Workington Reds Ladies ended a tough season in style after lifting the Women’s Cumberland Cup at Brunton Park, doing so at the end of a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
Trailing 2-0 and looking technically inferior to Penrith Ladies after a one-sided first half, Reds came storming back and mirrored the Champions League performances of Liverpool and Tottenham with a display of character, determination and skill.
They dominated the second half, survived extra time then triumphed in what was their fourth penalty decider of the season.
It left a very proud and emotional manager, Brian Heywood, reflecting on Reds’ second County Cup triumph in three years.
“I thought we were off the pace in the first half and not up to our usual standard which enabled Penrith to take advantage.”
“At half time, I just said we have been in similar situations like this in the league and bounced back so go out and have that belief in yourselves. And, sure enough, they demonstrated what they have been like this season in a dominant second half performance,” he said.
After emerging from the home dressing room on their Brunton Park debut, Reds carved out the game’s first chance only for Chloe Henderson’s shot from distance to narrowly clear the bar.
But it was Penrith who got their noses in front in the eighth minute. A corner from the right was mishandled by Laura Miller and the ball looped conveniently towards Heather Fawkes who headed home from close range.
Miller made amends with a fine save, pushing away Becca Alderson’s low shot at the expense of a corner.
The Reds’ skipper had no chance with a wonderful goal from the Blues which doubled their advantage four minutes before the break.
Released by Hannah Coulthard’s clever pass, Lily Gaulton raced clear and, as Miller advanced off her line, chipped the ball into the Warwick Road End net with sublime precision.
Hayley Bracken went close to reducing the arrears late in the first half when the ball rolled a foot the wrong side of the upright.
And the same player went just as close soon after the restart as Reds resumed in positive fashion.
Reds were back in contention after fifty three minutes thanks to a well taken goal from Jess Reynolds. Put in the clear by Henderson’s fine assist, Reynolds headed the ball over the Penrith ‘keeper, Michelle Jones, then guided it into the vacant net.
There was a worrying delay of almost fifteen minutes when Georgia Campbell was treated on the pitch for concussion before being stretchered off to warm applause.
And it was in the final seconds of that massive chunk of added time when Reds grabbed a dramatic last-gasp equaliser. Credit is due to Reds’ Sophie Birkett for winning the ball, which set-up the opportunity, and then Reynolds’ instinctive striker reaction. The ball fell into her path and her exquisite chip restored parity, taking the game into extra time.
The extra half hour took its toll and both teams were running on empty and so we had the added drama of a penalty shoot-out.
Penrith went first and Hannah Coulthard converted to make it 1-0 but Linzi Donaldson stepped forward and confidently equalised for Reds, 1-1.
Kim McCormick was next for the Blues but Laura Miller saved, 1-1. Jess Reynolds was then thwarted by Michelle Jones and it remained 1-1.
Sharina Robinson converted hers to make it 2-1 but Hannah Geen did likewise and it was all square again, 2-2.
Lily Gaulton netted to restore Penrith’s advantage, 3-2 but Hayley Bracken converted to level matters once more, 3-3.
Heather Fawkes scored and it was 4-3 to Penrith but Megan Yarland also netted and, after ten spot-kicks, it was 4-4.
So into sudden death and Lauren Ullyart’s poor spot-kick was saved by Laura Miller to leave Chloe Henderson to calmly slot home the twelfth and deciding penalty and secure the victory, 5-4.
A great advertisement for women’s football in the county with underdogs, Workington, lifting the cup for a second time.
Workington: Laura Miller, Sophie Birkett, Naomi Foster, Willow Gray, Eleanor Hope, Chloe Henderson, Mairead Kinsella, Linzi Donaldson, Hayley Bracken, Hannah Geen, Jess Reynolds. Substitutes – Paige Johnstone, Leah Cottier, Natalie Hooper, Megan Yarnold, Rebecca Scott.
Penrith: Michelle Jones, Becca Alderson, Hannah Fawkes, Lauren Ullyart, Kim McCormick, Heather Fawkes, Livvy Johnson, Hannah Coulthard, Sharina Robinson, Ruth Hopson, Lily Gaulton. Substitutes – Becca Buchanan, Hope Lawson, Sophie Nutter, Georgia Campbell, Jess Nelson.