There have been plenty of encouraging signs to build on for Derby County Women in the second half of the 2023/24 season.

Sam Griffiths’ side went into the festive period off the back of a 1-0 loss on home turf against West Bromwich Albion on 17th December, although they had won their six previous matches in all competitions beforehand.

Their fine form in recent months, notably after a slow start to the season, has not only seen them gradually climb the league table but also progress in both the FA Women’s National League Plate and the Women’s Adobe FA Cup.

In ten matches in all competitions since the start of October, Derby have picked up eight wins and lost just twice - both times by a single goal. In fact, the only time they’ve lost a match by more than a single goal this term was the 4-2 League Cup Determining Round loss to West Bromwich Albion in August.

They’ve had their shooting boots on too by scoring 35 times in the process and conceded just nine goals by comparison.

On a personal basis, the opening months have seen Club Captain Hannah Ward achieve the impressive milestone of 300 appearances for the Ewes as well as influential midfielder Emily Joyce hitting the 100 mark in the 2-1 success at Nottingham Forest in October.

As well as seeing league fixtures coming thick and fast to start 2024, the Ewes also have an FA Cup Fourth Round tie at home to Women’s Super League side Leicester City to look forward to and a trip to Sutton Coldfield Town in the Quarter Finals of the National League Plate.

Looking back on the campaign to date, Griffiths feels a mid-table position in a league that contains full-time and well-financed clubs is something the Ewes can be pleased with - but she wants to see the side maintain their progress when they return to action against Liverpool Feds at Mickleover FC's Don Amott Arena on Sunday 7th January (2pm kick-off).

She said: “I think the season has been good so far and we knew the league was going to be tough this year.

“There are a lot of high-flyers in the division now with a lot of money behind them and full-time managers, players and staff on their books.

“It does make a massive difference; I can tell you that. When you’ve got players training full-time and as a group of staff you can analyse every move you make, it can only make a positive impact.

“For us, if you’d have offered a mid-table spot at this stage and being up-and-around it at the top end, and not in a relegation fight at Christmas, I would have taken it.

“We want to be as competitive as we can be, but we are realistic. We lost against West Brom, which was disappointing as it was a chance to push further up the league, but we can’t let that define our whole season.”

On what has pleased her the most so far, Griffiths added: “The attitude and application of the players has been excellent and especially towards the way we want to play.

“They’ve really bought into it and sometimes we are good at it, sometimes not so good. They’re a brilliant group of players and work so hard.

“Like some teams in this league, we have girls that work in the day, get home, come to training and then go home again. It is tough, mentally especially, and physically. It is the same for staff too.

“To be in this position and competing, in my opinion, every week is a good place for us to be.”

Griffiths is particularly pleased to see the Ewes in two cup competitions ahead of the second half of the season.

She is convinced it has had a positive on the league form as it has provided plenty of fixtures and provided an element of competitiveness in the battle for a place in the starting line-up.

“We definitely have a lot to look forward to going into the new year,” she said.

“One of our aims was to stay in the cups as long as we could do and to be in the National League Plate and the FA Cup going into the new year is pleasing.

“I think it helps with our league games. It keeps playing ticking over and ensures we are playing week-in-week-out.”

“It is a good challenge and something that is exciting for us,” Griffiths added when discussing the Leicester cup tie.

“We’ll need to look how we are going to approach that game. If we can get our heads right and do the right things, then I think we can give it our best shot.

“We aren’t going to be stupid to put high expectations on the girls, but we do have to believe that we can go into the tie and compete.”