DIVISION 5 – 06.01.19 – DAY 3
TABLE POLARISES AS SPARTA STAY TOP
Sparta held a three point lead over Darenth G with South Croydon C on12 in third place. There were just four points covering the other three teams – Darenth H had seven, South Croydon D had five and Otford D had three.
There was much to play for in this Round which threw up three absolutely crucial matches – a top of the table clash between Darenth G and Sparta, a mid table tussle between Darenth H and South Croydon C and a relegation battle between Otford D and South Croydon D.
Darenth G (Eddie Gillhouley/Joe Tickner had a tough assignment in taking on the high flying Sparta team of Harry Isaacs and Rob Foster, two very experienced players and totally different in style. Isaacs use of pips on his backhand was to set both boys a lot of problems as it is not something they encounter very often. On the other hand Foster just loves to counterhit and has that knack of turning other players’ winners into his own. The boys, however, were much more at home dealing with this, both lads taking a game from him but it was a clean sheet for Sparta.
The Darenth H (Henry Morrell/Daniel Record) and South Croydon C (Leone Saccoh/Rocco Martinez-Paoli was an all junior affair. Saccoh got off to a good start against Morrell taking the first two games. However, the left handed Morrell turned defender and it paid off handsomely as he took the next three games. Martinez-Paoli was in fine fettle and levelled the match with a straight games win over Record. The Darenth boys won the doubles in four after losing the first, keeping very steady to pull off the last game 12-10 and take the lead. Martinez-Paoli brought the match back to par with a four game win over Morrell which left Record and Saccoh to decide the outcome. Saccoh attacked from the word go and Record found it hard to keep him out so it finished as a 3-2 victory for South Croydon C.
The Otford D (Mike Gold/John Broyden) and South Croydon D (Chris Christopher/Amro Sinjab) match was very keenly contested. Christopher made a sound start against Gold taking the first two games. However, Gold adapted and took the next three. Sinjab levelled the match with a win over Broyden and South Croydon took the doubles in four and the lead with it. The reverse singles were shared – Gold getting embroiled in yet another long duel with Sinjab which he won from 1-2 behind leaving Broyden and Christopher to settle the outcome. Christopher took this in three games so it was a 3-2 victory for South Croydon D.
Sparta were sitting comfortably clear at the top of the table but South Croydon C had drawn level with Darenth G on 15. South Croydon D had pulled up to within a point of Darenth H with Otford D on five.
The first of the return matches come in Round 6 and there was an excellent match between South Croydon C (Martinez-Paoli/Saccoh) and Otford D (Gold/Broyden). It began with a four game tussle between Martinez-Paoli and Gold. Initially Martinez-Paoli did well, managing to hold Gold off 14-12 in the first. However, Gold was able to take control of the pace of the game and Martinez-Paoli found it difficult to break out against him. Saccoh got things back on an even keel with a win over Broyden and the boys combined well to take the doubles in five, recouping a 1-2 deficit to do so. Martinez-Paoli made it a winning lead by defeating Broyden while Saccoh found Gold just too steady for him. It was a couple of valuable points for Otford D though.
The Darenth derby between the H (Record/Morrell) and G (Gillhouley/Tickner) produced some very fast attacking play. Record did well to take a game from Gillhouley but Tickner, who hasn’t played competitively for some time, found a lot of his best shots being returned in awkward places by the left hander Morrell. It was close though, as 14-12, 11-9, 11-9 to Morrell would indicate. The G dropped one game in the doubles but won both the reverse singles in straight games for a 4-1 victory.
Sparta (Isaacs/Foster) might not have been expecting such fierce resistance as they encountered from South Croydon D (Christopher/Sinjab) and a very fine match ensued. Christopher obviously has a lot of skill but found Isaacs difficult as many people do. Foster had his work cut out against Sinjab and this was probably one of the best sets of the day - 11-4, 12-10, 4-11, 10-12, 12-10 to Foster gives a clue. Sparta won the doubles for a winning lead and then it was back to work for Isaacs as he took on Sinjab. Sinjab went 2-1 up by taking the third 13-11 but back came Isaacs to level and then secure the fifth 11-7. Christopher made a cracking start against Foster but he too found his own power being used against him so it ended as a clean sweep for Sparta.
Sparta are in a very strong position at the top of the table on 28. Darenth G had crept one ahead of South Croydon C but there is then a gap of eight points to Darenth H on 10. South Croydon D and Otford D are snapping at their heels on eight and seven points respectively. Sparta won’t be counting their chickens just yet but there are lots of interesting matches still to come and the second spot is very much up for grabs.