The Wellingborough & District Table Tennis League got their season under way with an increased number of 34 teams taking part.
After a re-organisation at their club, reigning Division One champions are likely to be weaker this season but that didn’t stop them from starting with a 9-1 win over newly-promoted Higham Harriers A.
With the unpredictable Nitin Patel at his best and Daniel Smalley in the line-up, six of the singles were never in doubt.
However, Patryk Polanski struggled somewhat and finished off well beaten 11-13, 11-8, 9-11, 6-11 by Graham Bird, having earlier seen off Bob Collyer and Neil Stevens.
Due to the club’s re-organisation, Westfield C – last season’s Division Two champions - are now playing under the B team banner and they drew 5-5 with Wanderers B in their opening match.
Experienced Richard Adams did well to edge out Ethan Ali in the fifth and see off Richie Bailey and Travis Holly.
Paul Goodman was both hero and villain, being unluckily beaten by Bailey in the fifth before scoring a shock win over Ali.
In another surprise, he went down to Holly and then came up trumps with Hickson for a doubles win over Bailey and Ali to earn the draw.
Perce Sharpe stepped in for visitors Old Grammarians A but found the going tough and failed to register as they went down 6-4 at Chesterwell B.
Steve Kendall, a leading player in the County a decade and a half ago, made a reappearance and comfortably saw off Luke Hughes and Craig Dilley but was taken to four by the combative Graham Ellson who, together with the rejuvenated Hughes, won their remaining singles.
Dilley lost out to Phil Laurence and the match depended on the doubles, where the Ellson and Hughes combination ruined a perfect return for Kendall who, with Laurence, went down 7-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9, 9-11.
Ian Baldock appeared for Thrapston in the top flight for the first time in more than 20 years as they beat Chesterwell A 6-4.
In his first two games he unluckily went down in the fifth ends to Stan Galkowski and Mike Pond but gained a consolation singles when seeing off Graham Ellson.
Ellson, in his second game of the week, once again underperformed at his jinx venue and remained scoreless, losing in the fifth to Ian Donaldson and in the fourth to Chris Warliker.
Pond duly completed an excellent treble but failed to save the match when he and Galkowski lost to Donaldson and Warliker.
Results: Westfield B 5 (Richie Bailey 2, Ethan Ali, Travis Holly 2) Wanderers B 5 (Paul Goodman, Richard Adams 3, doubles Goodman/Hickson), Westfield A 9 (Patryk Polanski 2, Nitin Patel 3, Daniel Smalley 3, doubles Polanski/Patel) Higham Harriers A 1 (Graham Bird), Chesterwell B 6 (Luke Hughes 2, Craig Dilley, Graham Ellson 2, doubles Ellson/Hughes) Old Grammarians A 4 (Phil Laurence, Steve Kendall 3), Thrapston 6 (Ian Donaldson 2, Ian Baldock, Chris Warliker 2, doubles Donaldson/Warliker) Chesterwell A 4 (Stan Galkowski, Mike Pond 3).
WDHA Royals had few problems as they began life in a higher level as they picked up their 19th win from 19 matches by slaughtering Old Grammarians B 10-0 in Division Two.
David Bayes went closest to stopping the rot by going to five ends against Shivam Mistry.
Bayes and Martin Rice also lost the doubles in three ends against Rishan Patel and Mihir Mistry.
Wanderers C’s James Findlay’s hat trick was hard fought as his first game went to four ends and his second and third were last-end affairs – taking them both 11-9 in the fifth.
Tony Wallis backed that up by winning twice and then teamed up with Findlay to take the doubles in three over Dave Long and Mark Ramsden as Wanderers wrapped up a 6-4 success over Westfield D.
Ramsden won twice in the singles over Carl Singh and Tony Wallis, with Long and Tim Mason adding a single apiece.
Maxine Shears was also back on the treble trail as Chesterwell C did enough to overcome Westfield C by a 6-4 scoreline.
