In the latest round of fixtures in the Premier Division of the Kettering and District Table Tennis League, champions elect Westfield A were in action against third placed Corby Town A. Corby are the only team this season to have avoided defeat when facing the reigning champions after their match in October ended in a 5-5 draw.
Last time round Westfield were missing Roumen Stefanov from their lineup so Nicole Bird stepped into the breach and she was again promoted from the Westfield B team for this match with Steve Silk unavailable after a golfing mishap.
Westfield captain, Kevin Bird again turned in a star performance for his team with a hat-trick but was pushed hard by Chris Haynes before winning through 11-7 in the decider. Stefanov was also on the treble trail although twice he had to come through tough five set battles, defeating both Lee O’Boyle and Henry Arthur 11-6 at the final stage.
Four of the clashes went to five ends but the only one that Corby prevailed in was when Haynes defeated Miss Bird 9-11, 5-11, 12-10, 12-10 11-2 and this after the Westfield played led 2-0 and 10-7! O’Boyle recorded a clear win over Bird but she did add to Westfield’s overall score with a 3-0 win over Arthur as he recorded his first blank night of the season.
Finally Haynes and O’Boyle secured an excellent 3-1 win over Kettering Men’s Doubles champions Stefanov and Bird but Westfield’s 7-3 win now means they now require a maximum of 31 points from their final five league matches to retain their title.
Kettering Town A are in a battle with Corby Town A for the third place spot and would have fancied their chances of gaining points on their rivals in their match against a Thrapston Eagles side that are destined for an immediate return to Division One. However they were given a massive wake-up call as they found themselves trailing 2-0 thanks to wins for Mark Stockley over Nigel Metcalfe and for Steve West over Mike Hawes.
John Fuller steadied the ship with a 3-1 win over Chris Warliker. This was followed by Metcalfe dispatching West and Fuller defeating Stockley and Kettering looked to be back on track as they edged ahead 3-2. Thrapston were not quite finished though and Warliker gained an impressive 3-0 win over Hawes to level matters once again at 3-3.
Fuller completed his customary treble to move his side 4-3 ahead and Hawes and Metcalfe ensured there were no more shocks as they completed a 7-3 win, although only after Hawes had seen off Stockley 11-8 in the decider.
Corby Town B look like they are slowly playing their way out of the relegation battle and they gained an important three points in their 3-7 loss to Higham. The single biggest shock of the week in the Premier Division occurred in this encounter as Aaron Moore gave his Corby team the lead with a superb 13-11 fifth end win over Richard Elliott.
Kyle Murie and Guy Sparrow would both gain wins over Mark Nannery but Richard Bashford was to be the key man for Higham with a straight games hat-trick and then teaming up with Elliott to take the doubles over Kettering Men’s doubles runners-up Sparrow and Moore.
Burton Baptist A are looking secure in second place but they ensured there were no team orders enforced when they hosted their relegation threatened B team club colleagues.
Dawid Przybysz was back in the A team’s ranks following the birth of his daughter and despite some close ends, he completed his treble for the loss of just one end. Dariusz Gulbicki also recorded a hat-trick but only after he had comeback from 2-0 down to John Aberra in his first match of the night to prevail 9-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 12-10.
Alex Aston added another two points for the A team but Aberra prevented the whitewash with a 3-0 win over Aston as the A team ran out 9-1 victors.
Westfield B ran out 7-3 winners against a two man Arthingworth side missing the services of Ray Kingston. Nicole Bird recorded her 10th hat-trick of the season for Westfield and Dan Smalley added two wins but Chris Gibbons proved his stumbling block with an 11-8 fifth end success.
Gibbons also beat Scott Dixon, as did Gerald Henson and there are now only two points separating the two sides in the league table.
