All the returned results from the latest round of Division Two matches in the Kettering & District League had 8-2 scorelines in favour of the teams expected to win.
But, within those matches, there were some interesting stories.
Leaders Rothborough Buccaneers took on second-from-bottom Burton Baptist E with a whitewash was on the cards.
Not only did Harry Lade have other ideas, if he had forced the result from deuce against Gareth Lewis in the third end of his third match he would have had an incredible hat-trick.
As it was he was only behind all match in the very last end as Lewis came back from two down. From a ranking of 114 he defeated number 85 Luke Saywood (85 per cent winning record) and number 91 Ray Harrison and just lost out to Lewis, who is ranked 97.
Those three games were the only ones that went beyond three ends as even Lade succumbed in three in the doubles with young Jacob Tattersall.
Rothborough Exocets were 8-0 down to Kettering Town B before Anthony Yeomans defeated Barry Davis and then teamed up with Sally Taylor to defeat the husband and wife Woolston team in five.
But it was nearly so much more for Taylor in arguably her best display of the season.
She was two up against Ann Woolston before losing out and then two down to Alan Woolston before fighting back and only failing 12-14 in the fifth.
The result increased the gap between Town B and Exocets to 21 points, a difference unlikely to be recouped in the final eight matches.
Corby D beat Harborough Imps 8-2 with Ron Palfrey and David Patmore defeating Nathan Brown but Dan Bottrill and Tom Cardwell lost a total of two ends in all their singles matches. Patmore and Palfrey, for Harborough, would have won the doubles if their first-end comeback from 8-1 down to win 12-10 had been repeated in the fourth end.
Results: Burton Baptist E 2 (H Lade 2) Rothborough Buccaneers 8 (Lewis 3, Harrison 2, Saywood 2, Harrison/Lewis), Corby D 8 (Bottrill 3, Cardwell 3, Brown, Bottrill/Brown) Harborough Imps 2 (Palfrey, Patmore), Rothborough Exocets 2 (Yeomans, Taylor/Yeomans) Kettering Town B 8 (Al Woolston 3, An Woolston 3, Davis 2).
Player of the week: Harry Lade.
Westfield A continued their relentless pursuit of the Premier Division title, although they were pushed hard in their match against a Kettering Town A side involved a three-way battle for third place.
Kettering’s John Fuller again proved to be a major stumbling block for the Westfield trio of Kevin Bird, Roumen Stefanov and Steve Silk.
When these two sides clashed back in September, Fuller dealt Bird his only defeat of the season so far and also defeated his long time rival Silk in five ends but perhaps surprisingly lost to Stefanov.
In this re-match however, there was to be no stopping Fuller as he recorded his sixth successive maximum haul.
After taking out Silk 3-1, he gained revenge over Stefanov with a 3-0 win before wearing down Bird to win in four ends.
Bird has now lost two matches this season, both to Fuller and Stefanov’s loss was also only the second time he has had his colours lowered this term following a defeat to Dan Smalley way back in September.
The Westfield players would win the remaining six matches but Nigel Metcalfe especially made them work hard, losing out late in the deciding end to both Silk and Stefanov respectively, while Mike Hawes also battled bravely in his 3-2 loss to Bird.
With the score standing at 6-3 to Westfield, Fuller returned to the table to partner Metcalfe to a superb doubles win over the previously unbeaten pairing of Bird and Stefanov.
A great night for Fuller but Westfield remain huge favourites for the title having only conceded more than two points on just two occasions all season.
Burton Baptist A sit in second place, a massive 17 points behind Westfield and know they need some kind of miracle for them to overhaul their rivals and claim the title.
The most they can do is to keep winning their matches and hope that Westfield somehow slip up in the title run-in.
Against Harborough Athletic, they kept their side of that equation with a thumping 10-0 win.
It was plain sailing for most of the night for Alex Aston, David Przybysz and Dariusz Gulbicki but with the score at 8-0, Aston was involved in a battle with Barry Thompson which he eventually won 12-10 in the deciding end.
The doubles also went down to the wire but Aston, partnered by Gulbicki, again prevailed over the unfortunate Barry and Nathan Thompson 9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 9-11, 11-9.
Higham moved into third place, four points ahead of Kettering Town A courtesy of a 9-1 win over Thrapston Eagles.
