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This makes them the highest ranked Cumbrian women's club and the only one to be playing at this level (Step 5 of the National Women's Pyramid).
Manager Simon Savage told Women's Soccer Scene: "This is a massive achievement for a small town club like Penrith AFC Ladies. We are punching way above our weight. We've topped a league including Bury, Preston North End Ladies, Cammell Laird (Birkenhead) and Carlisle United and only lost a single league game on the way. The dedication and commitment required to achieve this has been massive."
Penrith AFC Ladies were formed in 2000 as the Sapphires and quickly established themselves in the NWWRFL Division One North. In recent seasons, Penrith have flirted with promotion and have agonisingly just missed out in two of the past three seasons. Penrith have used these moments of despair to build character within the squad and it motivated them to come back more determined than ever on each occasion. This season, the professionalism within the squad has been better than ever.
Captain Kim McCormick commented: "The players have trained harder than ever and committed to every game. We put in extra training sessions over the festive period, which allowed us to kick on in the new year period."
In a thrilling finale to the season, several of the clubs challenging for the title had to face each other. Penrith faced tough trips to leaders Cammell Laird (1-0) and Bury Women (5-3).
These wins meant that Penrith went into their final game of the season at home to Burscough Dynamo knowing that a win would seal the title. So the scene was set at a sunny Frenchfields Park Stadium. Surely Penrith couldn't miss out again? However Burscough turned up in determined mood and took the lead in only the seventh minute. Penrith worked extremely hard to get back in the game and equalised before half time through youngster Georgia Campbell.
In the opening minute of the second half, Penrith were again caught napping as Burscough went back in front. Penrith were forced to up the tempo still further and gradually began to dominate possession. In the 68th minute they again equalised when leading scorer Nat Broad's inswinging corner found its way into the net. Penrith now searched for the elusive winner. Chances came and went until, finally, six minutes from time, the pressure was rewarded when local girl Hannah Coulthard fired into the top corner of the net from 16 yards out. Penrith professionally saw out the game to claim the win and the 3 points that sealed the historic title win and promotion. Wild celebrations followed as the team savoured this long awaited moment!
Big challenges lie ahead in the Premier Division where the likes of Tranmere, Wigan Athletic, Stockport County and FC United of Manchester all await. However for the moment the players and coaches plan to enjoy their success and celebrate in style. The hard work will start again all too soon.
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