Westfield A 7 (K Bird 3, Stefanov 3, N Bird, Stefanov/K Bird) Corby Town A 3 (Haynes, O’Boyle, Haynes/O’Boyle)
Thrapston Eagles 3 (Stockley, West, Warliker) Kettering Town A 7 (Fuller 3, Metcalfe 2, Hawes, Fuller/Metcalfe)
Higham 7 (Bashford 3, Elliott 2, Nannery, Bashford/Elliott) Corby Town B 3 (Moore, Sparrow, Murie)
Burton Baptist A 9 (Przybysz 3, Gulbicki 3, Aston 2, Gulbicki/Aston) Burton Baptist B 1 (Aberra)
Arthingworth 3 (Gibbons 2, Henson) Westfield B 7 (N Bird 3, Smalley 2, Dixon, Bird/Smalley)
Player of the week: Aaron Moore
When top team Harborough Rangers took on bottom markers Thrapston Harriers the 10-0 scoreline could have been easily predicted but that didn't tell the whole story. While Liam Burnham's and Sam Burgess's trebles never looked in any doubt with neither dropping an end, the same could not be said for Steve Crook's as he had to battle hard against all three opponents. The closest was against Marta Honkova who went 2-0 up before a fightback by Crook saw him prevail by the closest margin 11-9 in the fifth. Against Mike Burrows the first three ends were all close with Crook winning two of them before he pulled away in the fourth winning 11-6. Crook then fell behind again trailing Keith Stockley 1-2 before he got his act together again winning the last two ends both 11-6. The result keeps Rangers firmly in control and extends their lead to 18 over Thrapston Kites who have a match in hand and only a sudden loss in form or player unavailability can prevent them winning the title now. In contrast Harriers are now 17 points adrift at the bottom of the table and only a miracle can save them now.
Second placed Thrapston Kites took on third placed Thrapston Falcons and are battling for a promotion place and the right to play in the premier division next season and both with an outside chance of the title should Rangers have a monumental slip up. With a 5 points lead Kites held a slight advantage but with Falcons winning 6-4 the gap was narrowed to just 3 points which could mean the race for second place could go right up until the final week of matches. For Falcons Ian Baldock continued his good recent form with his fourth consecutive treble and eighth of the season and only for the loss of one end which was to Stewart Williams. Alan Tyler also had a good match for Falcons. After a 3-0 victory over Geoff Judd he took on Peter Briggs. Briggs started as a strong favourite for this encounter and with Briggs 2-0 up a comeback looked highly improbable but Tyler defied the odds and the form book winning the next three ends narrowly winning 11-9 in the fifth. For Kites Stewart Williams beat Nigel Payne 3-2 and Tyler 3-1 while Briggs solitary victory was 3-1 over Payne. Payne's 3-0 victory over Judd put Falcons 5-1 up before a comeback by Kites reduced the lead to 6-4 after Briggs and Williams beat Baldock and Tyler 3-2 in the doubles.
In the relegation battle Harborough Diamonds are looking likely to secure their place in division one for next season having gone 3 points ahead of Harborough Rovers who are second to bottom but Diamonds have been helped a couple of times by oppositions fielding less than full teams. A full strength Westfield D would be expected to win this match by around 8-2 or 9-1(It was 9-1 in the reverse fixture) but playing with only two players they instantly gifted Diamonds 3 points. Paul Malpass scored a treble for Westfield losing only the first end of the night against Dave Coombes. Chris Alder scored a brace beating both Phil Dixon and Coombs 3-1 but Vaughan Allington scored Diamonds only point on the table with a convincing 3-0 win over Alder for the loss of only 14 points.
Burton Baptist's rising star Harry Lade is making a strong case for being the league's most improved player this season. The 15 year old is in his debut season and was expected to find it tough against experienced players in division two. This was the case at least for his first 2 matches when he only won 1 singles set out of 6. He then improved this to 4 out of 9 in his next 3 matches followed by 11 out of 12 in his last 4 matches and is now looking one of the best players in division two. He was therefore the obvious choice for promotion to division one when Burton Baptist C were short of players for the 'derby' with Burton Baptist D. This gave him the chance to take on his long term coach Derek Muggleton and only six months ago it would have been unthinkable that Lade would get anywhere near to close in this match up. This time however only 2 points in each end could separate them with experience beating youth 3-0 on this occasion but it is surely only a matter of time before Lade is consistantly beating players of Muggleton's standard. None of Burton D's players found it easy against Lade and Kelvin Marshall had to withstand a comeback which Lade has made a habit of doing from 2-0 up to 2-2 but Marshall held firm in the fifth end winning 11-7.
Steve Smith beat Lade 3-1 but this included a 11-5 end to Lade.
