolves beat Burnley 2-0.

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Gareth Evans, front row, third from right, celebrates promotion at Wembley with his Fleetwood team-mates in 2014 Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

This year’s fixture has already surpassed the Football League Trophy’s new Wembley record of 74,434, established in March 2017 between Coventry and Oxford United.

Evans can afford a smile - his previous visit to the home of football involved a crowd of 14,007.

That was the League Two play-off final between Fleetwood and Burton in May 2014.

Evans was an unused substitute for Graham Alexander’s side as they triumphed 1-0, courtesy of Antoni Sarcevic’s goal.

It remains a record low in play-off terms since Wembley reopened in 2008.

Even Cambridge United and Gosport’s FA Trophy final three months earlier attracted greater numbers - totalling 18,120.

‘I’m sure my visit will be different on Sunday - but when I last went to Wembley it was a record low attendance!’ said Evans.

‘With 14,007 present, there wasn’t much atmosphere to be honest, although just being at the ground and part of a play-off winning squad was fantastic.

‘I suppose it did impact. Even the bottom tier which had been opened was half full. The next two were shut.

‘It was strange, but the lads were up for the occasion more than the atmosphere created. Once we scored and won the match, it was all right.

‘With Fleetwood and Burton being smaller clubs, you can understand the reason for the low attendance, but it was still a good day.

‘I was an unused substitute and, while obviously disappointed not to get on, to be part of the whole experience and the celebrations afterwards was brilliant.

‘I started 22 league games that season, scoring six times, so felt I had made a good contribution.

‘I still felt part of the squad and the day after we went to Magaluf and celebrated, the whole experience was fantastic.

‘Being on the bench was half-expected anyway. I lost my place in the team in early March and hadn’t featured in the semi-finals against York.’

Evans has now made 176 appearances for Pompey, netting 29 times.

It’s a stay which has yielded the League Two title and a League Two play-off semi-final, both under Paul Cook.

Certainly plenty of intense occasions and special outcomes.

He said: ‘There are too many memorable Pompey atmospheres to say, but four or five stick in the mind.

‘Obviously there’s the final day of the League Two season against Cheltenham, then the Fratton Park victory over Wigan last season and our win against Sunderland in December.

‘There’s also the home game against Plymouth in the play-offs, the atmosphere that day was unbelievable, I will never forget that one.

‘I hope Wembley tops them all, I’m sure it's going to be brilliant. Pompey fans are known for the atmosphere they create.’