The closest fight for the title that the Braintree Table Tennis League has seen for many years has tipped in Netts A’s favour after a close win against their only rivals, Liberal A.
Netts, winners in 2011 and 2012, edged home against the current champions by 6-4 after a series of individual battles, any one of which could prove crucial in the ultimate destination of the winners’ shield.
Foremost among them was the clash between Paul Davison and Peter Hayden, both five-time men’s singles winners.
Hayden went into the match unbeaten but had not played in either of the first two fixtures against Netts, whereas Davison had tasted defeat twice this season, to Scott Dowsett and Ian Hayden.
He beat Dowsett second time round and repeated the feat here but it was his battle with Hayden that swayed backwards and forwards before he clinched it at 11-8, 11-9, 5-11, 2-11, 11-7.
An even closer set was Hayden’s win over Kevin Gowlett, beaten only once before this season - by Ian Hayden. Hayden junior took it at 12-14, 11-9, 11-6, 3-11, 11-9.
Perhaps the surprise of the evening was Gowlett’s defeat by Simon Webber. Gowlett had won their previous two encounters, but fell in straight games this time.
To balance that John Cleasby had an excellent win over Scott Dowsett by a punishing 11-5, 11-7, 11-3.
The title race is so close that any of those sets could eventually be decisive.
Elsewhere in the first division, Netts’ B team strengthened their hold on third place with a 9-1 win over Felsted RBL A.
Ian Butler took Felsted’s one point with a win over James Mullane, revenge for a defeat earlier in the season.
Paul Lombardi, who began the season in division three, had a good win over Peter Hance in Rayne C’s 9-1 defeat by Rayne B.
Hector Rogers took his three singles for Rayne D in their draw with Liberal B while Steve Kerns did likewise in Black Notley A’s 6-4 defeat by Rayne A.
Sible Hedingham have all but wrapped up the division two title after their 6-4 win over Notley C.
Notley’s E team improved their B team’s chances of the runners-up spot by beating third-placed Liberal C 6-4 while the B team had an 8-2 win over Nomads.
Notley D had a surprisingly comfortable 9-1 win over a two-man Rayne F while Hedingham Lions remained uncomfortable – 10-0 worse off against Rayne E.
Division three’s new leaders Felsted B showed they mean to stay there with a 10-0 win over Rayne I.
Notley’s F and I teams were only able to raise two players for their matches against Rayne H and Notley H respectively and suffered 6-4 and 7-3 as a result, while the G team beat Felsted C 8-2.