It has been an “astonishing” season so far for Wolves Women, says manager Dan McNamara after seeing his newly promoted team set the pace in the first third of the National League Northern Premier Division campaign.
Wolves have been the league’s surprise package following their rise from Division 1 Midlands, winning seven and drawing the other two of their opening nine games to top the table going into November.
Without a league match since that point – all of their fixtures in the meantime have been cup ties – they have been overtaken but are just three points off current leaders Derby County with two games in hand.
That is some going for what at the start of the campaign was a new-look team, McNamara having brought no fewer than eight signings into his squad as he prepared for life in the higher division.
Any concerns that it would take time for the much-changed side to gel were quickly blown away as the first three outings all brought victories, most impressively away to promotion favourites Derby.
Continuing good form led to Wolves being the only team in the division to remain unbeaten, as the National League stepped into its winter break last week.
“It’s an astonishing record,” says McNamara, as he reflects on the campaign to date. “We went into the season with the aim of reaching 20 points to feel safe in the new division, but the girls absolutely smashed that target.
“We had a lot of new players, but I had no worries that they would settle in quickly. All of them matched the values we have at Wolves and our core group of the last three seasons knew how good the new girls were.
“So I felt confident that we would be good enough to compete in the Northern Premier. Even so, we are over-achieving in a division where there’s a lot of money being spent by some of the clubs.
“If we want to compete at the top of the table and look to achieve another promotion we may also need to go down the money route. But we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves in any aspect of the club’s operation.”
McNamara will certainly not allow his players to get ahead of themselves on the field of play, particularly after suffering their only defeat of the campaign in the recent FA Cup second round tie against Nottingham Forest.
“It was a stern warning,” McNamara said of the chastening 4-0 loss. “To be fair to Forest, they were phenomenal on the day, but our girls never got going and it was very disappointing to go out of the FA Cup after the great run we had last season.
“We put Wolves on the map by getting to the fourth round and on the way beating clubs higher up the pyramid than us, and we wanted to make the same sort of impact again this season.
“It wasn’t to be, but that Forest defeat was a kick up the backside and told us we’ve still got work to do if we want to achieve our goals.”
After the winter break, McNamara’s team will step back into action with a League Cup tie at Liverpool Feds followed by a Northern Premier outing against Middlesbrough on 16th January – almost three months since the last league match, a 2-2 draw with Burnley on 24th October.
Two games have been postponed in that time, but nevertheless McNamara reckons: “That gap in league fixtures is farcical. It would never happen in the men’s game. I’ve made my feelings known, but we’ve just got to get on with it.
“It’s so disappointing to see teams climbing above us in the table because they’re playing matches and we’re not. We’ve obviously got games in hand, but it’s good to have points in the bag and we’ve got to play catch-up
“We’ve just got to kick on, put the Forest result behind us and work hard week in, week out to keep ourselves around the top of the table.”