The top-of-the-table match between Westfield A and Burton Baptist A should have been the highlight of the season so far in the Premier Division of the Kettering & District Table Tennis League.
Both teams went into the match with unbeaten records and just six points separated the two rivals.
However, the match proved to be a bit of an anti-climax as Burton were missing top players Chris Ross and Dawid Przybysz due to illness and work commitments. Burton are a different team without their two star players and as good as Alex Aston and Dariusz Gulbicki are, they were no match for the Westfield team of Kevin Bird, Steve Silk and Roumen Stefanov.
In the end it was one-way traffic for Westfield as they completed a 10-0 win for the loss of only one end.
John Aballa, a new signing for the Burton B team, but a regular player in Division Three of the British League, made his Kettering League debut in this match but found the going as tough as his new club colleagues.
Westfield are now the clear favourites to retain their title and with only half the season played, it looks like the main battles in the top division will be for the runners-up spot and the relegation survival fight.
Higham are in third place and just seven points behind Burton following their 7-3 win over Arthingworth.
Richard Bashford was the star man for Higham, winning all three of his matches for the loss of just one solitary end.
Richard Elliott won twice but was on the wrong end of a superb victory for Ray Kingston.
Andy Harrison added a single before the two Richards teamed up to take the doubles.
All three Arthingworth players contributed to their team’s score with Kingston beating Elliott, Chris Gibbons defeating Harrison and Gerald Henson also getting the better of Harrison.
Corby Town A are a further two points behind Higham, courtesy of a 10-0 win over Thrapston Eagles.
Chris Haynes, Lee O’Boyle and Henry Arthur were all in a good form as they completed the win for the loss of just one end.
Corby Town B’s selection issues continue but due to complexity of the rule allowing players to “play down”, they were boosted by the appearance of their A team’s captain, Chris Haynes, in their ranks for their match with Kettering Town A.
Haynes picked up good wins over Mike Hawes and Nigel Metcalfe but couldn’t prevent Kettering’s John Fuller from recording another hat-trick.
Hawes also lost out to Guy Sparrow as Kettering claimed a 7-3 victory.
Kyle Murie could have added a fourth point for Corby when he led Metcalfe 2-0 but a change of tactics from Metcalfe saw him turn the game around to win in five ends.
With just one round left in the first half of the season, the fixture list has thrown up the interesting scenario that sees fifth-placed Kettering Town A host fourth-placed Corby Town A on Tuesday night and then, the following night, second-placed Burton Baptist A play third-placed Higham.
With so few points separating these four teams, this week’s fixtures could prove vital in the chase for a podium finish.
At the bottom of the table, Harborough Athletic had started to put a bit of space between themselves and their fellow relegation rivals but a 10-0 defeat at Westfield B, coupled with Corby B’s three points gained against Kettering Town A now means they sit just one point above Corby.
Antonio Jaraices, Matthew Rushton and Nicole Bird were largely untroubled for Westfield, dropping just three ends throughout the evening.
Burton Baptist B gained a point on Harborough when Jacek Koltuniuk defeated Sam Wildman in the ninth singles of their match with Westfield C but Dan Smalley and Carl Leeson both scored trebles for Westfield as they ran out comfortable 9-1 winners to leave the Burton deep in the relegation dogfight.
Results: Westfield A 10 (K Bird 3, Silk 3, Stefanov 3, Bird/Stefanov) Burton Baptist A 0
Higham 7 (Bashford 3, Elliott 2, Harrison, Bashford/Elliott) Arthingworth 3 (Kingston, Henson, Gibbons), Corby Town A 10 (Arthur 3, Haynes 3, O’Boyle 3, Arthur/O’Boyle) Thrapston Eagles 0, Corby Town B 3 (Haynes 2, Sparrow) Kettering Town A 7 (Fuller 3, Metcalfe 2, Hawes, Metcalfe/Hawes), Westfield B 10 (Jaraices 3, Rushton 3, N Bird 3, Jaraices/Rushton) Harborough Ath 0, Burton Baptist B 1 (Koltuniuk) Westfield C 9 (Smalley 3, Leeson 3, Wildman 2, Smalley/Wildman).
Player of the week: Ray Kingston.
The top two in Division One took on each other and second-placed Thrapston Kites needed a good result against Harborough Rangers who started the match five points ahead.
But the 9-1 victory for Rangers will now make it very difficult for Kites to catch them.
Sam Burgess seems to improve with every match this season with this latest treble being the most impressive so far.
