An undefeated season it has not been but Canberra United are slowly but surely hitting their straps.
What a big few weeks it's been for Canberra United. The reigning Westfield W-League champions have endured a nightmare run of fixtures battling fatigue, adverse conditions and international travel - not to mention tough opposition - to find themselves back in form and vying for top spot on the table.
Canberra's involvement in the recent Women's Club Championship in Japan left them with an unenviable pre-Christmas schedule that would have tested the depth of any squad. And while their foray against the world's best bore little fruit in Japan, the experience seems to have galvanised the team with a timely return to form on the domestic front.
Backing up after two games in four days at the championship, Canberra were unlucky to concede an injury time winner against Sydney FC in stifling conditions at Leichhardt Oval. American Nikki Washington appeared to have salvaged a point for an exhausted Canberra outfit after an audacious long-range effort looped over the despairing Sian McLaren in goal. Only a neat Emma Kete finish deep into stoppage time cruelly robbed United of a draw as the match finished 4-3.
As deflating as that result would have been, Canberra bounced back quickly with consecutive wins in the same week to drag them back into contention at the top of the table. The significance of the first - a rousing midweek triumph against league leaders Perth Glory - was evident as coach Jitka Klimkova dropped to her knees in relief at the final whistle.
"I had five times heart attack," Klimkova said post-match.
"We are happy to say welcome to the luck again [but] it wasn't just the luck, it was hard work on the field and the girls deserved to win today."
The sentiment was echoed by captain Ellie Brush.
"It's a bit of excitement but a lot of relief as well," Brush said following the win.
"[It was] so important to get the three points, not just for the competition, but for our own self-esteem, really, and confidence in ourselves."
They then backed it up with a 1-0 victory over Newcastle Jets on another warm Saturday, a brilliant solo effort - and maiden Westfield W-League goal - from Nicole Sykes proving the difference on that occasion.
With only three points separating the top six teams as the season reaches its crescendo, the sight of Canberra United gaining momentum is an ominous sign for their Westfield W-League rivals, who might have hoped to capitalise on a side pushed to its limits in recent weeks.