SCARBOROUGH FINISH OFF WITH A WIN IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE

First up for Scarborough on the final weekend of their British League season was a pivotal encounter with Pudsey. The winners would likely end the year in second place. A draw would suit Pudsey so Scarborough needed a fast start. Martin Lowe provided it with a tight 3-1 win over Chris Parker. James Rule was then hoping to achieve his first ever win against rapidly rising England number 70 James Hobson. Rule played really well to earn a 2-1 lead, but ultimately Hobson was just that bit stronger, winning 11-4 in the 5th set. Things took a turn for the worse when Aidan Ranftler lost 3-0 to Nick Ryder. It took a good performance from England number one (under 13) Amir Hussain to restore parity. He beat Phil Cawser 3-1.

The doubles followed and the team decided to go with the same pairings for the whole weekend. So it was York League champions Lowe and Rule first up. They beat Parker and Hobson comfortably 3-1. Ranftler and Hussain, much less experienced together, had a very narrow 3-2 win (11-9 in the 5th). This put Scarborough in a strong position 4-2 up. Lowe could put the team within one of winning the match with victory over Hobson.  Lowe narrowly lost the first two sets, but won the third. Hobson proved too strong in the fourth winning 11-8 and in so doing avenging his defeat from earlier in the season. Ranftler next had to put his earlier defeat behind him if he was to beat Parker. It looked bleak when he lost the first set 11-6, but suddenly he sparked into life and showed some of his best from with some of his trademark powerful forehands. He won the next three sets 4, 11, 4. This put Scarborough on the verge of victory with Rule favourite to beat Cawser. Rule started well opening up a 2-1 lead, but he could never really shake off veteran Cawser. In the 4th and 5th sets Rule had chances, but Cawser took them both 12-10 to cause an upset. Hussain had to show some of his immense potential to win 3-0 in the last match to give Scarborough a 6-4 win. Hussain also picked up the Man of the match award. This win took Scarborough level with Pudsey in second place, but with a significantly better set difference. Both teams still had to play leaders Northfield on Sunday.

In the afternoon Hussain won his second man of the match award. The match as a whole was completely different though as Scarborough ran out 10-0 winners over Ormesby. Lowe and Ranftler both having a five set win.

After a relatively easy win Sunday morning would certainly provide a much sterner task. With unbeaten Northfield as opponents Scarborough needed to be on top form. First was Lowe against talented junior Billy Forster, recently returned from playing in Israel. With just 6 places on the ranking list between them a close match looked on the cards. Lowe took a 2-1 lead. The fourth set was protracted and Lowe had several match points. Forster eventually winning it 17-15. Lowe had to have a fast start in the fifth and led 5-2 before finally sealing an 11-7 win. Rule was next against England number five Karina LeFevre. Unfortunately he had no answer to the precision of LeFevre, losing in three. Ranftler played next against Tim Surrey and he continued his good form with a 3-2 win 11-9 in the fifth. Hussain was then to suffer his first defeat of the weekend at the hands of fellow junior Joe Clark. Rule and Lowe faced a difficult challenge against LeFevre and Clark in the first doubles. They played a very solid match and ran out 3-1 winners. Ranftler and Hussain repeated the dose with their own 3-1 win over Surrey and Forster, to make their record 3/3. Lowe then played LeFevre and took the first 11-9. He had a real chance of opening up a 2-0 lead before losing 11-13. The third went LeFevre’s way 11-6 and in the fourth there was a seemingly unique occurrence. LeFevre was dominant and simply did not miss a single shot. Lowe found himself losing 11-0 for the first time ever. Ranftler played Forster next and was doing very well when leading in the third set, a nose bleed interruption for his opponent  seemed to upset his rhythm and he sadly lost 3-1. With the score standing at 4-4 Rule had a massive, but difficult match against Clark. Rule lost the first, but rallied to win the next two 11-7and 12-10. An extremely calm Clark took the fourth 13-11 with the level of table tennis from both players rising all the time. Clark raised his game even further at the start of the fifth set and took a commanding lead. Rule though managed to improve his level once more and came storming back with some fantastic rallies to win 11-9. This was probably the match of the weekend. Hussain then had the task of sealing the win against Surrey and he was completely worry free as he won 7, 5, 2. With a 6-4 win over the league winners Scarborough were the only team to take any points from Northfield. This secured second place barring an absolutely calamitous result in the last match versus Formby.

Formby number one was the ultra difficult Jack Dempsey. His style of chop blocking on his backhand with a slow rubber to negate his opponents spin and power combined with a devastating forehand was a nightmare for Rule and Lowe. Neither could find the answer and both were beaten 3-0. Lowe earlier recording a three set win over improved Joe Mullin and Rule later victorious against Robert Barker (a former top junior) 3-2  (-9, 2, -6, 10, 11). This was another win for Rule which showed his battling qualities. Barker proved to strong for Hussain (3-2), but Ranftler marched on winning 3-1 against Lee Eadington. The doubles saw an amazing match between Rule, Lowe and Dempsey and Barker. Suffering their first ever defeat together Lowe and Rule didn’t go down without a fight losing, 10, 9, -10, -10, -12. Ranftler and Hussain were also defeated and at one stage Scarborough trailed the match 5-2. Rule’s win over Barker, a further solid performance from Ranftler and another easy win for Hussain meant that Sacrborough rescued a draw. Ranftler’s improved form, Hussain’s potential and Rule’s continued improvement mean that Scarborough can look forward to a good season next year. Lowe and Ashley Hodgson’s positions as number one and two in the team will be under severe pressure from both youngsters next year. It is unclear where the team will be playing next year due to a restructuring of the league. Their second place would normally be good enough for promotion, but it remains to be seen where all the teams will eventually play.

There was a bonus for Lowe at the end as he was declared player of the season for the division by achieving the most wins with 23/28. Close behind were Billy Forster with 22 wins, but from only 24 matches and Rule with 21/28.

Author: via Scarborough Table Tennis League
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