Coming out of their weekend draw with Kashima Antlers, Omiya Ardija found themselves in sixth place in the J1 standings, their heighest placing for two years and a reflection of the changes brought about by Yasuhiro Higuchi following his arrival from Montedio Yamagata. Recent games with Kashima and Urawa have underlined the extent of that progress, given that the Squirrels were genuinely disappointed with having picked up only a draw in each.
Whilst derby matches have a tendency to throw up surprise scorelines - and the Reds have clearly underperformed in recent meetings with their smaller neighbours - there can be little doubt that Sunday's match was the best league performance ever by an Omiya side against Kashima. The contrast with 2007 in particular was startling indeed.
Ardija's stated target for this season is a top ten finish and although after such a positive start this does appear achievable, there are two issues that need to be borne in mind before supporters get carried away. The disaster of last season may cloud the memory of the opening period of the previous two J1 campaigns, in which the Squirrels gained unexpectedly positive results before a decline set in in late spring.
Secondly, a characteristic of J1 more broadly tends to be that there is little to choose between many mid-ranking teams in terms of quality and points: the difference between a sixth-place finish and twelfth or thirteenth is often minimal. What looks remarkable at present can change vey quickly and if the club want to continue their current progress then they need to match their Kashima and Reds performances on Wednesday at Gamba Osaka.
Like the Antlers, Gamba are finding it tough to combine a J-League schedule with the demands of the Asian Champions League and it may be that this is actually a good time for Omiya to be playing them. Higuchi's team are currently matching up well to Japan's finest; the next step is to beat one of the top teams in the country away from home.