DIVISION 5 – 04.03.18 – DAY 4
OTFORD D CLOSE A POINT AT THE TOP WITH ONE MEETING TO GO
Otford C were sitting pretty at the top of the table with four points in hand over their own D team. Sparta A were handily placed on 16 but any two of other three could fall into the relegation zone. Sparta B weren’t safe on 13, South Croydon C had eleven and Bromley Common D weren’t too far behind on eight. The whole thing could go pear shaped so easily if anyone had an “off” day.
This Round brought three very close and interesting matches and the leading teams soon found themselves under heavy pressure.
The match between Sparta B (Saskia Key/Harry Isaacs) and Otford C (Mike Palmer/Tony York) finished as a 3-2 to Otford but could have been a 4-1 in the other direction. Key defeated Palmer in the opening singles over four games while York had a tremendous scrap with Isaacs. York led 2-0 but Isaacs regrouped and took the next two. It couldn’t have been any closer in the fifth with York finally getting home 11-9. The doubles was another five game set where Otford found themselves 0-2 down. They managed to take the third and then the fourth but it was anybody’s in the fifth which finally went Otford’s way 13-11 for a 2-1 lead. The reverse singles were shared, Key losing to York and Isaacs beating Palmer.
Otford D were put under the cosh a bit in the latter part of their match with Bromley Common D (Terry Edwards/Joy Grohmann). Otford had won both the opening singles but things began to change in the doubles where Edwards and Grohmann combined well. Otford scrambled the first game 12-10, took the second but then dropped the third and fourth. Otford got the better start in the fifth and held the Bromley Common pair off to make it a winning lead. Cowling made it four by beating Grohmann but Edwards adapted well to deal with Massey’s use of pips. He was 1-2 behind but took the fourth and fended Massey off 14-12 in the decider to earn a point for his team.
Sparta have been in difficulty raising teams this season and signed up Paul Hilton to partner Jim Johnson for their A team against South Croydon C’s youngsters, Rocco Martinez-Paoli and Yuvathi Vijay. The opening set between Hilton and Martinez-Paoli was one of the best of the day. Hilton is long reached and left handed so Martinez-Paoli had to make adjustments with his placements. It took him five games to do so but he got there in the end after being 2-1 up. The scores 9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 9-11, 11-8 gives some indication of how close it was. Vijay found the answers to Johnson’s defence so South Croydon were 2-0 up. The doubles was no less keenly fought as 11-8, 8-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-9 to Sparta shows. Vijay made it a winning lead with a straight games win over Hilton but Johnson kept Martinez-Paoli at bay over four games to make it 2-3.
While team order remained the same, Otford D had reduced the C team’s lead to three points and there was now a five point gap to Sparta A on 18. Sparta B weren’t so far away on 15 with South Croydon C up to 14. Bromley Common D were on nine.
The Otford teams were to have more trouble in this Round and the Sparta teams were beginning to look over their shoulders.
There was a 3-2 victory for Otford C (Palmer/York) over Sparta A (Hilton/Johnson) in a match which went set for set. The opening singles were shared with a win for Hilton over Palmer while York replied for Otford against Johnson. There were two left-right handed pairs at work in the doubles and Hilton proved to be a good foil for Johnson’s defensive skills. They took it comfortably to lead 2-1. The reverse singles were extremely competitive. There was a hard worked for five game win for York over Hilton where he had to come back from 1-2 down. It was therefore down to Johnson and Palmer to settle the issue. The first game was tight and went at 15-13 to Johnson who then took the next two to it make a 3-2 victory for Sparta A.
Otford D had a change in line up with Ben Edmed replacing Cowling alongside Massey against Sparta B (Key/Isaacs). The first set could not have been any closer – Key getting back some vey good shots to defeat Edmed 11-9, 12-10, 12-10. Isaacs won the battle of the pips users so Sparta were 2-0 up before the doubles. They took the first two games 12-10, 13-11 but then dropped the third 5-11. They had their chances in the fourth but that slipped away 11-9 to Otford who then hung on to take the decider 11-7 and get a point on the board. The reverse singles were shared, Key almost pushing Massey to a fifth game while Isaacs had to get his escape kit together against Edmed who adapted so well. He was way ahead in the third at 8-1 but Edmed chipped his lead away and took it 14-12. Isaacs put the shutters up in the fourth to take it 13-11, it was a bit of a struggle to get there though. It meant a 3-2 win for Sparta B.
South Croydon C (Vijay/Martinez-Paoli) recorded a 5-0 over Bromley Common D (Edwards/Grohmann). However, it was no walk in the park and certainly a very important match for both teams vying to avoid relegation. Vijay won the opening set in straight games but Martinez-Paoli had his problems with Grohmann, only just pinching the first 13-11. He got the second but then dropped the third before getting home in the fourth. The doubles could easily have gone the other way. It was a win for South Croydon – they did, however, have to come back from 1-2 down to get it. The reverse singles were very keenly fought. Grohmann got the first from Vijay 12-10 before finally having to give best 9-11 in the fourth while Martinez-Paoli was given a run for his money by Edwards who was so close to extending him to a fifth game. It was a great result for South Croydon but a disaster from Bromley Common’s point of view.
Otford C thus remain top of the table on 28 with Otford D just behind on 25. Sparta A aren’t out of the running on 21 but South Croydon C have moved up to 19, one ahead of Sparta B while Bromley Common D’s chance of survival have faded as they are still on nine. Mathematically, they could get ahead of Sparta B but it would need Sparta to slip up very badly on the final day.
Otford C have their own D and South Croydon C to play while Otford D’s other match is against Sparta A. It’s heading for the classic Sevenoaks finish - all down to the last game of the last set to sort out the champions. Ironically though Sparta A could, and would love to upset the promotion apple cart, they are not out of the relegation zone on 21 as they are only two points ahead of South Croydon C who could throw a spanner in the works and earn promotion themselves but they are only one ahead of Sparta B so it’s all in the melting pot. One of these three teams is going down … but which one?