Aberdeen Women manager Clint Lancaster believes his side should be aiming for more than surviving relegation from the SWPL with the top six within reach.
The Dons boss – who was appointed in the summer – says he was brought in and tasked to keep the Dons in the top-flight.
But with Aberdeen now sitting seventh with 18 points, and only five points behind sixth-placed Hearts, Lancaster sees no reason why the Reds should not aim for a place in the top-half ahead of the league split in March.
Last term, the Dons struggled for form for most of the season – and their SWPL status was only confirmed in their final home match of the campaign.
Ahead of a clash to basement side Hamilton Accies on Sunday, Lancaster said: “I was brought in to keep the team in the league and that was very clear when I signed my contract.
“I came to the club because I felt looking at the players it was an achievable task.
“We’ve done well – certainly early on in the season – and we have accumulated good points.
“The aim is still to stay in the league, because teams below us could go on good runs of form to pick up points and things can change.
“We’ve got January coming up and you don’t know what teams are going to do in the transfer window.
“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves, but when you see you’re seventh and are within touching distance of the top six, of course, the message to the players is let’s challenge them.
“If we don’t make the top six, then let’s see how close we can get to it, because it would be a remarkable achievement.”
Playing against top SWPL teams the best way for Aberdeen to improve
Lancaster believes playing in the top six after the split, against the SWPL‘s professional teams, like Rangers, Glasgow City and Celtic, would help his side improve.
He added: “I want to play the best teams every single week.
“If we lose, we lose, but you learn from every loss. You learn a lot more if you’re up against the top teams.
“That’s what the players need to be striving for and to be striving to play against.
“If we end up in that position where we are playing against the top half then what an achievement that would be. There’s no pressure on the players then. They can go out and enjoy each game.
“We’re not silly and we know the resources other teams have, but, for me, you have to want to be playing against the best.
“Those games would be a great test and if we conceded a goal in the first 10 minutes, then next time we’d have to aim to see if we can take it to 20 and go from there.
“This is a young group and it’s all about learning. That’s also why we play the way we play – we want them to learn and improve.”
13-0 loss to Celtic a distant memory for Dons
In their last SWPL outing a fortnight ago, Aberdeen were beaten 13-0 by Celtic, but manager Lancaster says that result has been long forgotten about ahead of the trip to Accies, who are yet to win this season.
The Dons beat Hamilton 4-0 when the two sides met at Balmoral Stadium in September.
Lancaster said: “We forgot about that (the Celtic game) the next day. It is done and there’s not much we can do about it, other than focus on trying to win the next game.
“We need to get back to playing how we know we can, believe, and have confidence in ourselves. We will go down to Hamilton aiming to do that.
“Hamilton’s position is what it is, and when you’re down there, you are desperate to pick up points. For them it is about survival and staying in the league, as it is for us, but our position is different.
“They are yet to win a game, so we have to make sure that it is not us they get their first three points off – but we will have to go down there and perform our best.”