Mark Nannery featured again in the Higham team as he continues his recovery from injury but he couldn’t match the hat-tricks that his team-mates Richard Elliot and Richard Bashford scored.
He did record wins over Chris Warliker and Mark Stockley but a vintage performance from Steve West stopped Nannery in his tracks.
Corby Town A find themselves level on points with Higham and have still only suffered just one defeat all season.
Against Burton Baptist B, they looked to be on their way to recording a 10-0 whitewash when they stormed 8-0 up with Lee O’Boyle’s 3-2 win over John Aberra being their only major scare.
When Henry Arthur led 2-0 (11-2, 11-8) against Jacek Koltuniuk in match nine, the whitewash was looking even more certain.
However, Koltuniuk levelled the game at 2-2 (11-4, 13-11) and stormed into a 7-0 lead in the decider.
Arthur then started a comeback of his own to win 10 of the next 12 points to earn match point.
Koltuniuk saved this point and then completed the win 12-10 and followed this up by taking the doubles match with Aberra with a surprisingly comfortable 3-0 win over Haynes and Arthur.
Corby Town B had been gradually dragging themselves away from the relegation battle prior to last week’s 9-1 defeat to Burton Baptist B and the team of Guy Sparrow, Aaron Moore and Nigel Hunt were keen to make amends for that result when they faced off against Arthingworth.
Sparrow and Moore both picked up a couple of points each with wins over Ray Kingston and Gerald Henson but neither could work out a way to defeat Chris Gibbons with Sparrow going closest before falling away in the deciding end.
With Henson and Kingston both defeating Hunt, Arthingworth led 5-4, but Moore and Sparrow, part of the successful Northampton University team, teamed up to win the doubles and tie the match at 5-5.
With just one point separating the Westfield B and C teams that sit in mid-table, a draw was always likely to be on the cards and this ended up being the case but only after a stirring comeback from the B team.
After seven rubbers, the C team found themselves leading 5-2 and all set to take the bragging rights.
Dan Smalley had been the player to do the damage, dropping just two ends on the way to his maximum.
Sam Wildman and Matt Horrocks offered some quality support with wins over Matthew Rushton to put their team in full control of the match, with the B team’s points coming from Nicole Bird (against Horrocks) and Antonio Jaraices (vs Wildman).
Jariaces and Bird then claimed 3-1 wins over Horrocks and Wildman before teaming together to claim a comprehensive 3-0 doubles success to clinch a well earned, but unsurprising, draw.
Results: Westfield A 6 (Bird 2, Silk 2, Stefanov 2) Kettering Town A 4 (Fuller 3, Metcalfe/Fuller), Burton Baptist A 10 (Aston 3, Przybysz 3, Gulbicki 3, Aston/ Gulbicki) Harborough Athletic 0, Higham 9 (Elliott 3, Bashford 3, Nannery 2, Elliott/Bashford) Thrapston Eagles 1, Corby Town A 8 (Haynes 3, O’Boyle 3, Arthur 2) Burton Baptist B 2 (Koltuniuk, Aberra/Koltuniuk), Corby Town B 5 (Sparrow 2, Moore 2, Sparrow/Moore) Arthingworth 5 (Gibbons 3, Henson, Kingston), Westfield B 5 (Bird 2, Jaraices 2, Bird/Jaraices) Westfield C 5 (Smalley 3, Wildman, Horrocks).
Player of the week: John Fuller.
Harborough Rangers had a satisfactory 7-3 victory over Burton Baptist C in Division One and it was big enough to give them a nine-point lead over Thrapston Kites who had a free week but small enough to keep the chasing pack in contention.
And with Kites now having a match in hand they would lead by one point if they were to win that game 10-0.
Liam Burnham was in fine form in the first leg of his ‘double treble’, winning nine out of nine ends against David Simmons, Chris Agg and Kelvin Marshall although Marshall went close in all three.
Mike Brocklebank also scored a treble and again Marshall was the one who tested him most, losing in four close ends.
Steve Crook returned after a long break and found it difficult to get back into the swing of things.
Although he lost all three sets, he did improve throughout the evening and came from 2-0 down to Simmons to level at 2-2 before just missing out 9-11 in the decider.
