Player unavailability was key in the Premier Division of the Kettering & District League with no fewer than five teams having to deal with loss of at least one major team member.
Burton Baptist A were one of the worst hit with Dawid Przybysz and Chris Ross both absent while Dariusz Gulbicki was also unavailable for selection.
Alex Aston was joined by Jacek Koltuniuk and Derek Muggleton and they were unable to prevent a 7-3 defeat to Westfield C.
Sam Wildman’s rich vein of form continued as he recorded his third successive treble.
Matt Horrocks won twice but couldn’t get the better of Koltuniuk who also edged out Antonio Jaraices. Aston also saw off Jaraices for his solitary success but Muggleton found the step up from Division One a bit too tough and failed to register.
This result means Corby Town A and Kettering Town A now have an outside chance of catching Aston’s team and Kettering boosted their chances thanks to a 10-0 win over Harborough Athletic.
Harborough could only field two players and despite some close ends, Nathan Thompson and Kevin Shield found the Kettering trio of Mike Hawes, John Fuller and Nigel Metcalfe too hot to handle.
Corby Town A hung on to third spot with a 7-3 win over Westfield B.
Westfield had to employ the services of Scott Dixon and Paul Malpass to ensure Nicole Bird had a full team to play with.
Both replacements found the step up a division a challenge too far but Bird was in top form as she recorded a fine hat-trick, her closest call being an 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 9-11, 11-9 win over Henry Arthur.
Arthur, Lee O’Boyle and Chris Haynes all won twice before Arthur/Haynes edged out Bird/Dixon 11-9 in the deciding end of the doubles clash.
Arthur was to have a busy night as he was also called into action on an adjacent table to play for Corby Town B in their match against league leaders Westfield A.
The leaders continued with the form they have shown all season in securing a 9-1 win but Arthur did get some reward for his efforts when, for the second time this season, he defeated Steve Silk.
Kyle Murie led 2-1 against Kevin Bird but the Westfield skipper hit back to claim the spoils.
For Murie’s team, just like Harborough, they need to make sure they can field a full team of players to ensure they stay clear of the relegation zone.
Higham have dropped off the pace in recent weeks following two consecutive losses and find themselves in the unusually low position of fifth in the table.
However, they bounced back to form this week whilst dispatching Burton Baptist B 9-1.
Burton, just like their relegation rivals Harborough Athletic and Corby B, did themselves no favours by playing a man short with only Jacek Koltuniuk and Gerry Crasto available.
Richard Elliott and Mark Nannery both scored trebles for Higham and it was left to Koltuniuk to ensure Burton avoided the whitewash with his win over Andy Harrison.
The only match that involved both sides playing with full-strength teams came at Islip Village Hall as Thrapston Eagles hosted Arthingworth.
In a match that was much closer than the final scoreline suggests, Arthingworth’s Chris Gibbons took the main honours with an unbeaten display.
His match with Mark Stockley was a very close affair though with Gibbons finally prevailing 12-10, 10-12, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9.
This was one of four encounters that went all the way to a decider but sadly for Eagles they all ended up in Arthingworth’s safe keeping.
Stockley did record a pair of 3-0 wins over Ray Kingston and Gerald Henson respectively but with Ian Donaldson twice going down in five ends and Chris Warliker also losing out once in the decider, Eagles are fast running out of time to change their fortunes around.
Results: Westfield C 7 (Wildman 3, Horrocks 2, Jaraices, Wildman/Horrocks) Burton Baptist A 3 (Koltuniuk 2, Aston), Kettering Town A 10 (Hawes 3, Fuller 3, Metcalfe 3, Hawes/Fuller) Harborough Athletic 0, Corby Town A 7 (Arthur 2, O’Boyle 2, Haynes 2, Arthur/Haynes) Westfield B 3 (N Bird 3), Corby Town B 1 (Arthur) Westfield A 9 (Stefanov 3, K Bird 3, Silk 2, Stefanov/Silk), Burton Baptist B 1 (Koltuniuk) Higham 9 (Elliott 3, Nannery 3, Harrison 2, Elliott/Harrison), Thrapston Eagles 2 (Stockley 2) Arthingworth 8 (Gibbons 3, Kingston 2, Henson 2, Kingston/Henson).
Player of the Week: Nicole Bird.
The top four teams in Division One are still fairly close with 17 points separating Harborough Rangers in first and Thrapston Falcons in fourth who have a match in hand.
However we have now reached three quarters of the way through the season so with time and matches running out Rangers are looking more and more likely to finish in at least the top two for a promotion place and more than likely the title.
They enhanced their prospects further with a stunning 7-3 win over Rothborough Arrows by managing to restrict the usually dependable duo of Helen Watts and Julian Marlow to a single win each and didn’t allow Ivor Jones an end.
It was the first time this season that Marlow has lost more than one singles and only the second occasion for Watts. Marlow doubled his season’s losses from two to four while Watts went from three to five.
Man of the match was Rangers’ Liam Burnham who, in his treble, only lost one end out of 10 which was to Marlow and became the first player to do the ‘double’ over Watts and Marlow.
After two wins for Mike Brocklebank over Jones and Marlow and for Steve Crook over Watts and Jones, Rangers were leading 6-0 so 7-3 represented somewhat of a comeback for Arrows.
Watts and Marlow beat Brocklebank and Crook respectively before Burnham added point seven when seeing off Jones.
