Watford Ladies' encouraging pre-season preparations will be put to a competitive test on Sunday when they travel to Sunderland in the fourth round of the FA Women's Cup.
It is more than month until the Golden Girls make their bow in the Women's Super League but manager John Salomon and assistant boss Chris Thurston will be looking for further progress this weekend after the team reached the fourth round following a 5-1 win at West Ham United.
"With any pre-season the most pleasing aspect is when it comes together on the pitch," Thurston said. "We’ve showed that we are continually improving and John and I have been pleased with the team's performance at West Ham and in our friendly matches since.
"Last season we got our pre-season preparations spot on and that helped us start the season strongly. I think this year we have reviewed what we did and improved on it and that can only serve us well ahead of the new campaign."
After an impressive season last year, the coaching staff have been working hard to continue to improve, as Thurston explained.
"John has introduced a few new ideas whilst aiming to hold on to what made us competitive last season," he said. "The ladies have taken these on board and have worked well with the strength and conditioning and sport science support we have been able to give them.
"We've made lots of progress both on and off the pitch and now our focus must be on getting the remainder of pre-season right."
Looking into the match preparation has been a key part of pre-season for Thurston, who continued: "We've been working on the way we would like to play against different types of opponents. I think it has been evident in our performances so far.
"We understand that each match brings with it its own challenge and our aim is to be ready for that.
"Additionally, the ladies have been working hard in training on their condition and so I think you will ultimately see a fitter and stronger side over the coming weeks."
Following the trip to Sunderland, the Golden Girls will continue to play friendlies as they continue their build-up for the new campaign.
"It's a period that's crucial to how we start the season and so we will aim to ask a bit more of the players each week," Thurston added.
"The main goal is to be ready for our opening Super League fixture against Millwall and I think that we are right where we want to be at this stage of pre-season."