Carlisle United Ladies have made a positive start to their latest North West Women’s Regional League campaign with six wins from their opening eight matches placing Tracy Gannon’s side fifth in the Division One North table.
After the new season kicked off with SSE Women’s FA Cup action the league campaign got underway in September and United enjoyed a perfect month. Eighteen goals scored were enough to deliver four wins from four across the month.
A pair of defeats opened October but the Lady Cumbrians then bounced back, rediscovering their scoring form to add another two wins and ten goals to their tally.
The league season began on the road to Morecambe Ladies Reserves on the second weekend of September and United made an excellent with goals from Gillian McGimpsey, Carly Stevenson and newly appointed Captain, Emma Blenkinship, helping the blues to a three one half time lead. Morecambe could only add one to their tally in the second half to hand United their first three points of the season.
The following weekend brought the opening home game of the campaign and Gannon’s side were again quick out of the blocks. Kirsten Shaw opened the scoring after just five minutes and further goals from Stevenson and Kerri Mallinson gave the United another three one interval lead.
Unlike the previous week, however, it was the blues who added to their tally in the second half with Stevenson completing her hat-trick, Mallinson adding her second and an 80th minute Stacey Harkness-Grant effort completing an emphatic seven one victory against newly promoted Penwortham Town Ladies in a game sponsored by Alan Irving.
There was no let up in the scoring as United next made the trip to Preston North End Ladies, adding another five goals to their tally. United led by two at the interval with Chelsie Browbank opening her season’s account before new Vice-Captain, Ciara Bland, added a third on the hour mark. Stevenson hit her fifth of the campaign to all but seal the points before Mallinson delivered the coup de grace in stoppage time.
September closed with the visit of Blackburn Community Women to Creighton for a game sponsored by Hillhouse Computer Solutions and United finished the month as they had started it, with a hard fought victory by the odd goal in five. Browbank opened the scoring after just two minutes and the lead was three by the hour mark thanks to McGimpsey and Harkness-Grant. A quick double from Blackburn saw them threaten to snatch a point but the Lady Cumbrians held on to complete four wins from their opening four games.
United’s biggest test of the season came at the start of October with a trip to league favourites Blackpool FC Women and Gannon’s side couldn’t keep their winning run alive, succumbing to a three nil reverse. It was a similar story and scoreline a fortnight later at perennial challengers Bury FC Women but the Lady Cumbrians bounced back to close the month with an excellent performance against Cammell Laird 1907 Ladies.
Mallinson was back amongst the goals to open the scoring at Creighton in the game sponsored by System People and Chelsea Norris bagged her first goal for the club on 37 minutes to send the hosts in two to the good at the break. An own goal on the hour mark made the lead three and although Laird did get on the scoresheet from the penalty spot, Gillian McGimpsey finished calmly on 77 minutes to restore the three goal cushion and return United to winning ways.
That continued on a tense afternoon on Merseyside the weekend before last as a back-and-forth encounter swung ultimately in the visitors’ favour. Mallinson and McGimpsey gave United the first two goals at Crosby Ladies and after the hosts had cut the deficit Norris and Mallinson ensured the lead would be three at the interval.
Crosby enjoyed their purple patch mid-way through the second half to pull back within one goal once again but United showed their fighting spirit as Norris made sure of the points four minutes from the whistle before Mallinson to completed her hat-trick with the pick of the goals.
Six wins from eight games is an excellent return for a United side who re-shaped themselves over the off-season, as manager Tracy Gannon explains: “This season saw a lot of changes from the start with players moving on, starting families and going to University.
"It was always going to be a season to develop and rebuild with a new squad for the future. That started during pre-season with the promotion of Emma Blenkinship to captain and the introduction of a new vice-captain in the form of Ciara Bland.
“These were positive appointments as they were both up for the challenge of taking the team forwards and helped put in strong foundations for the future. It was key to have two leaders who are positive on and off the pitch and who support new players coming into the squad.
"We've seen existing players step up to the challenge and grow stronger themselves since they have been given the opportunity to play more frequently. The new players that have come in have added another dimension and grow each week, and we still have room to bring in a few more players so are looking to strengthen the squad even more. I'd encourage anybody who's interested in joining us to get in touch.”
The season continues with three home games and a trip to Penwortham Town Ladies this side of Christmas and Gannon is looking forward to what the next stage of the campaign will bring: “As this was a year looking at developing, the positive start we've already achieved, winning six out of eight league games, has been a credit to the girls.
"The two games that were lost gave us much to learn from and we look forward to the challenge of playing those teams again. It's important not to get too carried away as there's still a lot of games left to be played but the enthusiasm, drive and togetherness this squad is showing and they will only go from strength to strength.”
Carlisle United Ladies’ season continues this weekend as Leigh RMI Ladies are the visitors to Creighton Rugby Club from 2pm on Sunday afternoon. The Lady Cumbrians will join their male counterparts in wearing rainbow laces for the game, along with next Sunday’s fixture against Morecambe Ladies Reserves, in support of the Stonewall campaign for LGBT equality.
United Ladies games are free to watch and all blues fans are welcome to attend. For up to date fixture information and all the latest news from the Lady Cumbrians don’t forget to follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @CUFCLadies.