Karen Mason reckons Caley Thistle Women are primed to put on their Sunday best to bolster their promotion hopes from Championship North.
Inverness will take on the second-placed East Fife at Inverness Royal Academy at 2.30pm on Sunday, looking for the win which would see them replace their opponents on goal difference by tea-time.
East Fife beat Caley Thistle 2-1 on the opening day of the season in mid-August and have been largely consistent since.
League action returns for us on Sunday when we welcome East Fife to Inverness Royal Academy- 2.30pm kick off. Supporters are very welcome! pic.twitter.com/jV2SwdVow4
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle WFC (@ICTWFC) November 11, 2021
However, a 4-1 defeat against Buchan a fortnight ago opened the door for Mason’s side, who have racked up five wins in succession to put themselves in with a chance of a promotion play-off as runners-up to likely champions Montrose.
The leaders have won all eight fixtures and last weekend booked their place in the Championship Cup final against Dryburgh after smashing Edinburgh Caledonia 10-1 in their semi-final.
Inverness lost two of their opening three league games, against East Fife and Dryburgh, but have racked up five wins and plenty of goals so far to put themselves firmly in the promotion mix.
Five wins bagged to climb table
Boss Mason believes her fired-up squad have responded to early criticism to give themselves a fighting chance of at least netting second spot this season, which offers a play-off prize against a Championship South opponent.
She said: “When we got beat by East Fife at the start of the season, people were already starting to write us off a little bit, so it’s great that as we play them second time around, we are now in a position to potentially take their place in second spot.
“Some of our performances haven’t been polished or great all the time, but we just decided to take every game as it came. The important thing was always to get the three points at the end of it.
“To get those five wins has given us that sense of belief that we can go out and get these points. East Fife is going to be the real test to show whether we’ve come any further on since the first day of the season.”
Team troubled East Fife in opener
Despite losing to East Fife, Mason saw enough from her team to suggest they can get at their opponents.
She added: “They were really dogged and determined when we played them. Everything we threw at them, they had bodies in the way.
“We actually created plenty of chances, but just could not find the back of the net. We were maybe a wee bit rusty in terms of it being the first game of the season.
— SWF Championship (@SWFChampionship) October 31, 2021
“I definitely think there is the potential there to beat them on Sunday. We have to make sure that we are at our best and stop their danger players from playing.”
The visitors could well have extra determination to get a win in the north after being beaten by Buchan last time out, which Mason feels will lead to a toe-to-toe tussle.
She said: “East Fife will probably be looking for a response to their defeat two weeks ago.
“We don’t know whether they will be low in confidence, or it could have given them the jolt they need to come up here gunning for us. They will be looking for three points to bounce back.
“I expect a really competitive game.”
Montrose not out of reach yet
Although their focus is only on this match, Mason insists Caley Thistle have not ruled out challenging perfect starters and cup finalists Montrose for the title, should they win on Sunday.
#ChampionshipCup | We now have the finalists for the 2021 SWF Championship Cup Final 🏆⬇
— SWF Championship (@SWFChampionship) November 7, 2021
She added: “We are still hoping we can challenge Montrose all the way. Because we play each other three times, there is the opportunity to catch up on them as long as we don’t mess up.
“The top two has always been our aim and that is now within our grasp. Hopefully we can achieve that goal first of all and see where we’re at after that.”
Caley Thistle, who go into Sunday’s game at full strength, do so on the back of a 7-3 home victory against Westdyke two weeks ago.