DIVISION 4 – 11.03.18 – DAY 5
SOUTH CROYDON B HANG ON TO TAKE TITLE
Division 4 has been incredibly close throughout the season and even on Day 5 nobody would be fool enough to count their chickens on promotion or avoiding relegation. Just six points covered the first four teams. South Croydon B held a single point lead over Cleeve Park. Halstead B were lurking four points behind on 21 with Darenth F snapping at their heels on 20. Otford B and Darenth G on 14 were likely candidates for relegation while Halstead B and Darenth F were in the odd position of not being out of the running for promotion but not entirely safe from relegation. Big margins in results would turn the entire table on its head.
Tony York joined Sarah Maris for Otford B’s vital match with Cleeve Park (Bryan Taylor/Vladimir Shadrunov). Otford were seeking to pull away from the relegation zone while Cleeve Park were looking for a big score to overtake South Croydon B. York got Otford off to the best possible start against Taylor who was greatly troubled by York’s use of the tomahawk serve. Shadrunov levelled the match but had to go to four games to beat Maris and had she taken the fourth, having done so well to get the third, what then? Otford won the doubles in straight games to take the lead. York took a game from Shadrunov but did not manage to get the fourth which left Maris and Taylor to decide the outcome. Maris kept tight control to win in straight games for a 3-2 victory.
In the meantime, leaders South Croydon B (Sam Porter/Andrew Sutherland) were having their own problems with Halstead B (Alex Clarke/Andy Larner). It was a long and very keenly contested match – one set went the distance; two others required a fourth game and several individual ones were only decided on deuces. The opening sets both went to four games and were shared – Clarke getting past Porter and Shadrunov replying in kind, defeating Larner after dropping the first game. Halstead took the doubles and with it the lead. Then came a very good set between Porter and Larner where Porter held a 2-1 lead but was pegged back to two all. He managed to get the lead in the fifth and never looked back, taking it 11-7. It was thus down to Sutherland and Clarke to settle the issue. Clarke won it, but it was so close in the first two games 12-10, 12-10 before he pulled away in the third to secure a 3-2 victory.
Derby matches can be very challenging and tense affairs where players know each other’s games and the Darenth G (Dave Field/Steve Fuller) and Darenth F (Karol Wolosievicz/Richard Holmes) was no exception. The opening set between Field and Wolosievicz typified it – very up and down. Wolosievicz held a 2-1 lead surviving late charges from Field in the second and third games before having the fourth and fifth games snatched from his grasp. Holmes went on the rampage beating Fuller in straight games to level things up. The G took the doubles and the lead. Holmes brought it back to parity beating Field in four so once more it was all on the last set which saw Fuller holding off Wolosievicz 12-10 in the fourth, making it a 3-2 for the G.
It was status quo in the table – South Croydon B retained their one point advantage over Cleeve Park, Halstead B had edged a point closer to them and were now two ahead of Darenth F. Both Otford B and Darenth G were on 17, mathematically either could tie with Darenth F but had to play each other. The calculators soon made an appearance and there were huddled team talks for everyone. It was going to be a grandstand finish, Sevenoaks League style.
Fittingly the top two teams, South Croydon B (Sutherland/Porter) and Cleeve Park (Shadrunov/Taylor) clashed in the final round. It turned into a fierce battle. South Croydon B won both the opening singles in fives games but what sets they were. Sutherland was 0-2 down to Shadrunov but turned things around to drew level at two games all. There were no holds barred in the fifth and Sutherland eventually pipped Shadrunov on the post 13-11. Porter, by contrast, held a 2-0 lead over Taylor who slipped past 12-10, 11-9 to get back on terms. Porter placed the ball well in the fifth, having the patience to play out the rallies and was accurate in placing his attack against some fine lob defending from Taylor. South Croydon B won the doubles for a winning lead but then followed the most extraordinary turn around in fortunes. Sutherland lost in straight games to Taylor and then it was down to the wire. If Cleeve Park were to get promotion Shadrunov had to beat Porter as Halstead B were doing well against Darenth F. Shadrunov made it in straight games. It was, however, far from an easy win – 12-10, 11-5, 11-9 gives some indication.
Halstead B (Clarke/Larner) had an outside change of returning to Division 3 but they needed a clean sheet against close rivals Darenth F (Holmes/ Wolosievicz) while Darenth themselves didn’t want to be dumped into the relegation zone. Halstead B won both the first two singles, Clarke dropping a game to Holmes while Larner defeated Wolosievicz in straight games. Then came the hiccough. With Cleeve Park 0-3 down, it was imperative Halstead take the doubles to increase the pressure on them. Darenth held a 2-0 lead but Halstead recouped the deficit to level at two games all. Darenth got ahead in the fifth and pulled off a very good win. It guaranteed safety for them and left Halstead’s hopes of promotion in the hands of Cleeve Park. They were reliant on South Croydon to finish the job. Halstead won both the reverse singles though Holmes extended Larner to five games. Halstead had done all they could but Cleeve Park’s valiant efforts to take both the last two sets thwarted them at the end and claimed the runners-up spot themselves.
One of the longest matches of the day was that between Otford B (York/Maris) and Darenth G (Field/Fuller). One set went the distance and all the others required a fourth game. The opening set between York and Field was a bit up and down. York held a big lead in the first game. Somehow though Field wriggled off the hook and ran off with the second. York had to fend him off again in the third. Field got the better start in the fourth and held on to win. Maris levelled the match by defeating Fuller in four. The doubles went to five with Darenth holding a 5-1 lead at one stage. They were 10-8 up but two wayward shots saw Otford back on terms and they snatched it 12-10. York had a battle on his hands with Fuller but managed to get home in four. Maris wrapped it up with a four-game win over Field.
In the final reckoning South Croydon B became champions on 31 points, two ahead of Cleeve Park on 29. Halstead B finished on 28. Had they not lost that last doubles against Darenth F, they would have forced a play-off doubles against Cleeve Park to decide the runners-up spot as each team had recorded a 4-1 win over the other. Darenth F ended on 23, two clear of Otford B on 21 with Darenth G on 18. It was the first Division to be decided and doubtless there will be others yet to come which will go to the wire too.