One consolation for Watts and Marlow was that they maintained their 100 per cent doubles record with a consistent 11-9, 11-9, 11-9 win.
Thrapston Kites and Corby C were both fielding less than full strength teams.
Kites were missing fifth in the averages Stewart Williams, replaced by Bob Hickson, and Corby C had only two players.
For Kites, Peter Briggs won both of his sets 3-0 whereas Hickson’s both went the full distance as he lost 11-9 in the fifth to Stephen Woolston before beating Keith McLaren by the same score.
Geoff Judd was unlucky losing in four close ends to Woolston and was then beaten 16-14 in the fifth end by McLaren.
A good doubles win by Corby restricted Kites win to 6-4 which keeps them in second place.
Thrapston Falcons are in fourth place though with a match in hand over third-placed Arrows and only one point behind while also being just five behind Kites from the same number of games.
They stayed in contention with a solid 8-2 over a Harborough Diamonds team containing Liam Burnham.
Burnham became a contender for player of the week with his treble over Arrows on the previous day but as Ian Baldock beat him on the way to a treble himself, he took the accolade.
Burnham won the only two points for Diamonds with 3-0 wins over Nigel Payne and Alan Tyler.
Derek Muggleton played in two matches at Westfield for Burton Baptist’s A and D against Westfield’s C and D.
He predictably found the match in Division One a lot easier going than the one in the Premier with two good wins over Nitin Patel and Chris Alder both in five ends making for a lot of playing time in the evening.
Brett Owen added a third point for Burton over Malpass but the Westfield trio won two each before Malpass and Alder won three close ends in the doubles with the 7-3 win keeping them in fifth place.
Results: Harborough Rangers 7 (Burnham 3, Brocklebank 2, Crook 2) Rothborough Arrows 3 (Marlow, Watts, Marlow/Watts), Thrapston Kites 6 (Briggs 3,Hickson 2, Judd) Corby C (Woolston 2, McLaren, McLaren/Woolston), Thrapston Falcons 8 ( Baldock 3, Payne 2, Tyler 2, Baldock/Tyler) Harborough Rovers 2(Burnham 2), Westfield D 7 (Malpass 2, Patal 2, Alder 2, Malpass/Alder) Burton Baptist D 3 (Muggleton 2, Owen).
Player of the week: Ian Baldock.
It was a close result when third from top played second from bottom in Division Two and it was largely thanks to that man Harry Lade again.
He scored all of Burton Baptist E’s four points against higher-ranked and more experienced Dakotas opponents, was behind in all the games and in the game of the night against Pete Rowbotham was match point down twice in the fourth end before clinching it in the fifth - in the process depriving Rowbotham of his sixth win in six over two nights.
A measure of Lade’s improvement is that in the two corresponding earlier matches he’d only won one out of six.
He then doubled up with dad Bryan – who had earlier nearly recovered from two down to Cathy Fleming – to defeat the Dakota dames of Fleming and Ainsworth.
A similar scoreline at Kingswood saw Corby take the spoils against Kettering Town B and move level with them in the table.
With 7-3 wins apiece this season it was the decider and Dan Bottrill and Tom Cardwell ensured it was the north Northants team who prevailed with a hat-trick each.
Cardwell nearly lost out to Jim Chatburn in his last singles but did succumb in the doubles when partnered by Nathan Brown, when to win that would have allowed them to leapfrog their opponents in the league.
Cardwell has now won nine straight games and the ever-present Bottrill has won half of his matches with maximums.
It wasn’t quite as close on an adjacent table when Exocets took on Comets.
Helmut Salander was the closest to preventing the clean sweep when he took Alan Brisley the full distance including a second-end 17-15 victory to go two up but couldn’t see it through to win as he did in their first meeting of the season.
Although all of the Exocets got footholds in games they couldn’t see it through and see Burton snapping at their heels in the table.
Alan Brisley’s maximum means he has still only lost three all season,
Sturges’ treble was his ninth and his third consecutive, and Linnett’s three was his fifth of the season.
There wasn’t a ‘bagel’ for basement team Imps when they took on top of the shop Buccaneers thanks to an unlikely win for David Patmore in straight sets over Gareth Lewis, 21 places higher and victorious in three over Patmore in the last contest.
Otherwise, Ben Baker’s 17-15 win over Lewis was the high spot for the Harborough outfit who, with five weeks left of the season and 16 points adrift, will have to improve significantly if they are not to be rooted to the bottom.
Pete Rowbotham played up and secured another triple and Ray Harrison continued his excellent record with another four-point haul.
Results: Corby D 6 (Bottrill 3, Cardwell 3) Kettering Town B 4 (Chatburn, Scrivener, An Woolston, Chatburn/Scrivener), Harborough Imps 1 (Patmore)Rothborough Buccaneers 9 (Harrison 3, Rowbotham 3, Lewis 2, Harrison/Lewis), Rothborough Dakotas 6 (L Ainsworth 2, Fleming 2, Rowbotham 2) Burton Baptist E 4 (H Lade 3, B Lade/H Lade), Rothborough Exocets 0 Rothborough Comets 10 (Brisley 3, Linnett 3, Sturges 3, Brisley/Sturges).
Player of the week: Harry Lade.
Kettering & District Table Tennis League team of the week: Harborough Rangers.