Sion Swifts Ladies have recorded arguably the two most eye-catching results of the season in recent weeks and it has coincided with a change to the club’s coaching setup.
Head coach Ryan McConville - who previously won the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership with Linfield Ladies - was instilled in the dugout last month, with manager Tony McGinley also returning after a break.
Having collected just one point from their opening seven league games, Sion have now won three of their last four - a six-goal victory over Linfield, a 2-1 win at home to defending champions Glentoran Women and most recently a derby defeat of Derry City Women.
McConville - who was recently at the helm of Scottish top-flight club Forfar Farmington and spent time at a football academy in Kenya - explained: “Belief and confidence is vital.
“We know that the logistics for Sion are a challenge - being two hours from Belfast and from other major areas which tend to produce top-flight players.
“That is a huge challenge for Sion in terms of recruitment and we know we need to be smart and make the most of the resources of what we have available.
“We know that we need to improve the players that we have and develop them, which is the big challenge from a coaching standpoint.
“At Linfield, we helped develop them from a team battling relegation to one who won eight trophies in three seasons - I’ve never walked into a dressing room ready-made for success.
“Sion were bottom of the league with one point but we can see the progress in the early weeks and we know the biggest challenges lie ahead.
“We don’t think people will underestimate us going into games anymore.”
Alongside McConville’s appointment, the club’s long-term boss Tony McGinley is also back at Melvin having taken a short break from the game at the start of the season.
McConville continued: “Tony coming back at the same time was a big help as he knows the players so well and allowed me to get to know them in extra quick time, he has been fantastic.
“We want to put standards on what is being delivered and said, but nothing that is outside of the box - but I know it is important to set that at a club.
“Women’s football is different to the men’s game in that girls are really smart and buy into what they are being coached very quickly.
“The players have been superb in training and in matches - so now our challenge is to build on that and continue to get results.”
Sion have strengthened their squad with two former players returning to the fold - Northern Ireland internationally capped player Catherine Hyndman has returned alongside Hayley O’Donnell, formerly of Linfield.
McConville - who is hopeful of adding more players to the ranks - admits that despite early results (which have been tempered by defeats to Crusaders Strikers and Cliftonville Ladies) there is plenty of work still to be done.
“The loss against Crusaders was probably my fault - I substituted off the player who was marking Julie Nelson, who subsequently scored the late winner,” he added.
“We had managed that game ok against a very strong team and we had been meticulous in our preparation, but that was a move that might have cost us a very good point.
“Four days later we played Linfield - we went for a different approach and things just clicked on the day, winning by six goals.
“Then we had a game against Cliftonville three days later - so we had three games in the space of a week, we were down to the bare bones in a playing squad and the players were psychologically tired too as they were training and playing under a new management regime.
“We managed to beat champions Glentoran - but they were missing a number of key players and were still fantastic, so we know the challenges that lie ahead.
“Sion Swifts are a club renowned for playing good, free-flowing football and at the start we were not doing that at all.
“It is fantastic to get a couple of really notable victories early on but we know there is a lot of work to do to get us to where we want to be.”