With Westfield A already crowned as champions of the Premier Division in the Kettering and District Table Tennis League, all eyes were focused on who would come out on top of the three way battle for second place. Corby Town A, Burton Baptist A and Kettering Town A were all hoping that they could produce the quality performance required to gain that second place prize.
Coming into the last week of fixtures, Baptists found themselves in third place, one point behind Corby and five ahead of Kettering. With Dawid Przybysz absent and captain Alex Aston not playing, the team of Chris Ross, Dariusz Gulbicki and John Aberra would have expected a tough night as they faced off against fifth placed Higham and when Richard Bashford defeated Ross in straight games in the night’s first encounter, Burton may have thought that second place could be slipping out of their grasp.
Burton were in no mood to go down without a fight and the upgraded John Aberra produced a stunning upset to defeat an out of form Richard Elliott 3-1 to level the match. Gulbicki then gave Burton the lead with victory over Andy Harrison only for Elliott to display some of his usual quality to defeat Ross over five ends and level the match at 2-2.
Gulbicki returned to the table to defeat Bashford and with Aberra seeing off Harrison 3-0, Burton found themselves gaining momentum. Gulbicki duly completed a fantastic hat-trick with victory over Elliott, Ross beat Harrison 3-0 before Aberra proved Aston’s decision to drop himself for the the game was the correct one as he completed his own stunning treble with a tremendously close 10-12, 15-13, 10-12, 11-9, 11-9 victory over Bashford. A dispirited Harrison and Elliott fell to a quick defeat to Ross and Gulbicki which meant that Burton had pulled out all the stops to pick up a resounding 8-2 victory. This result meant that Kettering could no longer finish second and Corby would need to beat Kettering 8-2 to clinch the runners-up spot.
The previous meeting between the two teams had finished as a 5-5 draw but Kettering have recently strengthened their team with new signing Shandor Czuczor making his debut in February. This match proved to be an enthralling affair and with five games going to a decider, it would be 11.30pm before we would know the final league positions.
Kettering got off to a flyer and quickly found themselves 4-0 ahead thanks to wins for John Fuller over Henry Arthur (3-1), Czuczor over Lee O’Boyle (3-2), Nigel Metcalfe over Chris Haynes (3-2) and Fuller over O’Boyle (3-0). Of these games, Metcalfe’s win over Haynes was the most notable with Metcalfe coming from 2-0 down to gain a first ever win over his Corby rival.
By now, Corby knew that their runners-up dreams had been dashed and were now in a battle to prevent Kettering overtaking them and stealing third place.
Arthur belatedly got Corby onto the scorecard, fighting off another Metcalfe comeback from 2-0 down to claim an 11-9 fifth end success. Corby’s respite was short lived however as Czuczor made short work of Haynes before Metcalfe endured yet another five end battle before coming out on top against O’Boyle. When Fuller beat Haynes 3-0 to put Kettering 7-1 up, his team knew that they only needed to win one of the remaining two matches to claim third place whereas Corby required both points to claim third place for themselves.
Arthur and Czuzcor paired off in match nine and an enthralling encounter ensued. In a lengthy encounter Arthur produced his best form to claim a fluctuating 15-13, 2-11, 20-18, 4-11, 13-11 success to keep his team’s chances alive as the fight for third went down to the final doubles of the season. Arthur and Haynes gave Corby the perfect start but in the end, the combination of Fuller and Metcalfe’s defences with occasional attacking play proved too much and the Kettering pair claimed a 3-1 win to take the match 8-2. This meant both teams finished level on points but with Kettering’s win/loss record being superior, Corby found themselves pushed down into fourth.
Thrapston Eagles knew they were destined to finish bottom of the division but the question remained as to who would join them in Division One next season. Burton Baptist B and Harborough Athletic went into the final round of fixtures level on points but Harborough knew the odds were against them as their final match was against the champions of Westfield A, whereas Burton,playing 24 hours later, concluded their season with a game against mid-table Arthingworth.
Harborough found the champions in an unforgiving mood and managed to win just three ends as Kevin Bird, Steve Silk and Roumen Stefanov completed yet another 10-0 whitewash victory as they completed an unbeaten season with a record of 20 wins, two draws and zero defeats.
This result meant that Burton knew that one point from their final fixture would be enough for them to maintain their top flight status for another season and Jacek Koltuniuk ensured that they would not be in for a long nervous night. His 3-1 success over Gerald Henson in the first match of the evening guaranteed that survival and Harborough’s demotion.
