Electric City FC sent a charge through League1 Ontario Saturday night.
In their first-ever home match ECFC smashed the league attendance record with a crowd of 1,565, many decked out in the club’s black and yellow colours, at the Fleming Sports Complex. The previous attendance mark was 1,250 which commissioner Dino Rossi said is the sellout they get each year at the Ontario Soccer Centre for their league final.
With a constant drumbeat and singing and chanting from the supporters’ section behind the home goal ECFC responded to the crowd, notching their first win, 3-0 over Windsor TFC, to even their record at 1-1-1.
It didn’t take long for ECFC to give the crowd something to cheer about. Jordan Brown buried Jordan Webb’s cross two minutes into the game, added his second 10 minutes later and David Schaefer counted the third in the 14th minute.
Windsor pushed back when ECFC was down a man for most of the second half but keeper Quillan Roberts secured his clean sheet with a brilliant diving save on a penalty kick late in the game.
As the players applauded the supporters’ section following the final whistle fireworks lit up the sky to cap the night.
Brown said the atmosphere exceeded his expectations despite all the hype building up to it.
“I’ve played in front of more people but I’ve never experienced anything like this,” said Brown, A U.K. native who has played in Calgary, England, Germany and Iceland. “It being such a small ground and having everyone compact around the pitch in a city of 100,000 people is something I’ve never been a part of. This experience is once in a lifetime.”
Zach Ellis-Hayden, who set up Brown’s second goal, has played in the USL in much larger cities but was also impressed.
“The crowd was unbelievable,” he said. “You can tell the city is really backing this team. I have been in cities where teams have just started and I’ve been a part of inaugural matches but tonight was the best as they come. They were unbelievable from minute one until the end and really carried us through the game. There was a lot of hype behind it but you never know until game day.”
“What was special was the atmosphere created by our fans,” said head coach Jamie Sherwood, who has come from Wales to take on this opportunity. “The amount of people who came out and supported us and the show the crew has put on outside of the grass. We had to mirror that. This is an amazing opportunity for this football club and this city and we needed to match the club and on the grass tonight we matched the club.”
Rossi said ECFC is setting a standard he hopes other L1O teams will try to emulate.
“Electric City came into League1 with a mission and a clear statement they were operating as a professional team in a semi-professional league,” said Rossi. “they were going to do everything on a professional level and today proves they are up to the task and true to their word. This crowd is amazing. The energy and atmosphere is unbelievable. When I got here there were lineups to get in at every gate. That doesn’t happen everywhere. This is by far the biggest club home opener we have ever seen and I just hope the community keeps embracing them.”
ECFC president Rob Jenkins felt good about the results of nearly two years of labour to field a team.
“We’ve put something together that is pretty special banking on the community supporting it,” said Jenkins. “The attendance here shows they are going to do that. This is a great firs step for the goals we want to reach. Another big milestone we’ve hit now. A great attendance record and hopefully we can build on that next week with the women’s team and keep getting bigger and bigger and not just be a one game thing.”
Neil Morton was one of the first people involved in the 12-person local ownership group and envisioned this very thing.
“It’s one of the best moments I’ve ever experienced in Peterborough,” said Morton. “The crowd today is so passionate and energetic. They’re coming up to me and saying this is an incredible experience for Peterborough. A new authentic experience. Literally 75 per cent of the people here are wearing Electric City merchandise and it’s our first home game.”
It will be the women’s turn for their home opener next Saturday when they host Oakville’s Blue Devils FC at 3 p.m. at Fleming.
The men’s next match is on the road next Saturday against Unionville Milliken at Bill Crothers Field at 7 p.m. They return home May 17 at 8 p.m. against Alliance United at Fleming.