MIDDLESBROUGH captain Jonny Howson has been around football long enough to know success doesn't come overnight - which is why he has such admiration for what Boro Women have achieved so far this season.

Having officially merged with the football club late in the summer, with a string of new signings arriving following the appointment of Michael Mulhern as manager, there was an acceptance and understanding that it would take time for things to settle off the pitch and for the team to gel on it.

And yet Mulhern's side are very much ahead of schedule. They sit top of the FA Women's National League Division One North table and face a crunch home game on Sunday against Barnsley, who are three points behind with two games in hand.

Mulhern continues to stress the importance of patience and says his side are under no pressure to win promotion this season. Regardless of how the rest of the campaign plays out, men's captain Howson has been hugely impressed by what the women's side have achieved.

He said: "I think it's very impressive how quickly they've found form. Sometimes these things take time because you're getting to know each other, learning how individuals play, what the manager wants. It's been very impressive. Hopefully they can keep it going and go and get promoted."

Boro Women have won seven of their last nine games in the league and have a Riverside date to look forward to, with Doncaster Rovers Belles the visitors on Sunday, March 10.


General manager Ben Fisher is delighted with the way the first season since the affiliation has played out.

He said: “We’ve got a great group of players and coaching staff - for me, one of the best managers in women’s football. His record at Sunderland speaks for itself. He identified which players he wanted to bring in here and they’ve gelled so well and done so well. For me, the most important thing is enjoyment - they enjoy playing and they enjoy being a part of this club.

"There is no pressure on them. They’re a brand new bunch - we’ve brought in about 15 or 16 new players this season. So there is no pressure on them. They’ve grown so much.

“This Sunday against Barnsley is massive. They’re third in the league, we’re three points in front of them but have played two more, so it’s an opportunity to move six points clear at the top, which is the dream. We’ve fought our way back into it.

"You know in football when something just clicks, that’s how I feel. I know it’s still early and there is still half a season to go, but I just feel like everything is clicking on and off the pitch at the moment and it’s just a brilliant place to be. I’m keen to stress there is no pressure on anyone - the girls or Mick - from us at the club. We just want to try and keep it going as long as possible. I’d love to go up, don’t get me wrong, but there is no pressure to do so.

"We do an awful lot of planning for all eventualities, so nothing changes in that respect. We want to bring the best players to the club anyway so even if we were to go up, we wouldn’t be looking to reinvent the wheel or get rid of everyone and bring a whole new bunch in. We brought these players in with the idea that they’ll come on a journey with us and progress up the leagues themselves as the club hopefully does."

Tickets for Sunday's game at Stockton, which kicks off at 2pm, cost £5 for adults, while season card holders will pay just £2.50 this weekend. Admission for Under-16s is free. Tickets are bought on the gate.