Rovers Ladies hope to be knocking on the Women’s Super League door in the next five years – but won’t be splashing the cash in a bid to achieve their top-flight aim.

A draw with Liverpool on Sunday means Rovers have now taken as many points from their seven games this term as they did in their opening 12 fixtures of their debut campaign that was curtailed because of coronavirus.

It’s 10 points from the last 15 available for Gemma Donnelly’s side, who are up to sixth in the standings in the Championship, two years on from finally getting promotion from the Northern Premier League.

There is only one promotion place available, which Donnelly expects to be contested between the current top four of Durham, Leicester City, Liverpool and Sheffield United.

But she believes Rovers are making strides in the second tier, but will do so with the right intentions in place.

“We are not a club who can compare ourselves against Manchester United or City in financial terms. We are not in a position like that,” Donnelly explained.

“More to the point, I want it to be sustainable, I don’t want it to be where the club say ‘here’s X amount of money go and buy who you want’ and then the next year, the budget dries up and we don’t have a legacy in place.

“It is important for me and as a club that we nurture our youth, we have done it so well in the past with players who are playing with us such as Tash Fenton and Ali Johnson and also with girls who have been playing at these bigger clubs as well.

“We will continue to do that, it is important and will take us some time because it’s small steps and it’s only our second season in the Championship.

“By my reckoning, if our targets go to plan, we should be knocking on the WSL door probably in five years’ time but with a secure and sustainable legacy to feed us into the Super League.”

There has been plenty of change within the squad since their all-conquering Northern Premier League days, with stalwarts such as Lynda Shepherd and Danielle Hill hanging up their boots, while others, such as Tash Flint and Jess Holbrook, having moved to pastures new.

Some remain, such as Kayleigh McDonald, Chelsey Jukes, Tash Fenton and captain Saffron Jordan, supplemented with new signings around them which have given the squad a fresh look.

It has been something of a changing of the guard, something Donnelly said had to happen.

She added: “I also said that I would give the opportunities from the National Premier League and it was important for them to be provided with the chance to prove themselves in the Championship.

“For a whole load of reasons that didn’t seem to be the case. It’s a huge commitment stepping up to the Championship in terms of training and the lifestyle change.

“Some of the girls felt it wasn’t for them or they couldn’t reach the level we wanted to play at, so they were all given that chance. Obviously the squad changed somewhat throughout the season but we feel in a better place, albeit it’s taken us some time.

“I was sat watching training last week and I looked at them and I said to my assistant ‘can you recall being in a position where we’ve got this many numbers, and also this much quality in the squad?’ It was so good to see competition across the park.

“It’s such a good and fortunate position I feel we’re in.”

Donnelly is eager for the Ladies’ arm to become self-sustainable, helped by the sponsorship deals they have been able to do, such as Transact365 becoming their first ever training range sponsor.

“I think it’s testament to what we’re delivering as a club that we’ve had so many sponsors return, and I’m delighted they want to do that,” she said.

“They feel quite personalised with our Ladies journey because we have had a rocky road but we feel that we’re building something special and it will take us time. To have them commit and stay with us is fantastic.”