It has been another season of success for Carlisle United’s Ladies who have recorded their highest ever league finishing position, progressed further than ever before in the SSE Women’s FA Cup and lifted a third Cumberland FA Women’s County Cup.
The catalyst for much of the success was a remarkable run towards the end of the season which saw United notch eleven victories in the space of twelve games as part of a packed fixture schedule, but the season started just as brightly as the Lady Cumbrians progressed in the FA Cup.
Wallsend Ladies were the visitors to Creighton at the start of September in the First Qualifying Round and a thee one win for United saw them move past the opening stage for the first time in their history. Hat-tricks from returning signing Kerri Mallinson and last season’s Manager’s Player of the Season Gillian McGimpsey, complemented by a Carly Stevenson effort then saw United despatch Cramlington United Ladies on the road in the north east.
The road to Wembley would come to an end one win short of the First Round Proper at a strong WPL outfit in the form of Newcastle United Women but this was quickly followed by progress in the league’s Argyle Sports Cup. Mallinson hit her second hat-trick of the campaign in a five two win at City of Liverpool Ladies.
For all the cup action taking place, however, it would prove to be a frustrating first half of the campaign in the North West Women’s Regional League Division One North with United having played just four league games by the time new year came around.
The campaign opened with a nil nil draw against Workington Reds Ladies and a pair of good wins at Creighton would follow - six one against Preston North End Ladies and five three against Morecambe Ladies Reserves. Mallinson and Stevenson both notched two in the Preston win whilst Bea Barber bagged herself a brace in the victory over Morecambe.
United would suffer a dent to any potential aspirations for the title with a two-nil defeat at fellow contenders Penrith AFC Ladies in a close game in mid-November. Nevertheless it had still been an excellent first half of the campaign from United especially so given it had been played without a recognised ‘keeper, with regular stopper Charlotte Cousin having departed in the summer for University with the club’s very best wishes.
Lauren Ullyart, Gillian McGimpsey and Chelsie Browbank had been the ones to share out the majority of the duties in the number one shirt but it would only be a month into the new year before the arrival of new ‘keeper Alice Heaton who was making the step up to senior football.
The year itself got off to a difficult start as an under strength United side suffered just their second league defeat of the campaign at Cammell Laird 1907 Ladies on the opening weekend of January, but the response was immediate with a last-minute winner boosting the Lady Cumbrians to a two one victory over Burscough Dymano Ladies the following weekend.
February again saw a break for knockout action as United’s journey in the Argyle Sports Cup came to an end at the hands of Premier Division side Sir Tom Finney Ladies, but this was followed a fortnight later by victory as United opened their defence of the Cumberland FA Women’s County Cup. Tracy Gannon’s side faced a potentially tricky trip to county league side Vickerstown Ladies but progressed thanks to a four-nil win with a brace from Mallinson added to by efforts from McGimpsey and Stacey Harkness-Grant.
A six one win over Leigh RMI Ladies at Creighton closed the month, with another pair of goals each for McGimpsey and Mallinson as well as a Player of the Match award for Heaton in just her third game in senior football.
Postponements and cancellations from opponents meant it would be another month before United were back in action. The trip to Bolton Wanderers Ladies Reserves brought another three points and a third hat-trick of the season for Mallinson who had firmly established herself as the blues’ leading striker, whilst the game saw United Vice-Captain Emma Blenkinship pick up a fourth Player of the Match award of the campaign.
The fallow month did nothing to help United’s fixture backlog leaving the side with nine league games and a County Cup Semi-Final still to play as the season entered April. The month did see reinforcement arrive in the form of Sarah McCabe, however, who made an immediate impact on the team.
Leigh RMI Ladies were the first visitors to Creighton of the month as United recorded their first double of the season thanks to a three-nil win, a Barber brace and McGimpsey the scorers whilst McCabe picked up the Player of the Match award in her first 90 minutes in United blue.
A six one mid-week win over Crown Newlaithes Ladies booked Gannon’s side into a fourth successive Women’s County Cup Final before the following Wednesday evening the blues made an eventful trip to Burscough Dynamo Ladies.
Barber opened the scoring before Mallinson hit United’s second last minute winner of the season against Dynamo for a two one win, but transport problems on the way back north meant some of the squad didn’t arrive back to Brunton Park until after 5am.
Despite this United were back on their travels down the M6 just four days later. Away wins over Preston North End Ladies, three nil including a McCabe brace, and Morecambe Ladies Reserves, seven two with McGimpsey hitting four and Mallinson another hat-trick, on consecutive Sundays boosted United to fourth in the table.
The Lady Cumbrians then potentially took the title into their own hands with a mid-week win over top of the table Penrith AFC Ladies in what was a ninth win in a row for United. The fixture backlog meant the league title would prove a step too far for Gannon’s side though, who returned to Creighton just three days after their Penrith victory for a double-header against Bury FC Women.
United fell to a three two defeat in the opening game of the day but showed remarkable resolve to bounce straight back to a two one win in the day’s second encounter, their eighth game of April.
The start of May brought no let-up in the action with a fourth fixture in the space of seven days for Gannon’s women, but once again they took things in their strides with a three one win over Workington Reds Ladies an eleventh victory in twelve. Sharina Robinson was on the scoresheet alongside Mallinson and McGimpsey who would end the season top scorers for United on 23 and 17 goals respectively.
The league season closed on a sweltering afternoon at Creighton as second-place Cammell Laird 1907 Ladies were the visitors, running out to a two one win in a close encounter.
That left just the Cumberland FA Women’s County Cup Final remaining where United would once again be facing Penrith AFC Ladies in a repeat of the final on the past two occasions when United had won the cup.
This time would be no different and Gannon’s side lifted the trophy for a third time in four seasons with a one nil victory in the showpiece. Stacey Harkness-Grant hit a goal of the season contender in the 40th minute at Brunton Park and Robinson picked up the Player of the Match award.
That concluded another season of success for United who bettered last season’s record league finish of fourth to place third in the final North West Women’s Regional League Division One North table having also retained the Women’s County Cup.
Click HERE to see the full fixture and results list from last season.
The new season will kick-off in September and in the meantime you can sign up to receive United Ladies’ eNewsletter by visiting bit.ly/CULFCenewsletter. Don’t forget that you can also keep right up to date throughout the season by liking the team on Facebook, /CarlisleUnitedLadiesFC, and following them on Twitter, @CUFCLadies.