Caley Thistle Women manager Karen Mason believes improved player commitment is why her side have started the SWF Championship strongly.
The Caley Jags currently sit third in the table with 15 points from seven games – the same return as second-placed Ayr United, who have a better goal difference.
A north derby awaits Inverness on Sunday as they travel to Westhill to face Westdyke, who sit one place behind in fourth with 12 points – but with a game in hand.
Mason has been pleased with the start Caley Thistle have made as she highlights the positive predicament she now has to ponder each week ahead of selecting her strongest starting XI.
Last season, Mason had to work with inconsistent squad numbers at training and could rarely name the same players in a match-day contingent due to a lack of availability.
But both of those issues appear to have been solved this term.
She said: “This season I really put across that if you’re not in training then you won’t be starting at the weekend and that has made a massive difference.
“People are putting the team first, and now on a Sunday we’re getting around 17 players in our match-day squad.
“It has helped with competition, because if there are players having an off-game then we have got other people chomping at the bit to get in amongst it.
“We have a big squad and everyone is pushing each other on.
“It’s what any manager would want to have as a headache before they put their team together. It is something I have wanted to have for a long time.
“To me, if you are giving up your time on a Sunday to play the match, you should want to put the work in to get better at training during the week.
“It has definitely helped us this season and that has shown on the pitch in the way we have been able to pick ourselves back up after some of the difficult moments.”
Westdyke will be ‘tough encounter’ – Mason
The Caley Thistle manager is expecting a challenging match in Westhill, as she hailed Westdyke’s start to their debut national Championship campaign following promotion from SWF League One.
Mason said: “We have got to take a derby – although it is still a two-and-a-half-hour journey – when we can. We’ll take any kind of incentive for a good game.
“They have had a great start to the season. They have come up to this league through the play-offs and are not only competing, but are beating some very good teams.
— Westdyke Ladies (@WestdykeLadies) October 24, 2023
“It is definitely going to be a tough encounter for us, but we’re looking forward to it.
“They are probably in a more comfortable position going into this one because they’re three points behind and have a game in hand.
“We need to make sure we can go out and secure the result.”
There is only one game in the SWFL North this weekend as Stonehaven host Dyce.
The rest of the north teams are in SWFL Cup action, and the fixtures are: Elgin City v Inverurie Locos, Grampian v Buchan, Westdyke Thistle v Arbroath, and Huntly v Dryburgh Athletic.