Nomads Panthers are confirmed as champions Division One of the Clacton and District League - without hitting a ball in anger.
Windsor Eagles, the only team that could mathematically catch them, could only garner ten points from their two matches this week. So congratulations to the Panthers' squad of John Hatley, Sam Hume, Colin Webber, James Denyer and Gill Locke who've proved themselves the class team of the League and have deservedly taken the title for a fourth season in a row.
The Eagles were involved in two 6-4 results, one a victory and one a defeat. In their first match, the Eagles went down to Brotherhood C. The ever-reliable Alan Burgess took his treble for Brotherhood although it was a close 11-8 in the decider against both Phil Smith and Mark Smith. Oli Reynolds won two whilst Kevin Pryor recorded an 11-7 in the fifth success against Sue Welham.
But, in the all-Windsor clash with the Condors, the Eagles emerged 6-4 winners. Gary Cattermole stayed undefeated and Phil Smith won twice, with Cattermole engaged in a good battle against Elliott Attrill before coming out on top 11-9 in the decider. Martin Hogg won a couple for the Condors including an 11-8 in the fifth victory over Smith.
The defeat for the Condors means they cannot finish runners-up but Walton C, 7-3 victors over Walton B, are still in with a chance of finishing second. Gary Young won his three and there were two each for Derek Willis and Mark Gale but it was a typically close inter-Club encounter match with no less than six of the matches going the distance. The 'C' team won four of these, Gale having 11-9 in the fifth victories over both Colin Dearman and Paul Woolnough, Willis needing the full five sets to beat Dearman and Young just edging out Gavin Price 11-7, 12-10, 10-12, 6-11, 11-7.
With one match each left to play, second-placed Hawks have 119 points and the Eagles are on 116 points, with the Hawks' final match a difficult encounter with the Panthers and the Eagles due to face a less arduous, but still challenging, fixture against Nomads Lions. Walton C are on 109 points but have two matches to play, one against the Panthers and a more winnable fixture against Brotherhood B. The race for the runners-up position is going down to the wire!
At the other end of the table, Nomads Lions won three of the matches that went the distance to beat already-relegated Brotherhood D 9-1, Adam Wilkin and Paul Hume unbeaten. Russell Hillier won the Brotherhood point with a win over Adam Cuthbert and only narrowly lost his other two matches, 11-8 in the fifth to Wilkin and 11-9 in the fifth to Hume.
The Lions' victory, coupled with Windsor Kestrels' 8-2 defeat at the hands of Brotherhood B, means the Kestrels will be the second side to be relegated alongside Brotherhood D. John Owen took his maximum for Brotherhood B and was their best player on the night. And although Martin Edwards also contributed three, it was a much tougher affair, beating John Harvey 11-8 in the fifth and Bob Sawyer 11-9 in the fifth. Sawyer and Dave Martin took the two points for the Kestrels, Sawyer edging past David North 12-10 in the decider.
Windsor Owls are definitely promoted from Division Two following their 8-2 win over Brotherhood E and now need just two points from their final match to guarantee themselves the title. The Owls were helped by the Brotherhood side only being able to field two players - although Mark Beckham and Tom Wilkin made the Owls work for their win. Frank Burbidge defeated Wilkin 11-6 in the decider and Beckham 12-10 in the decider, whilst it was 11-9 in the fifth for Burbidge and Tricia Salter in the doubles.
But it's still in the balance as to which team will be promoted with the Owls. Lawford - 10-0 winners against a Nomads Jaguars' side with two reserves - are now just a single point behind second-placed Nomads Tigers. Once again, the final matches are going to be crucial, with the Tigers due to play the Owls and lowly Brotherhood E, whilst Lawford have to face bottom-side Windsor Magpies and the always-competitive Brotherhood H.
At the foot of the table, Brotherhood E's future in the Division is hanging by a thread following their 9-1 defeat at the hands of Windsor Buzzards. Tony Edmonds made a brave return to the Brotherhood side after injury and he took Dan Malinowski close before eventually going down 11-9 in the fifth. Duncan Dunne got the Brotherhood point whilst Rodney Betts will feel unfortunate to have lost 11-6 in the fifth to Pete Bloomfield and 11-9 in the fifth to Ray Chillingworth. Bloomfield and Chillingworth recorded hat-tricks for the Buzzards.
Windsor Magpies are in an even more precarious position and they were not helped when they went down 8-2 to Brotherhood F. Barry Allen and Sandie Isaac took trebles for the victors, with Lee Allen winning twice. Dave Sweetland took a point for the Magpies with a 13-15, 11-9, 14-12, 9-11, 11-7 victory over Lee Allen whilst, with John Plummer, he shared a rare doubles success, only the Magpies' third of the season.
Elsewhere, in a mid-table clash of two teams separated by just a single point, Brotherhood H leap-frogged over Windsor Harriers in the table with a narrow 6-4 win. Every player won at least once but Brotherhood's Graham Parkes was the hero of the hour and stayed unbeaten. However, his side's success was only settled in the final tie of the evening, Parkes defeating Ferdy Rodriguez 6-11, 5-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-9. Grant Sharpe won two for Brotherhood and James Smith-Daye one.
