Inverness Caley Thistle Women travel to East Fife for a game that could make or break their push for promotion to SWPL 2.
The Caley Jags currently sit fourth but come up against the top three – East Fife, Montrose and Dryburgh – in their next three games.
If they fail to pick up points against those sides it would be difficult to see how Inverness might break into the top two and win at least promotion play-off spot.
In SWF Championship North, the first-placed side wins automatic promotion to SWPL 2, while second enters the play-offs.
Boss Karen Mason believes the East Fife game could define their season and admits they might have to concede their promotion goal if they fail to take the three points back to Inverness.
“We could potentially keep the pace if we get the three points, but if we don’t then it’s probably effectively that we will be fighting it out for third place,” Mason explained.
“That’s obviously not where we wanted to be at the start of the season or even now, so it’s a big game indeed.
“We’ve got to show that we’re ready to compete if we’re to be in with a chance of getting the three points.
“Third place wasn’t our intention. We finished higher than that last year so we wanted to try and get ourselves up to the promotion places.
“Not fulfilling that would definitely be a disappointment.”
Will it be third time lucky against the Fifers?
The last two meetings between the sides both ended 2-1 in East Fife’s favour, and Mason hopes that it will be third time lucky for Caley Thistle.
However, she expects another tough game against the side that currently sits atop of the Championship North table.
Mason added: “There has been little difference between the two sides when we’ve played them so we know they’ll just throw themselves in front of absolutely everything no matter what it takes.
“The last time we played them we battered their goal with opportunities and chances, but there was always somebody there ready to throw themselves on the line to make sure it didn’t go in the back of the net.
“They’re physical with a bit of pace on the wings and are always well organised and ready for anything.
“We’re under no illusion what we will face having done so already this season. We’re hoping for third time lucky.”
It has been a stop-start season with all clubs struggling to get a decent run of games because of Covid-19 and the various storms that have hit Scotland in recent months.
The clash with East Fife will be the first time Inverness have played in four weeks after last weekend’s game against Westdyke was called off because of the snow.
And while she acknowledges the issues that they have faced this season, Mason believes her side must hold themselves accountable for poor results.
She said: “Some of the things haven’t been controllable, but I think with the games that we got beat there were no excuses other than our own performances.
“We had players available so whether we had a squad of 11 or 15, we kind of let ourselves down with the performances on the pitch.
“If we were to use Covid or anything else as an excuse then that’s probably just an easy way out, but it has been down to performances on the day which has unfortunately cost us.”
#SWFChampionship | Here is the updated SWF Championship North table ⬇
— SWF Championship (@SWFChampionship) February 20, 2022
Mason expects there to be no excuses again this weekend despite the hefty amount of travel that her side will have to undertake to get to Leven.
The Caley Jays are in for an early start as the game against East Fife kicks off at 12.15pm, with Mason saying her side ideally likes to be there at least an hour before kick off.
However, Mason says their three-hour bus trip is not a good enough reason to not perform on the pitch.
“We have to make a trip like this every second week so it’s not something that we’re not used to, but maybe it does take its toll,” Mason explained.
“But we are there for at least an hour before kick off and always have an effective warm-up, so as much as we could use it as an excuse, we’d be doing that every week no matter where we played.
“I’m maybe being harsh about there not being any excuses, but it’s about what happens on the park for me.”