For the home side, both Alfie Wright and Charlie Morrow notched a brace each with victories over Clare and Stuart Coles. The aforementioned duo lost out in the doubles against Shears and and Clare Coles.
Higham Harriers B pulled off a fine 5-5 draw against highly-experienced Works Warriors who came down from Division One.
Martyn Reeves and new signing Marta Honkova both won twice and, with the visitors leading 5-4, Harriers pulled off a remarkable doubles victory against Alan and Stephen Woolston (11-5) at the last hurdle enabling them to share the spoils.
For Warriors, Stephen Woolston claimed a hat-trick and father Alan added a single.
Higham Band A’s Nigel Magee started his season with a hat-trick and, along with singles from Deirdre Kiziak and Keith Stockley, it was enough to seal a 6-4 win at Wanderers E.
David May and Derek Shears both won twice for the home side and this pairing was on course for a share of the points in the doubles. But after two ends each, they collapsed 11-0 in the fifth to Stockley and Magee.
Results: Old Grammarians B 0, WDHA Royals 10 (Shivam Mistry 3, Mihir Mistry 3, Rishan Patel 3, doubles Mihir Mistry/Patel), Wanderers C 6 (James Findlay 3, Tony Wallis 2, doubles Findlay/Wallis) Westfield D (Dave Long, Mark Ramsden 2, Tim Mason), Westfield C 4 (Alfie Wright 2, Charlie Morrow 2) Chesterwell C 6 (Maxine Shears 3, Clare Coles, Stuart Coles, doubles Shears/Clare Coles), Higham Harriers B 6 (Martyn Reeves 2, Marta Honkova 2) Works Warriors 4 (Alan Woolston, Stephen Woolston 3), Wanderers E 4 (David May 2, Derek Shears 2) Higham Band A 6 (Nigel Magee 3, Keith Stockley, Deirdre Kiziak, doubles Magee/Stockley).
Higham Harriers C – a new side in Division Three this season but with some familiar names – made a winning start as they were 7-3 victors at Westfield F.
Phillip Inman made a return and he and Craig Hartwell hit hat-tricks.
Another new signing Linda Washington, although not gaining a win, came close against Westfield’s Stuart Holroyd and Jake Butler and a close three-end doubles went to Harriers for their seventh point.
Fred Sorrell was the only unbeaten player as Higham Band B beat Chesterwell D 8-2.
Chris Kiziak and Raylee Burton supported well, scoring two points each to give Higham a good start of the season.
Chesterwells’ Bryan Farrar picked up their points with Sorrell and Kiziak adding the doubles to their tally in three ends.
Another new team for the Higham Harriers Club, the D team, could not emulate their C side and found the going tough as they failed to win any singles in a 9-1 defeat to Westfield E.
But they managed to avoid a whitewash by gaining the doubles in four ends.
Oliver and Katie Hicks, two of a set of triplets new to the league, won out over Tim Mason and Mark Holly.
Westfield G, who finished at the bottom of the table last season, are sitting pretty on the top after winning all the available points in a 10-0 victory at Chesterwell E.
There were hat-tricks for Sidney Wright, Heather Sawyer and Evie Elliott.
The new Chesterwell E side of Gavin Birmingham, Lewis Parry and Katie Coles must have been shell-shocked as their highest score for any end did not exceed six points.
Results: Westfield F 3 (Stuart Holroyd, Jake Butler, Amrat Mistry) Higham Harriers C 7 (Craig Hartwell 3, Phillip Inman 3, doubles Hartwell/Inman), Higham Band B 8 (Chris Kiziak 2, Fred Sorrell 3, Raylee Burton 2, doubles Kiziak/Sorrell) Chesterwell D 2 (Bryan Farrar 2), Higham Harriers D 1 (doubles Oliver & Katie Hicks) Westfield F 9 (Mark Holly 3, Tim Mason 3, Glenn Morris 3), Chesterwell E 0, Westfield G 10 (Sidney Wright 3, Heather Sawyer 3, Evie Elliott, doubles Wright/Elliott).