Today's Scottish Cup fifth-round tie between Motherwell and Montrose at the K Park will be an important gauge for the SWPL 2 side.

The Mighty Mo, as they style themselves, are aiming to emulate Aberdeen by making it back-to-back promotions from the third tier to the first.

They had an almost 100 per cent record in Championship North last season and maintained their three-point SWPL 2 advantage last Sunday when they beat Kilmarnock 1-0 at Rugby Park.

“I said before the game if we got a result we’ll really believe we’re ready to win this league,” manager Craig Feroz said. “I do believe we’re the best team and if you look at the goal difference we’re an attacking side.”

Feroz, whose own senior playing career started at nearby Brechin City, has overseen a remarkable transformation at Montrose. The 45-year-old, who started the job in pandemic-hit circumstances in 2020, says he had to start from scratch.

“Four years ago I knew nothing about women’s football but now I love it,” he said. “I was asked to come down to help, and when I arrived it was a mess.

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“There was no affiliation with the men, they didn’t wear the same kit and they had to pay for the hire of the pitch. There were no coaches – there was absolutely nothing.

“I said if you want me here you’ll need to make big changes and surprisingly they took that on board. Now the women are part and parcel of Montrose and it’s great to see. It’s really a success story.”

The team play at Links Park, and so have a better ground and facilities than most of the sides in the league above them. It is a point Feroz isn’t shy to elaborate on.

“You hear clubs say that they’ve invested in the women’s game, but if you dig underneath it they don’t,” he said. “That token gesture of one game a season at the main club ground isn’t good enough.”

Montrose draw most of their players from the Aberdeen area and have recruited from the SWPL club also, with striker Lauren Gordon one of the latest to have moved south. Yet, at the start of the season Feroz did not believe his side could possibly be in such a strong position.

“I was in Portugal in May on a family holiday,” he recalled, “and I only had six players. I was on the phone constantly during that month and was thinking we’ll be lucky if we stay up.

“We got a break of the ball with Louise Brown as her situation at Aberdeen didn’t work out, and it then just started to click. We’ve definitely over-achieved in terms of my expectations – put 14 new players together and any manager will tell you that’s difficult.”

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Montrose would have had a six-point SWPL 2 lead had not a 3-2 win over Boroughmuir Thistle in October been reversed to a 3-0 defeat. They failed to notify the league they were going to play London Pollard (who scored twice and was player of the match) as a trialist.

As previously reported here, Pollard arrived at Montrose on a pre-contract – which kicked in last month – because Motherwell unexpectedly released her following the actions of a third party.

The striker herself was blameless, and today will have the opportunity to try to find the net against her old side before heading out to Spain with the Scotland U19 squad.

Unusually for a second tier side, Pollard is one of two current Scotland youth internationalists at the club. The other is the pacy Holly Daniel, who Feroz rates very highly.

The manager is looking forward to the challenge of his first competitive game against a top league side, but if Montrose do go on to be promoted, what then?

One of the clubs which made the jump this season, Glasgow Women, has yet to win a point after 18 games.

“If we don’t go semi-pro, and we don’t spend money, we’ll struggle,” Feroz admitted. “We’ve had discussions. All I can promise the players is the hope that if we do get to the top league they’ll finally get financially rewarded for their efforts.”

BY this time next week Scotland will have played their opening two Pinatar Cup games against Iceland and Philippines.

The latter are the only one of the four competing nations to have qualified for the World Cup, having done so for the first time. Remarkably, their 25-player squad for Murcia includes 19 who were born in the United States