Sunderland Ladies defender Louise Griffiths started the season as an ever present at right-back, but a red card at Middlesbrough in September saw her dropped.
Frustrated and disappointed, Griffiths has since worked her way back into contention and played a vital role in the Lasses fine unbeaten start to the campaign in all competitions.
“The Middlesbrough game was a very tough moment this season," she admitted.
"Obviously, I was frustrated with the red card. I had a one match ban meaning I lost my place in the team.”
“During this time, I just tried to stay positive and focussed on training hard with 100% effort at every training session, with the aim of regaining my position back in the team.
“It was a massive relief and a great reward to get back into the starting 11 as it showed that my hard work and persistence was worthwhile," she continued.
“I also think that it was a good learning curve for me as it made me realise you have to always be fighting for your position and it definitely made me realise how important being in the starting 11 is to me.”
Griffiths has played behind Keira Ramshaw and Jessica Brown so far this year, and she talks about the importance of linking up with her winger.
“Having a good relationship on the pitch with the winger is vital as you need to be aware of how each other like to play and also have an understanding of what each other are going to do before we do it," said the 20-year-old.
With mixed fortunes in derby games so far in 2019-20, it’s Wear-Tees match number two, and it’s an occasion that excites Griffiths.
“I think everyone loves a derby game.”
“It’s always very competitive as we are friends with and know a lot of the opposition, adding to the competition.”
“Derby games also always brings a lot of fans, which is always exciting as it creates a great atmosphere and it is a great occasion to show off the talent of women’s football in the north east. There’s definitely always extra pressure to be in the squad for a derby game.”
The FA Cup match is also the second time Melanie Reay’s side will turn out at their new Hebburn home.
“Hebburn is a great ground and we are very lucky to be able to use their facilities!
“I also love the fact that they have a big focus on the youth girl’s football as this is the sort of thing we need to keep on building women’s football.
“The break from travelling has been very refreshing, it’s nice to have a few more hours extra sleep and a short journey to the home ground as the travelling away can be very tiring and takes up a lot of time.”
The Black Cats are still fighting on all three fronts as they begin their FA Cup campaign. Griffiths is keen for cup runs to continue.
“I think both cup runs are very important as we are wanting to prove ourselves this season and showcase our talent. I think we are definitely ambitious in winning the League Cup.
“The FA cup is always exciting, it would be great to go far with the hope of having the opportunity to play a top WSL team in a home draw.
“I think the experience would be great for the team and a tough test to see how well we would do.”
Confidence and nervousness are two emotions that don’t often mix, but it all plays part in Griffiths’ excitement as derby day and the beginning of the FA Cup campaign draws closer.
“I’m definitely very excited for the Middlesbrough game but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous, especially after the draw in the last game and the red card.
A local derby is always a tough game and can be very close but I think we have a very high chance of winning, we have all been working very hard on and off the pitch which has definitely shown in our unbeaten run.
“I am optimistic that the unbeaten run will continue to carry on.”
Kick-off for Sunday’s FA Cup derby is 1pm, at Hebburn Town’s Energy Check Sports Ground. Tickets will be priced at £3 for adults, £1 for concessions and £1.50 for SAFC Season Card holders.