DIVISION 5 – 04.03.18 – DAY 4


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.

Round 7

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.

Round 8

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?


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