After moving to the area recently, John Aberra initially struggled for form but he now seems to have settled and his good form continued in this match with wins over Henson and Chris Gibbons but Andy Wood edged him out in five ends as he recorded his own treble. Henson also fell to defeat against Asif Manji as both teams ended the season on a positive nore. Arthingworth picked up the 6-4 win and Burton Baptist B survivied relegation.
Westfield C completed their campaign with a crushing 9-1 win over Corby Town B. Aaron Moore scored Corby’s only point with a win over Matt Horrocks. Carl Leeson and Dan Smalley were both on the treble trail, with Smalley having to recover from 2-0 down to Moore to complete his treble.
Westfield B finished off their season in style with a 9-1 victory over Thrapston Eagles. Nicole Bird scored another maximum and this time she was joined by Antonio Jariaces. Matt Rushton couldn’t quite complete the clean sweep as Mark Stockley overturned a 2-0 deficit to record Thrapston’s solitary success.
Higham 2 (Elliott, Bashford) Burton Baptist A 8 (Gulbicki 3, Aberra 3,Ross, Gulbicki/Ross)
Corby Town A 2 (Arthur 2) Kettering Town A 8 (Fuller 3, Czuczor 2, Metcalfe 2, Fuller/Metcalfe)
Westfield A 10 (K Bird 3, Silk 3, Stefanov 3, Bird/Silk) Harborough Athletic 0
Burton Baptist B 4 (Aberra 2, Koltuniuk, Manji) Arthingworth 6 (Wood 3, Gibbons 2, Henson/Wood)
Corby Town B 1 (Moore) Westfield C (Leeson 3, Smalley 3, Horrocks 2, Leeson/Smalley)
Westfield B 9 (N Bird 3, Jaraices 3, Rushton 2) Thrapston Eagles 1 (Stockley)
Player of the week: John Aberra
With Harborough Rangers wrapping up the title in the penultimate week of fixtures there was still second place to play for in the final week. Three teams had a mathematical chance with second placed Thrapston Falcons 5 points ahead of Rothborough Arrows and 8 points ahead of Thrapston Kites.
First Harborough Rangers hosted Thrapston Falcons and credit must go to Rangers who could have relaxed having already won the title but instead they used this match to confirm their status as top dogs of the division as they built up a 7-1 lead with a treble for Mike Brocklebank, his tenth of the season out of 18 appearences. Liam Burnham won his first two against Antony Marray and Nigel Payne and Steve Crook two out of three against Ian Baldock and Marray. Rangers dominance only being interrupted by Payne's 3-0 win over Crook. Baldock had not had a blank all season and maintained this proud record by beating Liam Burnham in the last singles of the evening thus denying him his treble. Then Falcons two singles winners Payne and Baldock teamed up for doubles against Burnham and Brocklebank and added a third point after being 0-2 down. Three points was probably a little less than Falcons expected but they probably thought this was enough to secure second place.
The next day Rothborough Arrows knew that they had to score 8 points at home to Thrapston Kites but this looked highly unlikely given that Julian Marlow couldn't play. But who said that they are dependant on Marlow? In the previous reverse fixture Arrows were severely weakened with no Marlow or Helen Watts and 2 players playing up from division two and they lost 0-10 to Kites at their place. This time the one difference in the two teams was that Helen Watts replaced Luke Saywood for Arrows. The second time around division two player Martin Watts played exceptionally well, even better than his sister Helen according to her. In fact the only end he lost in singles was his second of the evening against Peter Briggs. Ivor Jones also played as well as Helen has witnessed for some time, especially against Stewart Williams where he retrieved a lot of attacking shots, and really put him under pressure. And 8-9 down in the fifth end he did get a fortuitous edge off the side of the table which Williams could not possibly get back. Williams was the unluckiest player of the match and lost to both Helen Watts and Jones by the narrowest margin possible. He recovered from 8-10 down in the fifth to Helen to make it 10-10 but then both players struggled to finish the match off when at match point, perhaps due to nerves and Helen eventually edged it 18-16. Williams was 2-0 up on both Helen and Jones. At 7-0 up Arrows only needed one more win but Peter Briggs kept Arrows celebrations on hold and kept his club mates Falcons in contention when he beat Jones 3-1 but then it was Martin Watts who scored the final point that they needed in a 3-0 albeit close scores win over Williams. The doubles was less important now but Arrows maintained their fine doubles record as Helen and Martin teamed up and yet again Williams with Briggs was on the wrong side of a two point fifth end loss 12-10. Arrows have the best doubles record of the division with 90%.
