They suffered promotion heartbreak last season but Brighouse Town Ladies have bounced back at the first time of asking.
Town are yet to lose a game this season which sees them occupy top spot in the North East Premier Division, plus they reached the semi-finals of the County Cup for the second year in a row.
Promotion would see Brighouse move into the Premier League where they would face the likes of Leeds Ladies, who beat them recently in the County Cup.
Now the club is bang on track to better the three-year plan which was put into place when the club was formed from Kirklees Ladies in 2013.
Town manager Rob Mitchell, who has been there from the start, said: “Originally the club was Kirklees Ladies for a number of years, but for one reason or another the manager left and my partner was playing at the time so I offered to do it for nothing.
“We then joined Brighouse Town as part of their 50th year anniversary celebrations and they started a women’s team in 2013.
“We’re coming to the end of the third year of our initial project which was to add a ladies development team, gain promotion to our current league and win a cup competition.
“All of which we have done, along with getting into a position where we can realistically gain promotion into the Premier League.
“So we’re right on track, the next three years are going to be developing the girls’ youth teams and if the first team can gain promotion, then, hopefully, we can try to consolidate in the league above and build from there.
“We have a really good tight-knit club and everyone gets along really well which makes my life a lot easier.
“We’ll just keep building structurally off the pitch and hope that the girls can take care of business on the pitch and see where it takes us.”
Unlike many women’s teams, Brighouse have excellent links with their male counterparts which brings added bonuses for Mitchell’s side
“We have very good links with the men’s team and we get to use the men’s pitch which is massive for us, especially as we aim for promotion which brings added stadium regulations,” explained Mitchell.
“I used to play for the club when I was 19/20, so I know the club really well and everyone behind the scenes, and, in my opinion, it is a big family who all work together for the benefit of the club.
“Without changing the name I think we would’ve still been playing in the West Riding League and just pottering along.
“We’re just trying to promote women’s football really.”
Promotion to the Premier League looks to be on the cards after winning 12 of their 14 league games this season and conceding just four goals all campaign.
However, Mitchell is not taking promotion for granted just yet: “ I think after finishing runners up last season, I knew we would be up there without being complacent.
“You can’t stand still in football and you’ve got to freshen things up so we brought in a few players, including Annabelle Cass from Leeds.
“Annabelle was our only real addition to start with as we lost a few players for one reason or another, and we promoted a couple from within to develop the team and now we’re in a really strong position.
“The players’ confidence is really high and we’ve got some really quality players, so I expected us to be up there. But I didn’t expect us to be unbeaten and beat our two rivals so it’s been a good season so far.”
Despite still being unbeaten in the league, Mitchell admits there has been some games which have been touch and go: “At the start of the season we were absolutely flying, scoring goals and winning quite comfortably.
“We pride ourselves on being a hard team to break down and we haven’t conceded many goals, which is obviously a great achievement for the defence and keeper. Since Christmas we haven’t been as fluid and have scraped a few results. We beat Barnsley 2-1 and we were comfortable but they scored a late goal which gave us a bit of a scare.
“Then we drew with Sheffield United 0-0 on an awful pitch, but it was the same for both teams and I don’t think either team was ever going to score in that game.
“Our last two games we have won 1-0 and the game against York we would’ve been lucky to get a point really; they were by far the better team on the day but as I said to their manager afterwards, ‘we have played far better than that in the past and haven’t got the result’.”
Brighouse have also come narrowly close to reaching the final of the County Cup in the last two seasons, suffering 1-0 defeats each time.
Last season they came up against lower-league opposition in Farsley, before this year facing Premier League side Leeds. Leeds will be one of their opponents next season if they can secure promotion so the County Cup tie was a key opportunity to test themselves against higher-level opposition.
“We’ve made a gradual progression up the league pyramid whilst Leeds have declined in recent years, which is sad to see really because Leeds were one of those top teams in the Premier League and in all the major cup finals when I was younger.
“It was good to see what sort of level we’re at compared to them because, hopefully, if we get promoted we will be in their league next season. It shows the girls that they can compete in the league above.”
Brighouse Town Ladies are certainly a team on the up and, at this rate, it won’t be long until we see them plying their trade in the top levels of the women’s game.
Home Ground: The Dual Seal Stadium.
Division: North East Regional Premier Division.
Manager: Rob Mitchell.
Honours: NERWFL Cup Winners 2014/15, NERWFL Premier Division Runners Up 2014/15, NERWFL South Division Champions 2013/14, The FA Charter Standard Club of the Year 2013/14.