He was assisted by Ross Campbell who also got a treble and Liam Burnham was also very close to a hat-trick but was just pipped at the post by Stewart Williams 11-9 in the fifth to prevent the whitewash.
The most surprising thing about this match was Peter Briggs losing all three after previously winning 22 out of 24 this season.
Rothborough Arrows are the only team to have beaten Rangers and are probably the only side with any chance of catching them now although Julian Marlow will have to play most or all of the remaining matches to make it likely.
With Thrapston Falcons trying to achieve promotion and Harborough Rovers fighting relegation the latter would have been happier with their three points than Falcons with their seven.
Sam Burgess was again in form with two wins against Geoff Judd and Alan Tyler and Jamie Burgess got the valuable third point by beating Judd.
For Falcons, Nigel Payne was too consistent for all of them and didn’t lose an end in his treble.
Westfield D were without their leading player in the averages, Nitin Patel, and therefore did well to beat Burton Baptist C 7-3.
Westfield’s Paul Malpass was the only unbeaten player on the night in both singles and the doubles with Scott Dixon who could only beat Paul Goodman in singles and Chris Alder only lost to Chris Agg.
Having lost every match so far, Thrapston Harriers had some reason for optimism when 11-8 fifth-end wins by Keith Stockley over Steve Smith and Alan Tyler over Derek Muggleton put them 2-0 up.
However, that optimism was short lived as Burton Baptist D then got eight consecutive wins with Kelvin Marshall adding a treble.
There were, however, another four five-enders making six in all and only one 3-0 when Marshall beat Tyler.
Results: Harborough Rangers 9 (Campbell 3, S.Burgess 3, Burnham 2) Thrapston Kites 1 (Williams), Harorough Rovers 3 (S.Burgess 2,J.Burgess) Thrapston Falcons 7 (Payne 3, Tyler 2, Judd, Payne/Tyler), Burton Baptist C 3 (Agg 2, Simmons) Westfield D 7 (Malpass 3,Alder 2, Dixon, Dixon/Malpass), Thrapson Harriers 2 (Stockley,Tyler) Burton Baptist 8 (Marshall 3, Smith 2, Muggleton, Smith/Marshall).
Player of the Week: Sam Burgess.
When Buccaneers met Comets in their previous Division Two encounter, it ended in a draw.
Both teams were still unbeaten going into their next clash but this time Buccaneers prevailed in a five-end thriller in the last game to take it 6-4.
Of the four games that went the distance it was the only one that Buccaneers won, in the shape of Ray Harrison and Tom Ravenscroft, but earlier in the evening they both lost their unbeaten records - in Harrison’s case it was to Kelvin Linnett’s only victory and Ravenscroft lost to Martin Watts.
Pete Sturges beat Gareth Lewis and Lewis beat Linnett, so each player won at least one and no-one was unbeaten, a fitting result to a close match between the best two teams in the league.
Still at Montsaye, Dakotas defeated Exocets but the 7-3 result improved Exocets’ earlier score, which included a double in the only two games that went the distance, and the doubles for Tony Yeomans.
For Dakotas, Lauren Ainsworth also scored two – thus avenging the earlier defeat to Helmut Salander – Pete Rowbotham bagged a pair but the star was Cathy Fleming who repeated her treble, her third of the season.
Although Kettering Town B improved their score against Harborough Imps to a 9-1 victory, it could be argued that Imps actually did better this time as they won more ends and made it a much closer match than the earlier fixture. They also won the majority of the ends that went beyond deuce.
Three games went the distance and Imps lost all of them, David Patmore being the unluckiest going down to Pete Scrivener in a very long initial game and Ann Woolston, but then scored the Harborough teams only point with the last singles of the night in a straight ends defeat of Barry Davis.
John Carpenter also failed at the last hurdle against Woolston, whereas Ben Baker won ends off Davis and Woolston but couldn’t secure the point.
Scrivener and Woolston were unbeaten all night with Scrivener achieving his third seasonal maximum and Woolston her first.
Results: Harborough Imps 1 (Patmore) Kettering Town B 9 (Scrivener 3, An Woolston 3, Davis 2, Scrivener/An Woolston), Rothborough Comets 4 (Watts 2, Linnett, Sturges) Rothborough Buccaneers 6 (Harrison 2, Ravenscroft 2, Lewis, Harrison/Ravenscroft), Rothborough Dakotas 7 (Fleming 3, L Ainsworth 2, Rowbotham 2) Rothborough Exocets 3 (Yeomans 2, Salander/Yeomans).
Player of the week: Anthony Yeomans.
Team of the week: Harborough Rangers.