Matt Gatiss has steadied the ship since arriving at South Shields Women in the summer, and he is hoping to end 2023 with a statement win against Wallsend BC.
An interim team comprising Alex Miller and Becki McMahon guided the lasses from the new year up to last season's end, and while it has been tough at times, the signs clearly show an upward trend from then to now.
Shields sit second in the NERWFL Premier Division, having scored an almighty 32 goals while conceding the joint-fewest, in three fewer games than Alnwick Town, on five. They are just one point behind leaders Sunderland West End.
“So far my time at the club has been fantastic,” Gatiss reflected recently.
“As a new coach coming in, the first thing you look for is the buy-in from the existing players and staff, and I feel that everyone involved is fully invested in the project.
“From the outset we agreed that we should be competing to get out of this league, which is always going to be tough especially with teams with Football League club support, but so far the lasses have been smashing it.
“I feel that our style of play is distinct to other teams in the league, and the pleasing thing is that it's working and the squad have adapted to it very well and this has led to us so far reaping the benefits.”
For all the success seen in the league, the lasses were knocked out of the three cups available to them, but it does give them a chance to go all-in for the league title.
“Of course we have been disappointed with our cup performances on the whole, but now our focus is entirely on the league and in the end that is always going to be the priority as we aim to take the step into the National League,” Gatiss continued.
“Every game in this league is tough, and we have had to work hard in every single game to get some of the big results that we have, but we will need the continued excellent support from the stands to help us across the line.”
Wallsend are the visitors this Sunday at Harton Welfare for what will be the lasses’ first game in three weeks, and if the reverse fixture was anything to go by, supporters are in for a treat.
Since a thrilling 2-2 draw against Shields at Kirkley Park in September, Wallsend have only lost one game in the league (against Bradford AFC), and sit four points behind the Mariners with a game spare.
It will surely be a test of Shields’ credentials against another side who will no doubt be in the promotion mix after Christmas, and it could offer supporters an exciting glimpse of what might be to come.