Burnham and Brocklebank won the doubles over Simmons and Agg to make it 7-3.
For Rothborough Arrows, the duo of Helen Watts and Julian Marlow scored their customary six out of seven points against a fellow top-five team in Westfield D.
After being unbeaten until Christmas, Marlow lost his second set in two matches as except in the second end he was unable to fathom a way to cope with Nitin Patel’s unorthodox style and then, after beating Scott Dixon 3-1, he had to fight back from 2-0 down to Paul Malpas before edging it 12-10 in the fifth.
Watts’ treble was understandably not without drama as she had to fight back from 2-1 down against Dixon before cruising through the next two ends 11-5,11-3.
They won their usual doubles after Ivor Jones had an impressively easy 3-0 win over Dixon 11-6, 11-6, 11-7 for a good 7-3 win.
The Thrapston derby between third-placed Falcons and bottom team Harriers threw up some curious selections.
Alan Tyler, who is registered Harriers, turned out for Falcons against his own team while Thrapston Kites player Geoff Judd played up for Harriers in place of Tyler.
If Tyler had simply wanted to prove he is the best player in his team then one could say this worked as he beat all three of Mike Burrows, Ketih Stockley and Judd 3-1.
Ian Baldock scored a very easy treble for the loss of no ends and apart from a 14-12 over Burrows, he conceded six points or less in the other eight ends.
Nigel Payne had a poor match by his standards losing 3-1 to Judd and 12-10 in the fifth to Burrows to make it 8-2 to Falcons compared to 9-1 the first time round.
In the relegation battle, both of Harborough Diamonds and Harborough Rovers had their best results so far against higher placed teams that had full teams.
Diamonds took advantage of the playing up rule by selecting Burnham who is one of the best players in the division but as he is currently ranked below Ross Campbell who has only played in two matches, he is allowed to replace him.
He completed the second leg of his double treble against Burton Baptist D’s Derek Muggleton, Steve Smith and Kelvin Marshall again for the loss of no ends meaning he won 18 consecutive ends (in singles) in the week against mid-table opposition which is some achievement.
Dave Coombes and Vaughan Allington both won a single set, beating Muggleton and Marshall respectively.
For Burton, Smith had a good match beating both Coombs and Allington 3-0.
At 5-4 to Diamonds, Smith and Marshall went 2-1 up in the doubles before Burnham and Coombs fought back and clinched a narrow 6-4 victory in the fifth end.
Crook’s return for Rangers allowed Sam Burgess to return to his old team Harborough Rovers and this paid dividends as he was back on top form after a recent blip.
The best win of his treble in terms of ranking was against Rob Warrender at 43 compared to 61 although recent results should see the gap between the two shorten on the next ranking update.
Sam Burgess’ encounter with Stephen Woolston being set number nine was to decide which one of them would remain the only unbeaten player of the night and this went right to the wire with Sam Burgess winning 12-10 in the fifth.
Warrender and Woolston both beat Mark Pearson and Jamie Burgess whereas Stewart Abraham, after letting a 2-1 lead over Jamie Burgess slip, was unable to add to the points until he paired up with Woolston in the doubles to draw the match 5-5.
Diamonds are in a stronger position than Rovers, being two points behind with two matches in hand.
Results: Harborough Rangers 7 (Burnham 3, Brocklebank 3, Burnham/Brocklebank) Burton Baptist C (Simmons, Agg, Marshall), Rothborough Arrows 7 (Watts 3, Marlow 2, Jones, Watts/Marlow) Westfield D (Patal 2, Malpass), Burton Baptist D 4 (Smith 2,Muggleton, Marshall) Harborough Diamonds 6 (Burnham 3, Coombs, Allington, Burnham/Coombs),
Harborough Rovers 5 (S Burgess 3, Pearson, J Burgess) Corby C (Warreder 2, Woolston 2, Woolston/Abraham), Thraptston Harriers 2 (Burrows,Judd) Thrapston Falcons 8 (Baldock 3, Tyler 3, Payne, Baldock/Tyler).
Player of the week: Liam Burnham.
Kettering & District Table Tennis League Team of the week: Burton Baptist E.
The closing date to enter the annual Closed Tournament has been extended until this Sunday.
If anyone would like to enter they should ask their team captain, club official or league committee member for an entry form.