The battle for top spot between Nomads Pumas and Walton in Division Three is another intriguing contest that will not be determined until the final week of the season.
The Pumas came up against a determined Windsor Ospreys' trio and they will be grateful to Andrew Cousins who stayed unbeaten to lead them to a 6-4 success. Debra Found and Woody Fitzpatrick picked up two wins apiece for the Ospreys, both defeating John Bowers and Lionel Goddard - although it was a close 11-5 in the fifth for Found against Goddard and a mighty close 17-15 in the fifth for Fitzpatrick against Bowers.
The Pumas also encountered tough opposition in their second match with Nomads Ocelots but again came through 6-4. Eric Lemke was their hat-trick hero on this occasion, having an important 11-8 in the decider win over Mike Wellum. Goddard and Bowers picked up a point each, although Bowers' 6-11, 11-6, 4-11, 15-13, 11-6 win against Tom Collins was anything but straightforward.
While the Pumas were struggling for their twelve points against the Ospreys and Ocelots, Walton D gathered sixteen points from their encounters against Brotherhood G and Windsor Kites to narrow the gap.
Three for Rivhu Khan, two for John Long and one from Lynette Sparks saw the Walton side to a 7-3 win against Brotherhood G, with only two matches being extended to a fourth set. Graham Healey played well to win two for the losers with Rob Bright chipping in with one.
The Walton side followed this with a 9-1 success against the Kites, Khan and Long unbeaten and only Chris Simson's victory over Toni Hayhow-Khan preventing the whitewash.
So the Pumas, with one match to play against Brotherhood G, have an eight point lead over Walton, who have two matches left against Nomads Cougars and Nomads Wildcats.
The Wildcats will prove tough opposition and, after a good season's work, look certain to finish third. This week they were 8-2 winners against Windsor Swallows with Andrew Cawley and Brian Friday taking maximum points. Friday was involved in a vigorous 11-7, 24-22, 11-7 win against Kayleigh Stratford but the closest match of the evening was the doubles, Friday and Cawley taking it 11-9 in the fifth against Iris Howlett and Kayley Lamb.
But the Swallows did record a victory in their second match, a 6-4 result against Windsor Kites. The Kites put up bold resistance, Carl Hubbard and Jack Haylett each winning twice, but Kayleigh Lamb was the star of the evening, remaining undefeated for the Swallows.
Brotherhood G ended as 8-2 winners against a Windsor Penguins' team that fielded a guest. There were three close individual matches - Graham Healey and Paul Metcalf winning the doubles 11-9, 7-11, 10-12, 11-8, 12-10 against Jackie Bunce and Harry Barlow, whilst Metcalf won both his matches in five, the score-line against Bunce an interesting-looking 6-11, 11-8, 20-22, 11-8, 11-7.
Finally, it was 7-3 for Nomads Leopards against Nomads Ocelots, Jason Lloyd scraping his hat-trick thanks to an 11-6, 11-3, 10-12, 9-11, 11-9 victory against the fast-improving Scott Campbell. There were a couple each for Ethan Lloyd of the Leopards and Mike Wellum of the Ocelots.
* Seventy players will be competing for honours in the League's 2016 Closed Championships this weekend at the Coastal Academy Sports Hall. Once again the Championships are being sponsored by Paul Newbould Planning and Building Design Services. Play begins at 9.10 am on both Saturday and Sunday, with the finals starting at approximately 3.30 pm on each day. All entrants should have received details about check-in times but, any player who has not should contact Peter White or Tony Oswick as soon as possible.
* The Windsor Club is holding a Quiz Evening on Saturday 23rd April at St James' Hall, Clacton-on-Sea, 7.30 pm for 8.00 pm. The cost is £5.00 per person for teams of up to six people. For more details contact Jenny Higgins on 01255 432397 or 07790 240566, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
* The 2016 Knock-Out Cup Final between Windsor Eagles and Nomads Lions will take place on Tuesday 26th April at the Brotherhood Hall. Play starts at 7.30 pm and all players are encouraged to attend to support the two teams.
Windsor Kestrels 2 Brotherhood B 8;
Walton C 7 Walton B 3;
Brotherhood C 6 Windsor Eagles 4;
Nomads Lions 9 Brotherhood D 1;
Windsor Eagles 6 Windsor Condors 4.
Windsor Buzzards 9 Brotherhood E 1;
Windsor Harriers 4 Brotherhood H 6;
Lawford 10 Nomads Jaguars 0;
Brotherhood I 2 Windsor Owls 8;
Brotherhood F 8 Windsor Magpies 2.
Nomads Ocelots 3 Nomads Leopards 7;
Windsor Swallows 6 Windsor Kites 4;
Brotherhood G 3 Walton D 7;
Windsor Ospreys 4 Nomads Pumas 6;
Windsor Kites 1 Walton D 9;
Nomads Wildcats 8 Windsor Swallows 2;
Nomads Ocelots 4 Nomads Pumas 6.