At the other end of the table Thrapston Harriers had long known that they were going to finish bottom but the other relegation place still had to be settled, although Harborough Diamonds chances were extremely slim as they had to beat Harriers 10-0 and then hope that Westfield D beat Harborough Rovers 10-0. Harriers played Diamonds a week early and Diamonds fate was sealed in the first set of the match when Alan Tyler beat Steve Crook 3-1. Tyler went on to record a treble but unfortunately for Harriers he is often the only player that wins any sets for his team and this was the case again as Crook, Phil Dixon and Dave Coombs all beat Beth Tyler and Mike Burrows. An easy doubles win for Crook and Dixon over Tyler and Burrows made it 7-3 to second to bottom Diamonds.
Sam Burgess improved as the season went on and he recorded his fifth consecutive treble, this time for Harborough Rovers against Westfield D, and four of these five trebles have been against top five in the table opposition! The only other win for Rovers was by Mark Pearson, a 12-10 decider over Nitin Patal. The 6-4 win for Westfield keeps them in fifth place but only one point from fourth.
As a result of a misunderstanding on the part of Burton Baptist C they turned up with four players which was twice as many as their opponents Corby C. Player of the match was Corby's Rob Warrender who with his use of the flat hit beat all three of Paul Goodman, Steve Smith and Kelvin Marshall who all beat Stephen Woolston despite Woolston being 1-0 up on Smith and 2-0 up on Marshall and Goodman. David Simmons came in for the doubles and cheekily commented that he was the only unbeaten player of the night as he and Goodman beat Warrender and Woolston 12-10 in the fifth to make it 7-3 to Burton C. The finish time of this match was 10.25 which is about normal for two teams of 3 players but very late when one team has only two. This was due to the fact that 5 out of the 7 sets went to 5 ends and 15 out of the 32 ends played went beyond 9-9.
Harborough Rangers 7 (Brocklebank 3, Burnham 2, Crook 2) Thrapston Falcons 3 (Baldock, Payne, Baldock/Payne)
Rothborough Arrows 9 (H. Watts 3, M. Watts 3, Jones 2, H.Watts/M.Watts) Thrapston Kites 1(Briggs)
Thrapston Harriers 3 (Tyler 3) Harborough Diamonds 7 (Crook 2, Dixon 2, Coombs 2, Crook/Dixon)
Harborough Rovers 4 (S.Burgess 3, Pearson) Westfield D 6 (Dixon 2, Alder 2, Patal, Dixon/Alder)
Burton Baptist C 7 (Goodman 2, Smith 2, Marshall 2, Goodman/Simmons) Corby C 3 (Warrender 3)
Player of the week: Martin Watts
Rothborough Buccaneers secured their place at the summit in style with a rousing 10-0 victory over club mates Dakotas. Gareth Lewis, Tom Ravenscroft and Luke Saywood saw them home but not without resistance from Dakotas, despite their best player Sean Smith being absent. Cathy Fleming in particular won four ends in her three games. Buccaneers have used 8 players this season, more than any other team, but it has paid off in that they never played a man short and some of their replacements have scored maximums. Lewis shared the highest aggregate score of the season, 20-22 against Lauren Ainsworth in week 14. Ravenscroft has only lost once all season – to Martin Watts – and has the best averages of all the players in the league, and Buccaneers have only lost two doubles all season – both times to the Watts/Alan Brisley combination of Comets. Their nemesis also was the only team to beat them and draw with them. But Buccaneers’ wins were more comprehensive so they have emerged as champions. Dakotas finished third as the Montsaye club had a very successful season.
Comets beat Corby D 6-4 to eventually finish 7 points adrift as runners up, despite only losing one doubles all season and having an identical win:draw:loss ratio as Buccaneers. Their top man Martin Watts (ranked 70) was unable to force a hat-trick as that honour went to Corby’s No 1 Dan Bottrill (89) in beating Watts, Alan Brisley and Kelvin Linnett, having only won one in each of their previous meetings. Bottrill is one of only 2 players to play all of the matches for their team this season, with Tony Yeomans. In contrast to Buccaneers, Comets only used 4 players all season and completed all matches with the full compliment. In fact only Corby played with 2 men this season, on four occasions. That potentially could have affected their ability to finish third as they were 9 points behind Dakotas.
Corby D 4 (Bottrill 3, Cardwell) Rothborough Comets 6 (Brisley 2, Watts 2, Linnett, Linnett/Watts)
Rothborough Dakotas 0 Rothborough Buccaneers 10 (Lewis 3, Ravenscroft 3, Saywood 3, Lewis/Ravenscroft)
Player of the week: Dan Bottrill
K.D.T.T.L. team of the week: Rothborough Arrows