DIVISION 1 – 17.12.17 – DAY 3
CROWNWOODS RETAIN THE LEAD
Day 3 marks the halfway stage of the season and so far Crownwoods hadn’t dropped a set. They were on 20 points, six ahead of Otford A with Darenth A two points behind them. Leigh A had eight, Darenth B four and Leigh B two.
This Round brought three very interesting matches – there was a top of the table clash between Crownwoods and Otford A, the mid table teams, Darenth A and Leigh A were scheduled to meet, and the lowest placed teams Darenth B and Leigh B were also to play each other. It made for a very competitive afternoon’s play.
The Crownwoods (Richard Beckham/Richard Farthing) and Otford A (Martin Tate/Graham Windram) match produced an absolute classic five game opening set. The scores 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 10-12, 12-10 to Beckham reflect how close it was but not the intensity of it all. Tate worked hard to build a lead in the fifth only to see it slip through his fingers. Crownwoods then moved into a 4-0 lead before one of the best sets of the day came and there were many. It was another of Tate’s titanic battles, this time with Farthing who took a 2-1 lead. Tate, covering an enormous amount of ground, got back to parity. Farthing regrouped, managed to get back on terms and kept him at bay for a 5-0 victory but it could so easily have been 3-2. Both Beckham’s and Farthing’s 100% records had been subjected to severe scrutiny.
The Darenth A (Terry McKee/Peter Davis) and Leigh A (Farhang Fazeli/Landor Luo) produced a very close match. Darenth took a 2-0 lead by winning both the opening singles. Leigh A held a 2-0 lead in the doubles but were pegged back. They just about held on to take the fifth 11-9. Davis was troubled by a back injury at the last meeting and a recurrence of it didn’t help his or Darenth’s cause. Both the reverse singles were lost – McKee to Luo in four and the final set between Davis and Fazeli just could not have been any closer as 9-11, 13-15, 9-11 to Fazeli indicates. It therefore finished as 3-2 to Leigh A.
Both Darenth B and Leigh B were struggling for players and reserves from Division 2 were brought in – Thomas Arnott making his Division 1 debut alongside John Dyson and Michelle McGovern in coming to support Roger Pingram. McGovern didn’t let Arnott settle in the first two games but was glad to close out the third 11-9 as the youngster found his feet. The battle of the pips went to Dyson in five over Pingram, a lengthy affair requiring very high levels of concentration. Leigh B came under pressure in the doubles but survived so they led 2-1. Arnott began well against Pingram but, as always, he’s a very tricky customer to deal with and turned it around in four. McGovern adapted well to Dyson’s style and pinched a game. It was not to be, however, and Dyson got home in four to keep the score to 2-3.
Crownwoods had thus strengthened their position at the top of the table and were well clear of Otford A and now Darenth A who had moved up to equal second on 14. Leigh A were on 11, Darenth B were on six and Leigh B on five.
Darenth A (McKee/Davis) were the first to inflict a loss on Crownwoods (Beckham/Farthing). It was a very long, arduous and keenly fought contest. Beckham roared out of the blocks against McKee to get one on the board but the next three sets all the went the distance. Fortified by some Deep Heat treatment Davis battled on against Farthing and, despite trailing 1-2, recouped the deficit to take it in five. Darenth could easily have lost the doubles in four but once more managed to escape to lead 2-1. There was a real fight between McKee and Farthing resulting in yet another five game set. McKee began brilliantly, storming the first and Farthing had to change tack fast to get the second 12-10. The next two games were shared, both at 12-10. In the fifth McKee rediscovered the same rhythm as he had in the first game and Fazeli faded away. This gave Darenth a winning 3-1 lead. Beckham wasn’t going to relinquish his 100% without a fight and put Davis under pressure after dropping the second. So, it was another 3-2 result.
Otford A (Tate/Windram) had no less of a battle with Leigh B (Pingram/McGovern). It began with a five game set between Tate and Pingram which Tate eventually won 11-7 in the fifth. Windram seemed somewhat out of practice and was given no mercy by McGovern. Otford A got it together in the doubles to take a 2-1 lead. Tate and McGovern then had another of those splendid five game sets which went game for game to two all. Tate got his nose in front in the fifth and try as she might, McGovern couldn’t get back on terms. Windram was unsettled against Pingram and never found any sort of rhythm so it was one more 3-2.
The Leigh A (Fazeli/Luo) and Darenth B (Dyson/Arnott) match was exceptionally long, only the opening set did not require a deciding game. Fazeli began well against Dyson, taking the first and then got dragged into a war of attrition which Dyson, busily twiddling, won in four. Penholders are a rare sight in the UK and Luo is certainly in the classic style, short strokes and a very crisp hit. Arnott did well to come from behind to win the first but then trailed 1-2. He got back on terms and was very close to pulling off a win, just being edged out 9-11. All the remaining sets went to five. Darenth held a 2-1 lead in the doubles but partnering a twiddling pips user is fraught with problems, however well the players communicate. Leigh sneaked it 11-7. A fluctuating set between Fazeli and Arnott followed and there was a lot of very good, open, play. Fazeli took the first and Arnott bounced back to lead 2-1. Fazeli responded and a very tight fifth game ensued with Arnott serving out to take it 11-9. It was thus down to Luo and Dyson to decide the issue. Reading Luo’s attack can be difficult and Dyson fell behind 1-2. He recovered and held a handsome lead in the fifth where he reverted to defence and Luo jumped in to pinch it 11-8. This too, therefore, finished as a 3-2.
At the close of play, and it was a very late finish, despite their loss to Darenth A, Crownwoods had extended their lead to 10 points. Otford A and Darenth A remained locked in second place on 17. Leigh A are on 14 but not uncatchable by Darenth B on 8 and Leigh B on seven.