The race for the Braintree Table Tennis League first division title was the closest for 35 years, and climaxed in a unique double-header finale.
While the 1980 title was decided by two points in the final game of the final set of the final match – Colne A denying Witham FC A a first title - it did not have the drama of two matches taking place simultaneously on adjacent tables, featuring the two teams fighting for the title.
Netts A and Liberal A went into the final evening level on points but because Netts had won more matches, they only needed to equal Liberal’s result to take the title.
And that is what they did, both matches finishing 7-3.
Netts once again relied heavily on Kevin Gowlett who played in 20 of the 27 matches, as he did last year.
But this time he lost four times, in contrast to his 100 per cent record last season.
Paul Davison also played the same number of matches as last season, 13, and lost twice.
As with last year, they had John Cleasby and Nikki Davison as back-up, and this year they had Andy Holmes to add his considerable experience.
But the unexpected factor that made the difference was the surge in form towards the end of the season of 19-year-old Patrick Gilbert.
Up to the beginning of February, his form had been much as last season, a win average of 40 per cent from 35 sets compared with last season’s 32 per cent from 53 sets.
But in his last 17 sets he won 15 times, an average of 88 and enough to turn the tide.
Netts B, who won the title as Netts Phoenix in 2013, finished in third place – and won the team knockout cup with a final victory over their A team – while last year’s runners-up Rayne A finished fourth.
Sible Hedingham , relegated last season, were always the favourites for promotion from division two so long as they could put out a full side on a regular basis, a failing that had cost them their first division place last season.
Richard Jennings’ more regular appearances – 20 matches this year compared with 11 last – ensured that they had few difficulties and they finished ten points clear of Black Notley B.
Had he been available as often last season they would have kept their first division place and they will hope to do so next time round.
It was a relegated team that made the early running in division three as well but after losing the services of Tim Gowers, Rayne G gradually dropped away to be overtaken first by Felsted RBL B and then by Notley G.
Felsted can make some claim to being the club of the year. They started the season with just ten players to cover three teams. They lost Jenny Thomson and Chris Butler, both of whom left the district during the season, and ended with only seven fit players after Dean Wood broke a bone in his foot with three matches to go.
They survived by promoting players up their ranks and were happy that the season finished when it did as all three of their C team players had won the allowed maximum of five sets playing up for the B team.