At the other end of the age spectrum 77 year old David Simmons also playing for the C team, proved that table tennis is a game for all ages winning the only treble of the match therefore claiming the Burton Division one bragging rights though he was pushed all the way in a five end classic with Muggleton eventually winning 17-15. He was also taken to five ends by Smith though this time he won the fifth easily 11-4 followed by a 3-1 win over Marshall. In another of five fifth enders in the match Darryl Sutcliffe got his one win for the C team 11-5 over Marshall. For the D team Muggleton and Smith both won two with Smith's second being an 11-9 decider over Sutcliffe. With the score at 5-4 to the D team, Sutcliffe and Simmons teamed up to win the doubles 3-0 over Muggleton and Smith and make the score an honourable 5-5 draw in this mid table clash.
Thrapston Harriers 0 Harborough Rangers 10 (Burnham 3, S.Burgess 3, Crook 3, Burnham/Crook)
Thrapston Kites 4 (Williams 2,Briggs,Williams/Briggs) Thrapston Falcons (Baldock 3, Tyler 2, Payne)
Harborough Diamonds 4 (Allington 2,Coombs, Dixon) Westfield D (Malpass 3, Alder 2, Malpass/Alder)
Burton Baptist D (Muggleton 2, Smith 2, Marshall) Burton Baptist C (Simmons 3, Sutcliffe, Simmons/Sutcliffe)
Player of the week: Harry Lade
Buccaneers in first and Comets in second have been close all season and after the latest match between them they are inseparable, both on 142 points with 15 wins out of 17, having lost only to each other and the only draw they have had also against each other. This 7-3 victory by Comets was Buccaneers first defeat, only their second doubles defeat (having previously only lost to Comets) the first blank night for Gareth Lewis and only the third time this season that at least one Comet hasn’t scored a maximum, the previous times both versus the same opposition! Martin Watts, Alan Brisley and Kelvin Linnett showed enough consistency to win a pair each – especially Linnett who beat two higher ranked players - but Buccaneers’ Tom Ravenscroft was at his imperious best in achieving his maximum with the only game of the night going the distance in his first game against Brisley, and he has still only lost one game all season.
Lauren Ainsworth had a topsy-turvy night with a blank playing up for Buccaneers yet a maximum for her home team Dakotas on an adjacent table. All went the distance but she prevailed for her third treble, whereas Cathy Fleming also went through the card but only had trouble from Anthony Yeomans in the final game for her fourth hat-trick. Ainsworth and Fleming now have identical 24-39 (61.5%) records and have helped to keep Dakotas secure in third.
We were denied the contest between the two rising stars of the division when Harry Lade was gallantly pushing higher ranked players in the first division as Corby D visited John Yeomans Hall. As a result it was comfortable for the Kingswood outfit with only Jon Sanders making a mark for Burton against Nathan Brown and the only full length game was when Ben Freeman also pushed Brown but ultimately failing after deuce in the fifth. Thus Dan Bottrill and John Hunt were only taken to deuce once each and helped Corby to overtake Kettering B into fourth.
The aforementioned Town B were tested a little more by Harborough Imps before running out 8-2 victors, with Jim Chatburn and Ann Woolston unbeaten in singles, however succumbed in five when teamed up for the doubles. For Harborough, David Patmore played a captains innings winning their only singles, against Barry Davis, taking Chatburn and Woolston all the way and then teaming up with Ben Baker for only Harborough’s second doubles victory of the season, putting a better sheen on a result that was at one point 7-0.
Burton Baptist E 1 (Sanders) Corby D 9 (Bottrill 3, Hunt 3, Brown 2, Bottrill/Brown)
Kettering Town B 8 (Chatburn 3, An Woolston 3, Davis 2) Harborough Imps 2 (Patmore, Baker/Patmore)
Rothborough Buccaneers 3 (Ravenscroft 3) Rothborough Comets 7 (Brisley 2, Linnett 2, Watts 2, Brisley/Watts)
Rothborough Exocets 2 (Yeomans, Salander/Yeomans)Rothborough Dakotas 8 (L Ainsworth 3, Fleming 3, Rowbotham 2)
Player of the week: Kelvin Linnett
Kettering and District Table Tennis League Team of the week: Rothborough Comets