As the club heads towards their 20th anniversary next year, Penrith AFC Ladies have reached another significant landmark.

A 6-2 win over Leigh RMI Ladies on Sunday was Penrith’s 500th competitive fixture since the Cumbrian club was founded in 2000.

“It’s a lot of games,” admits Simon Savage, manager of the North West Division One Women’s Regional League team.

"I suppose, because geographically we are quite remote, it’s a big commitment for all the players to keep travelling to the games every week.

"Most of the games are in Lancashire, Liverpool and the Manchester area, so it’s a big commitment to keep travelling those distances for every away game."

Jess Nelson and long-serving Lily Gaulton both scored twice in Penrith’s latest success, while Olivia Johnston and Abbie Forster were on target, too. But Savage concedes it was far from a routine win.

He explains: "It was a funny game, we were 2-0 down at half-time. I don’t know what happened in the first half!

"But we had a little chat at half-time and then looked like a different side altogether in the second half."

Back on Sunday, September 10 in 2000, Penrith - then known as Penrith Sapphires - were also victorious as they stormed to a 5-0 win against Corwen Ladies in their first-ever competitive match at the Bonny Blues’ old Southend Road pitch in a Women’s FA Cup tie.

“In March 2000, I was just coming towards the end of my playing career and I was asked to do a two-week trial, just to see if any girls or Ladies were interested in playing football at the club,” says Savage as he explains how the club was formed.

“So it [the trials] were only meant to last two weeks, but so many people came down and they were so enthusiastic, that it seemed a pity to not try to take it further. So, we applied to join a league that summer and we managed to get into the Northern League, initially.

“We played our first game in September 2000. It was actually an FA Cup game against a team called Corwen from Wales. We won that, and we have never looked back since.”

During the past two decades, skipper Kim McCormick and Gaulton, in particular, have been real stalwarts for Penrith. McCormick has played 248 of Penrith’s 500 matches, while Gaulton has scored an amazing 332 goals in her 228 appearance.

“Our current captain, Kim McCormick, I think she started in 2006, coming to us from junior football,” says Savage who is supported in his role by his wife, Kath.

“She’s been with us right through. She has had a couple of seasons out through injury, but she is still going strong, captaining the team and leads by example in all respects.

"Then, Lily Gaulton is a bit of a goal machine. She scores a lot of goals for us.”

“I love football and I love this club,” McCormick enthuses.

“To play at this level with Penrith means giving up your Sundays, [but] it’s what we do. Sunday is a football day.

"I’m thankful I made the move to Penrith when I did at 16."

Meanwhile, others from the club’s ranks have progressed in the women’s game.

“From our junior team, Beau Studholme went to Man City’s Academy, and she has now signed for Leicester Ladies,” says Savage. “I think she has just turned 18.

"A few of our [other] girls have gone on to play at a higher level, as well, while some have gone to the Academy at Durham.”

It has been a big year for women’s football on the national scene, too.

Phil Neville’s England side reached the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup, held in France, before they lost to eventual champions United States.

“Women’s football, as a whole, is developing,” enthuses Savage.

"It's difficult because of the commitment required, but we have two teams and more than 40 players signed on. So certainly, at our club, we are doing well.

"The county, as a whole, seems to be doing well, too. The summer football seems to be doing well, but more at a local level, of course not everybody wants to give up their Sundays.

"But, certainly, we are doing fine."

Penrith have also enjoyed their fair share of success, particularly in the Cumberland Cup, having won the competition three years in a row from 2012 until 2014.

But Savage insists: "If I’m honest, I would have liked to have won it more than we have!

"We won it three years in a row between 2012 and 2014, and we have been runners-up quite a lot of recently.

"I think it’s becoming a bit of mental thing now, to be honest. We got a promotion in the 2017/18 season, as well, and that was a big thing.

"We played a season in the North West Premier Division, which was a big step up.

"It was tough for us, and we ended up going straight back down. But it was a great experience."