Although there are still eight weeks left of the league season in Premier Division of the Kettering and District Table Tennis League, it would already appear that three of the four important positions have been finalised. Reigning champions Westfield A sit at the top of the table and with a 16 point lead over second placed Burton Baptist A. Having taken 126 points out of a possible 140, it would take a monumental loss of form to prevent the Wellingborough side taking the crown for the third consecutive year. As for the Baptists, it looks very likely that they will have improved on their two consecutive third placed finishes as they currently sit in the runners-up spot with a healthy 14 point lead over third placed Corby Town A.
At the other end of the table, Thrapston Eagles look certain to be relegated back to Division One after just one season in the top flight having scored a meagre 17 points all season, leaving them 18 points from safety. It is the battle to avoid the second relegation spot that is the most intriguing aspect in this division as the end of the season starts to loom. Harborough Athletic (34 points), Burton Baptist B (35) and Corby Town B (40) all have high hopes of keeping their place amongst the elite and it will be fascinating to see which one of these three teams ultimately face the heartbreak of relegation.
Corby Town B have a slight advantage over the other two, but found the going tough against their own A team. Chris Haynes in particular was not in the mood to help out his club colleagues. He quickly recorded a straight games hat-trick. Lee O’Boyle wasn’t far behind his captain, dropping just two ends as he also recorded a treble. Guy Sparrow prevented the whitewash when he defeated Henry Arthur but the 9-1 defeat for the B team means they are still very much involved in the relegation battle.
Harborough Athletic played host to Arthingworth and put up a superb fight before ultimately going down to an 8-2 defeat. Only two of the ten matches were won by the short route, with four of them going the full distance. However, after a battling performance, a single win for Nathan Thompson over Gerald Henson and then a doubles win for the Thompson father and son pairing over Ray Kingston and Chris Gibbons was all Harborough could show for their efforts.
Burton Baptist B edged themselves one point ahead of Harborough and out of the final relegation spot despite their 7-3 loss to Westfield B. Nicole Bird and Sam Wildman both recorded comfortable trebles for Westfield before teaming up to win the doubles encounter, but Scott Sixon, playing up from Division One couldn’t add to his team-mate’s successes. Jacek Koltuniuk, Nash Hooda and John Aberra all scored wins over Dixon, with Aberra having the closest scare as he recovered from 2-1 down to win in five ends.
The big match at the top end of the division was the game between Kettering Town A and Higham. Going into the match, Higham had a four point lead over their opponents and a close score was expected. However, Kettering were to dominate the match to record an impressive 8-2 win. John Fuller was again key to Kettering’s fortunes. His treble included straight games wins over Richard Bashford and Andy Harrison but he was made to work hard by Richard Elliott before easing through 11-7 in the decider.
Fuller’s hat-trick was probably expected, but Nigel Metcalfe’s was probably a little bit more unexpected. Metcalfe gained a 3-0 win over Bashford and a 3-1 win versus Harrison but it was his 3-2 win over the luckless Elliott that would probably be the shock result of the week in this division. Mike Hawes scored a single win with victory over Bashford and then teamed up with Metcalfe for a 3-2 doubles win over Elliott and Bashford as Kettering leapfrogged ahead of their vanquished opponents in the league table.
The top two teams both recorded convincing wins. Westfield A were 9-1 victors over Westfield C. Kevin Bird, Roumen Stefanov and Steve Silk were all in mercurial form in singles competition but for the second week on the trot, Bird and Stefanov tasted defeat in the doubles encounter.
Burton Baptist A secured the expected big win against Thrapston Eagles. Dariusz Gulbicki, Dawid Przybysz and Alex Aston were all unbeaten though Aston had to come through a tough five set match with Mark Stockley. Gulbicki and Aston completed the 10-0 win with a 3-0 win over Stockley and Chris Warliker in the doubles.
