DIVISION 5 – 15.04.18 – DAY 5
OTFORD D STEAL THE TITLE IN CLASSIC GRANDSTAND FINISH
The situation in Division 5 at the final meeting was intriguing. Any two of the top three could be promoted and any of the bottom three could be relegated. It set the scene for some highly pressurised matches. Otford C led on 28, three ahead of Otford D. Sparta A were definitely still in with a shout on 21. South Croydon C on 19 were not guaranteed safety with Sparta B just a point behind. It seemed unlikely that Bromley Common D could avoid relegation, but stranger things have happened.
There was something hanging on every match in this Round. Sparta A need to beef up their challenge and had Bromley Common D to play; Sparta B were due to play South Croydon C both being in danger of relegation while The Big One was the top of the table domestic derby between Otford C and Otford D.
Sparta A (Paul Hilton/Rob Foster) duly collected the five points they were looking for from Bromley Common D (Terry Edward/Joy Grohmann) with the lost of just two games. Edwards took a game from Hilton in the opening set and Hilton had his problems with Grohmann. Although he beat her in straight games, 11-7, 14-12, 11-9 indicates it wasn’t that easy. Edwards also took the first game from Foster but faded somewhat after that as Foster raised the bar.
Sparta B had the big guns out in David Smith and Harry Isaacs against South Croydon C’s juniors Rocco Martinez-Paoli and Yuvathi Vijay and were given a real run for their money. It was a hard fought match, the youngsters not giving an inch. Smith could easily have lost the opening set to Martinez-Paoli as 12-10, 8-11, 8-11, 11-4, 11-8 shows but it was his command of the angles which got him home in the end. Issacs wasn’t 100% fit but still turned out for his team which has struggled all season to find players to honour the club’s commitment. Vijay didn’t appear to be unduly fazed by Isaac’s use of long pips and levelled the score. Sparta won the doubles in four to take the lead and then came one of the best sets of the day between Smith and Vijay. It was not a set about power play but patience and good tactical placements. Smith ran away with the first but Vijay, who had only lost one set all season, responded by taking the second equally comfortably. Smith could have won this in four as he dropped the third 12-14 before taking the fourth 12-10 to level. Vijay could also have won in four as she was 2-1 up at that stage. Once he gets his teeth into a game Smith is difficult to dislodge – he’s not known as The Wall for nothing – and it was only some crafty changes in pace which got him home 11-8 in the fifth. Sparta won the doubles and thus led 3-1. Martinez-Paoli did his best to snaffle another point but Isaacs took charge from the outset to make it 4-1 for Sparta B.
The Otford D (Ben Edmed/Richard Cowling) match with Otford C (Peter Clarke/Mike Palmer) was another lengthy, hard one, two sets went to five games and two more to four. No quarter was expected, asked for nor given. In truth the D had struggled to get out a team. Charlie Massey, originally scheduled to play, injured his back that morning so Edmed came in, carrying a suspected broken toe, and Cowling had a recurrence of an old shoulder injury. Nothing daunted, they sallied forth. Edmed got the show on the road beating Clarke in four with Cowling likewise defeating Palmer in four. The D then added the doubles. They were 2-0 up but pegged back to two games all before finally nailing it 11-9 in the fifth. This brought the two teams level on 28 points apiece. A tremendous five game battle ensued between Edmed and Palmer. In truth Edmed could have won this in straight games or four, as it was he went behind 11-13, 11-9, 10-12 before taking the fourth 11-7. Palmer dug his heels in and took a clear lead in the fifth to get home comfortably. Cowling made it 4-1 with a straight games win over Clarke. It was a disastrous result for the C but a big fillip for the D.
Before the final countdown, Otford D and Otford C were thus level on 29 points each. Sparta A had closed the gap to three points and were on 26. Sparta B on 22 had moved ahead of South Croydon C, now on 20. Bromley Common D remained on nine. The stage was set for the classic Sevenoaks League finish with Sparta A to play Otford D while Otford C took on South Croydon C, and Sparta B played Bromley Common D. It was all in the melting pot. Out came the abacus and calculators!
Sparta B (Smith/Isaacs) were looking for as many points as they could get from Bromley Common D (Grohmann/Edwards) in order to stay ahead of South Croydon C. They duly got their five and once finished all settled down to watch the action in the other two matches which were very keenly contested.
Otford C (Clarke/Palmer) had a tremendous tussle with South Croydon C (Martinez-Paoli/Vijay), three sets went the distance and another to four games. It began with a very up and down set between Clarke and Martinez-Paoli. Clarke led 2-1 but lost his way in the fourth. He got a poor start in the fifth and Martinez-Paoli wasn’t going to let him off the hook. Vijay went about her business and led Palmer 2-0. The third was close but she hung on to take it 12-10. South Croydon won an extremely close doubles 13-11, 10-12, 14-12, 8-11, 11-7 to make it 3-0. Alarm bells must have been ringing with Otford D holding their own against Sparta A on the table next door. Palmer took the first game from Martinez-Paoli who came straight back at him to lead 2-1. The fourth game was anybody’s to win or lose but Martinez-Paoli scraped home 13-11. Clarke led 2-0 against Vijay and seemed to have it all under control. Vijay regrouped and turned it around in five for a clean sheet. They had done all they could and could not have scored more heavily than they did but it was not enough. The result from the previous match allied to the strength of Sparta B sealed their fate.
The match between Sparta A (Hilton/Foster) and Otford D (Edmed/Cowling) was understandably tense. The opening singles both went to five games and there were some very nervous players out there. Edmed won the first set against Hilton in five, having led 2-1, lost the plot completely in the fourth. However, he hung in there and eventually scrambled home 12-10. It put Otford D one ahead of Otford C. The second set was just as fraught. Cowling was 1-2 down against the long reached Foster but had his nose in front 8-6 in the fifth. Foster put up the shutters, got back on terms and pulled it off 13-11. Sparta A won the doubles and then Foster beat Edmed, so it was 3-1 to Sparta. Everybody was keeping a watchful eye on the South Croydon C versus Otford C match and it was looking good for the D with just one set to play. There was the possibility of a three way tie between Otford C, Otford D and Sparta A, so much depended upon that last set between Cowling and the left hander Hilton. Cowling had the lead in the fourth game, but Hilton was on a charge and so nearly pushed it to a fifth. As it was Cowling got home 11-9 which means a final total of 31 for Otford D with Sparta A and Otford C tied on 29 points each. In such cases the results from the matches between the two teams are taken into account. Both had won a match each, but Otford C had won seven sets to Sparta A’s three in these matches so were declared as runners up.
The prophecy that things could go pear shaped if someone had an “off day” had come to pass. It was a cataclysmic day for Otford C with just one point secured. It had, however, been a terrific performance from both Otford D and Sparta A to make it such a grandstand finish but the effort from South Croydon C should not go unnoticed for it was they who stopped Otford C in their tracks. Otford C were understandably disappointed not to take the title and there was a lot of sympathy not only for them but also for South Croydon C who finished so strongly and yet finished in the relegation zone. This may create a problem for the South Croydon club as the juniors are improving rapidly and will probably be strong enough to compete at a level higher than Division 5 by the time the new season begins.