The English Football League (EFL) has confirmed the match officials for the 2018 Checkatrade Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium.
Gavin Ward will be the referee for the showpiece between League Two side Lincoln City and high-flying League One outfit Shrewsbury Town on Sunday, April 8. The 15:00 BST kick-off will be screened live on Sky Sports.
Ward will be assisted by Duncan Street (West Yorkshire) and Wayne Grunnill (East Yorkshire), with Mark Heywood (Cheshire) on fourth official duties. Dean Treleaven (West Sussex) has been selected as the reserve assistant referee.
The appointments were confirmed by competition organisers EFL on Thursday afternoon.
WARD’S FORM THIS SEASON
The Surrey-based whistler has taken charge of 38 games so far in 2017/18 and has been a regular in this competition, officiating seven matches including Yeovil Town’s 3-2 win over Fleetwood Town in the quarter-finals.
So far, he has brandished 103 yellow cards, sent off four players and awarded eight penalties across five different competitions.
Ward last refereed a Lincoln clash back in August and didn’t dish out any cards as the Imps drew 1-1 against Morecambe in their first home match back in the Football League.
He was in the middle most recently for a Shrews match back in December, booking four players in Paul Hurst’s team’s final fixture of 2017 as they beat Southend 2-1 at Roots Hall in League One.
Ward has averaged around three yellow cards per game this term and, although he is generally considered a safe pair of hands, he has attracted criticism in the past for controversial decisions.
WHY THE APPOINTMENT BUCKS A TREND
Traditionally, the final of this competition is often awarded as a final swansong for a seasoned Football League campaigner who is coming close to the end of their career as a reward for their dedication and years of service.
Last year’s showpiece, when Coventry City beat Oxford United 2-1 in front of a fantastic crowd of 74,434, was refereed by Staffordshire’s Chris Sarginson.
Eddie Ilderton and Carl Boyeson were among the officials who were seen as more likely to be chosen this year to handle a game which rarely attracts controversy.
But it is Ward who will get his first day out at Wembley as the man in the middle as two of this season’s success stories in the Football League contest the 34th final of the competition which was controversially extended beyond League One and League Two clubs to include Premier League “B teams” last term.
THE REFEREE’S BACKGROUND
In his 10th season in the Football League, Ward has been officiating at this level since the start of the 2007-08 season.
He produced a red card 19 minutes into his debut match in Barnet’s 2-1 home defeat by Hereford in League Two.
The official, who turns 40 next month, made the National List at a relatively young age and has certainly put the years in to build up experience in the Football League.
He was touted as having the potential for promotion to the Premier League’s Select Group band of officials a few years ago. However, a combination of poor form and other officials stepping up seemingly put pay to those hopes – at least for now.
Ward is among the referees who primarily officiate in Leagues One and Two – between which he has regularly alternated this season – and has often been chosen to take charge of live TV matches in the league and cup competitions.
He has also been the fourth official for a small number of Premier League games during his decade in the Football League.
HOW BOTH TEAMS REACHED THE FINAL
Shrewsbury, who have lost their previous three games at Wembley, progressed to the showpiece after beating Yeovil Town 1-0 at the Montgomery Waters Meadow Stadium in the semi-finals thanks to a second-half header from Carlton Morris as their memorable season provides another chapter for the club’s fans.
Meanwhile, Lincoln – who were promoted to League Two from the National League last term – will make a first trip to the national stadium in their 133-year history after seeing off Chelsea’s Under-21s. The Imps won 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the semi-finals, with Lee Frecklington’s winning spot-kick sparking a pitch invasion at Sincil Bank.
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