As Wolves head into the final third of the Women’s National League season holding a commanding position in the Northern Premier Division table, central defender Kelly Darby can draw on her experience with local rivals West Bromwich Albion as inspiration for the run-in to the end of the campaign.
Darby captained the Albion team that, back in the 2015/16 season, won 10 and drew the other two of their final 12 games to convincingly win the division. “It was a fantastic effort,” recalls the 28-year-old centre back. “Our confidence just kept on building and it would be brilliant to replicate that with Wolves.
“We’ve had a superb season so far and confidence is really high. But there’s still a long way to go and so – just like we did at West Brom in that great season we had – we’ve got to keep our focus, stay strong mentally as well as physically, and prepare in the best way we possibly can for each and every match.”
Preparations for almost every match this term have resulted in positive results for Wolves, though back in December a 4-0 FA Cup defeat by Nottingham Forest was a big setback. That result, however, was the spur for an excellent 3-0 win for Dan McNamara’s team when the two sides met in the league last Sunday.
“Forest did a job on us in the cup game,” admits Darby, “they turned us over. Their movement all over the pitch was really good and we never got going. But we learned our lessons from that day and went into last week’s match with a mindset and an intensity that were key to getting a brilliant result.”
Darby and her colleagues are set for another difficult encounter on Sunday, when they visit sixth in the table Burnley for a match that fans can watch on a live stream as Wolves look to take three points off the Clarets after needing a late equaliser to draw the reverse fixture at Castlecroft back in October.
“Burnley gave us one of the hardest games we’ve had all season at our place,” says Darby. “They attacked and defended well and caused us lots of problems right through the game. They may only be in mid-table, but they’re a dangerous team who can compete with anyone in our division.”
The Clarets proved that they can indeed compete with anyone in the Northern Premier Division when they beat Derby County recently, in the process becoming the only team apart from Wolves to record a victory over the favourites to finish top of the table in what looks like being a hard-fought battle for the title.
If Wolves can take the form they showed in the first two thirds of the campaign into the run-in then they could be part of that battle. But don’t ask Darby to give any predictions. “We’ve got confidence and all the motivation we need,” she says, “but it’s one game at a time and we’re thinking no further ahead than Burnley.”