Corby Town B 1 (Sparrow) Corby Town A 9 (Haynes 3, O’Boyle3, Arthur 2, Haynes/Arthur)
Harborough Athletic 2 (N Thompson, Thompson/Thompson) Arthingworth 8 (Gibbons 3, Kingston 3, Henson 2)
Burton Baptist B 3 (Aberra, koltuniuk, Hooda) Westfield B 7 (N Bird 3, Wildman 3, Bird/Wildman)
Kettering Town A 8 (Metcalfe 3, Fuller 3, Hawes, Metcalfe/Hawes) Higham 2 (Elliott, Harrison)
Westfield C 1 (Horrocks/Smalley) Westfield A 9 (K Bird 3, Silk 3, Stefanov 3)
Thrapston Eagles 0 Burton Baptist A 10 (Gulbicki 3, Aston 3, Przybysz 3, Gulbicki/Aston)
Player of the week: Nigel Metcalfe
The odds on favourites for the title Harborough Rangers shortened their odds and increased their lead further with a commanding 9-1 win over their struggling club-mates Harborough Rovers which makes their fight against relegation even more of an uphill struggle. The 9-1 scoreline was identical to the previous fixture, the only difference being that Sam Burgess replaced Mark Pearson as the victor over Steve Crook. Sam also did well to go 2-1 up on Liam Burnham before the favourite came back to win in 5 ends and Sam was the only one to win an end against Mike Brocklebank. Rangers now lead Thrapston Kites by 12 points who have a match in hand while Rovers are third from Bottom with Harborough Diamonds poised to overtake them being 3 points behind with 3 matches in hand. Diamonds did not play again due to Corby C postponing.
By studying the scorecard alone it would be difficult to guess that the home team Thrapston Kites were and still are second in the table while the visitors Burton Baptist D were 8th(now 7th) and without their highest ranked player Derek Muggleton. This would suggest a one sided contest but what transpired was quite the opposite. In fact at 10.00 p.m. this match was still locked at 3-3 while the players from Burton A on the other table had finished their match and were leaving the venue. The reason for the slow progress in the match was that no less than 6 out of the 10 sets went to 5 ends and 3 went to 4. While it's quite common for sets to be decided at 11-9 or more in the fifth end, it's a rarity for it to happen to the same player in all three singles sets in the same match. Steve Smith did just that getting his team off to a good start in the match with a good 'scalp' for him 13-11 over Peter Briggs before losing 9-11 to a clearly nervous and vocal Stewart Williams then his 12-10 win over Geoff Judd made the score 4-4. Despite Williams apparent nerves he appeared to perform better when under pressure winning all of his sets in deciding ends. In set 6 with the scoreline at 11-6, 11-6, 8-1 to Geoff Judd over Brett Owen you would have got very long odds against Owen at the bookies. However Owen recovered to take that third end 14-12 and then 12-10 and 11-7. Kelvin Marshall had contributed by beating Judd in 4 ends. In the last singles Briggs beat Owen 3-1 to give the pre match favourites a narrow 5-4 lead. It was only in the doubles that Kites looked a much better side with the only 3-0 win of the match and at 6-4 this was the first and only time that either team led by 2 sets.
With Helen Watts and Julian Marlow hard to beat especially for teams below the top 5 the oppositions generally have to make do with the scraps left by Ivor Jones. With Jones beating Chris Agg 3-2, Rothborough Arrows raced to a 5-0 lead over Burton Baptist C. Paul Goodman got his team off the mark with a 13-11 decider over Jones before Darryl Sutcliffe doubled the points to 2 with a 3-0 win over Jones. Sutcliffe and Goodman did put pressure on Watts and Marlow winning 5 ends over those 4 sets but could not win 3 out of 5 in any set. Like Thrapston Falcons, Arrows are now just below the promotion zone after their 8-2 win.
With Marta Honkova believed to have moved away Thrapston Harriers problems with putting out full teams worsened once more. Considering that the bottom team could only put 2 players out against 5th placed Westfield D the 8-2 beating could have been worse for them but for Mike Burrows surprising 5th end win over Westfield's Bhavika Mistry and Westfield's Scott Dixon continued a disappointing season for him losing in five to Alan Tyler. Paul Malpass however didn't lose an end.
