Karen Mason is urging her Caley Thistle Women’s side to grasp a golden opportunity to beat SWF Championship leaders Rossvale – and join the title race.
Inverness are poised to return to the pitch on Sunday for the first time since their recent Scottish Cup clash with SWPL table-toppers Rangers, which ended in 12-0 defeat but in front of a record crowd for a women’s match at the Caledonian Stadium earlier this month.
Their league fixture away to Ayr United last weekend was beaten by the weather, but East Fife’s 3-1 victory at Rossvale means second-placed ICT have the chance to move to within three points of top spot if they win.
Caley Thistle also have a game in hand, so there is a huge incentive for Mason’s team to deliver what would be a statement victory at Millburn Academy in the 12.30pm showdown.
— Inverness Caledonian Thistle WFC (@ICTWFC) January 22, 2024
Mason tips another close encounter
Manager Mason, whose side hold a two-point lead over third-placed Ayr, hopes her players can deliver a big result which would put them on the heels of Rossvale, who have won nine out of 10 fixtures.
She said: “With Ayr being postponed last week, it didn’t allow us to prepare the best after our Scottish Cup game. It’s definitely a mouth-watering one.
“Generally, games between the sides have always been decent and often high-scoring. I would expect another closely-fought game on Sunday.
“After last week, we’re now just six points away from Rossvale with a game in hand. A win this weekend could potentially put us within touching distance of them.
“It did seem, as the league leaders, they were flying away from us, but now it seems a little bit more achievable.
“We’re grateful of favours being done (by East Fife) and it’s going to be a really interesting second half of the season.”
Mason calls for 90-minute display
Caley Thistle lost 4-2 to Rossvale at Petershill Park in September and Mason explained there were clear lessons learned from that encounter.
She said: “We struggled with them in the first half. We didn’t really play to our potential or get to grips with how they were playing.
“In the second half, we woke up, but by that time it was too late. We had a missed penalty and could not put any more chances in the back of the net.
“We gave them a 45-minute head start, which they punished us for. This weekend, we can’t do that.
“We have to come out of the traps firing and make sure we can keep a lead or don’t concede, so we come away with something.
“This season, we have multiple people banging in the goals, so it is very much a squad performance in front of goals. That’s something we’re looking for. We can threaten from all over the park and we have to keep utilising that.
TABLE | GW 1️⃣1️⃣
Here's how the #SWFChampionship table looks, with form side East Fife climbing to fourth after their 3-1 victory against league leaders Rossvale, and Dryburgh move within a point of Renfrew Ladies with a late winner. #BeTheDifference pic.twitter.com/vmRH9xGyrQ
— SWF Championship (@SWFChampionship) January 21, 2024
Promotion is realistic aim for ICT
The high of being in the spotlight for such a huge Scottish Cup occasion against unbeaten Rangers has given everyone at Caley Thistle renewed energy to go for promotion to further progress up the levels.
Mason said: “Having now experienced a game such as the cup-tie, we want to experience that again.
“We have had to rebuild over recent years and start from the bottom and work our way up. It definitely feels like it is getting closer.
“Our target this year was to finish in the top two, so if we keep on pushing that way, we might give ourselves a good shot at it this year. We will see how Sunday goes first.”
Caley Thistle will tackle Rossvale without unavailable trio Julia Scott, Charlotte Simpson and Katie Clelland.
Also in the Championship this Sunday, mid-table Westdyke – whose match at Morton was postponed by wind last week – take on Ayr United at Lawsondale pitches.
— Westdyke Ladies (@WestdykeLadies) January 23, 2024
Scottish League Cup second round
Elsewhere, it’s round two of the Scottish Women’s League Cup.
Huntly Women are home to Stewarton United, Dyce Women visit Armadale Thistle and Inverurie Locos entertain Harmony Row at Harlaw Park.