Harborough Rovers 1 (S. Burgess) Harborough Rangers 9 (Burnham 3, Brocklebank 3, Crook 2, Crock/Burnham)
Thrapston Kites 6 (Williams 3, Briggs 2, Briggs/Williams) Burton Baptist D 4 (Smith 2,/Owen,Marshall)
Burton Baptist C 2 (Sutcliffe,Goodman) Rothborough Arrows 8 (Marlow 3, Watts 3, Jones, Marlow/Watts)
Westfield D 8 (Malpass 3, Dixon 2, Mistry 2, Malpass/Dixon) Thrapston Harriers 2 (Burrows,Tyler)
Player of the week: Steve Smith
This week marks the end of the second part of this three part season for Division 2 and it looks like a Rothborough B – C - D finish, but Dakotas needed good results against their competitors to make changes likely.
Comets defeated two man Corby D 8-2 but the duo of Dan Bottrill and John Hunt both beat Kelvin Linnett, and Bottrill nearly beat Pete Sturges until the latter player recovered from two down. Sturges returned to form and returned a treble, and he allied with the other maximum man Martin Watts for the doubles too.
Dakotas have lost only two matches all season - until the last two which were both lost 2-8 against the top two teams, but both of these were improved on their earlier matches. Against Comets Pete Rowbotham and Lauren Ainsworth were the successful players, both beating Pete Sturges. Cathy Fleming only just lost to Alan Brisley in her first game but Brisley ensured his treble as did Martin Watts who both remain at 90% + winning percentage.
Against leaders Buccaneers it was Fleming and Rowbotham who gained a point, both against last week’s hat-trick hero Gareth Lewis. Ainsworth’s game versus Lewis was most notable for the highest aggregate score of the season in the division when she won 22-20, beating 21-19 she was involved in when playing the doubles against Kettering B in week 8. Otherwise Buccaneers’ Ray Harrison and Tom Ravenscroft lost only 5 ends all night including the doubles. They also have 90% + winning percentages, these four mentioned above the only ones with this impressive record. Thus after these results the upper table remains unchanged with Buccaneers and Comets firming up their promotion places.
Towards the bottom end Kettering Town B had an improved win over Burton E when Nick Loake prevented the whitewash. There was only one player the same in each team from the earlier 6-4 victory and Pete Scrivener duly repeated his maximum, his fourth of the season. He was matched on this occasion by Jim Chatburn’s second treble and Ann Woolston was only denied the same by Loake in the only singles game to go the distance. The two least successful Burton players, Jim McNeely and Jacob Tattersall, took on the two most successful Kettering pair and very nearly forced an unlikely comeback, just to fail at the fifth end.
But the team of the week was Harborough Imps as they secured their first win of the season, an impressive 7-3 score line over Rothborough Exocets who had almost twice the number of points before the game started. David Patmore was the man of the match, only needing five ends against Sally Taylor when he came from two down to win and so obtaining his first hat-trick of the season. He was ably supported by Ron Palfrey who so nearly matched the maximum when he lost at the last gasp against Tony Yeomans. Palfrey and Patmore also gained the doubles and Ian Lauder his second victory of the campaign to make it a real team effort.
Kettering Town B 9 (Chatburn 3, Scrivener 3, An Woolston 2, Chatburn/Scrivener) Burton Baptist E 1 (Loake)
Rothborough Comets 8 (Sturges 3, Watts 3, Linnett, Sturges/Watts) Corby D 2 (Bottrill, Hunt)
Rothborough Buccaneers 8 (Harrison 3, Ravenscroft 3, Lewis, Harrison/Ravenscroft) Rothborough Dakotas 2 (Fleming/Rowbotham)
Rothborough Dakotas 2 (L Ainsworth, Rowbotham) Rothborough Comets 8 (Brisley 3, Watts 3, Sturges, Sturges/Watts)
Rothborough Exocets 3 (Yeomans 2, Taylor) Harborough Imps 7 (Patmore 3, Palfrey 2, Lauder, Palfrey/Patmore)
Player of the week
Kettering and District Table Tennis League Team of the week:
One of the biggest events of the local table tennis scene takes place this Saturday (7th February) as Weavers Leisure Centre welcomes players of all abilities to the K.D.T.T.L. annual closed tournament. Play is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. with the junior and veteran events with the men’s and ladies singles events scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Good luck to all the competitors and if you haven’t entered this year, then why not come along to spectate and support your club colleagues in their bid for glory. Entry is free.