Rivals are level at the summit

Aaron Moore was the player of the week in the Premier Division
Aaron Moore was the player of the week in the Premier Division

Rothborough Comets beat club-mates Buccaneers 7-3 to ensure the top two now have identical records in Division Two of the Kettering & District Table Tennis League.

Comets inflicted a first defeat of the season on their rivals, who also tasted only their second doubles loss of the campaign while there was a first blank night for Gareth Lewis.

Martin Watts, Alan Brisley and Kelvin Linnett showed enough consistency to win a pair each but Buccaneers’ Tom Ravenscroft was at his imperious best in achieving a maximum.

Lauren Ainsworth had a topsy-turvy evening with a blank playing up for Buccaneers yet she picked up a maximum for her home team and third-placed Dakotas on an adjacent table as they beat Exocets 8-2.

All went the distance but Ainsworth prevailed for her third treble while Cathy Fleming also went through the card but only had trouble from Anthony Yeomans in the final game.

It was a comfortable night for Corby D as they won 9-1 at Burton Baptist E.

Only Jon Sanders made a mark for Burton against Nathan Brown and the only full-length game was when Ben Freeman also pushed Brown but ultimately failed after deuce in the fifth.

Kettering Town B were tested a little more by Harborough Imps before running out 8-2 victors.

Jim Chatburn and Ann Woolston were unbeaten in the singles but succumbed in five when teamed up for the doubles.

For Harborough, David Patmore played a captain’s innings when winning their only singles, against Barry Davis before taking Chatburn and Woolston all the way and then teaming up with Ben Baker for only Harborough’s second doubles victory of the season.

Results: Burton Baptist E 1 (Sanders) Corby D 9 (Bottrill 3, Hunt 3, Brown 2, Bottrill/Brown),

Kettering Town B 8 (Chatburn 3, An Woolston 3, Davis 2) Harborough Imps 2 (Patmore, Baker/Patmore), Rothborough Buccaneers 3 (Ravenscroft 3) Rothborough Comets 7 (Brisley 2, Linnett 2, Watts 2, Brisley/Watts), Rothborough Exocets 2 (Yeomans, Salander/Yeomans) Rothborough Dakotas 8 (L Ainsworth 3, Fleming 3, Rowbotham 2).

Player of the week: Kelvin Linnett.

In the latest round of fixtures in the Premier Division, champions-elect Westfield A were in action against third-placed Corby Town A.

Corby are the only team this season to have avoided defeat when facing the reigning champions after their match in October ended in a 5-5 draw.

Last time out Westfield were missing Roumen Stefanov from their line-up so Nicole Bird stepped into the breach and she was again promoted from the Westfield B team for this match with Steve Silk unavailable.

Westfield captain Kevin Bird again turned in a star performance for his team with a hat-trick but was pushed hard by Chris Haynes before winning through 11-7 in the decider.

Stefanov was also on the treble trail although twice he had to come through tough five-set battles, defeating both Lee O’Boyle and Henry Arthur 11-6 at the final stage.

Four of the clashes went to five ends but the only one that Corby prevailed in was when Haynes defeated Miss Bird 9-11, 5-11, 12-10, 12-10 11-2 and this after the Westfield played led 2-0 and 10-7.

O’Boyle recorded a clear win over Bird but she did add to Westfield’s overall score with a 3-0 victory over Arthur as he recorded his first blank night of the season.

Finally, Haynes and O’Boyle secured an excellent 3-1 win over Kettering Men’s Doubles champions Stefanov and Bird but Westfield’s 7-3 win now means they now require a maximum of 31 points from their final five league matches to retain their title.

Kettering Town A are in a battle with Corby Town A for the third spot and would have fancied their chances of gaining points on their rivals in their match against a Thrapston Eagles side who are destined for an immediate return to Division One.

However, they were given a massive wake-up call as they found themselves trailing 2-0 thanks to wins for Mark Stockley over Nigel Metcalfe and for Steve West over Mike Hawes.

John Fuller steadied the ship with a 3-1 success over Chris Warliker and this was followed by Metcalfe dispatching West and Fuller defeating Stockley as Kettering looked to be back on track as they edged ahead 3-2.

Thrapston were not quite finished though and Warliker gained an impressive 3-0 win over Hawes to level matters once again at 3-3.

Fuller completed his customary treble to move his side 4-3 ahead and Hawes and Metcalfe ensured there were no more shocks as they completed a 7-3 win, although only after Hawes had seen off Stockley 11-8 in the decider.

Corby Town B look like they are slowly playing their way out of the relegation battle and they gained an important three points in their 3-7 loss to Higham.

The single biggest shock of the week in the division occurred in this encounter as Aaron Moore gave his Corby team the lead with a superb 13-11 fifth-end win over Richard Elliott.

Kyle Murie and Guy Sparrow would both gain wins over Mark Nannery but Richard Bashford was to be the key man for Higham with a straight-games hat-trick and then teamed up with Elliott to take the doubles over Kettering Men’s runners-up Sparrow and Moore.

Burton Baptist A are looking secure in second place but they ensured there were no team orders enforced when they hosted their relegation-threatened B team club colleagues.

Dawid Przybysz was back in the A team’s ranks following the birth of his daughter and despite some close ends, he completed his treble for the loss of just one end.

Dariusz Gulbicki also recorded a hat-trick but only after he had come back from 2-0 down to John Aberra in his first match of the night to prevail 9-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 12-10.

Alex Aston added another two points for the A team but Aberra prevented the whitewash with a 3-0 win over Aston as the A side ran out 9-1 victors.

Westfield B were 7-3 winners against a two-man Arthingworth side missing the services of Ray Kingston.

Nicole Bird recorded her 10th hat-trick of the season for Westfield and Dan Smalley added two wins but Chris Gibbons proved his stumbling block with an 11-8 fifth-end success.

Gibbons also beat Scott Dixon, as did Gerald Henson and there are now only two points separating the sides in the league table.

Results: Westfield A 7 (K Bird 3, Stefanov 3, N Bird, Stefanov/K Bird) Corby Town A 3 (Haynes, O’Boyle, Haynes/O’Boyle), Thrapston Eagles 3 (Stockley, West, Warliker) Kettering Town A 7 (Fuller 3, Metcalfe 2, Hawes, Fuller/Metcalfe), Higham 7 (Bashford 3, Elliott 2, Nannery, Bashford/Elliott) Corby Town B 3 (Moore, Sparrow, Murie), Burton Baptist A 9 (Przybysz 3, Gulbicki 3, Aston 2, Gulbicki/Aston) Burton Baptist B 1 (Aberra), Arthingworth 3 (Gibbons 2, Henson) Westfield B 7 (N Bird 3, Smalley 2, Dixon, Bird/Smalley).

Player of the week: Aaron Moore.

When Division One leaders Harborough Rangers took on bottom markers Thrapston Harriers the 10-0 scoreline could have been easily predicted. But that didn’t tell the whole story.

While Liam Burnham’s and Sam Burgess’ trebles never looked in any doubt with neither dropping an end, the same could not be said for Steve Crook’s as he had to battle hard against all three opponents.

The closest was against Marta Honkova who went 2-0 up before a fightback from Crook saw him prevail by the closest margin 11-9 in the fifth.

Against Mike Burrows, the first three ends were all close with Crook winning two of them before he pulled away in the fourth winning 11-6.

Crook then fell behind again, trailing Keith Stockley 2-1 before he got his act together again to win the last two ends 11-6.

The result keeps Rangers firmly in control and extends their lead over Thrapston Kites to 18 points. In contrast Harriers are now 17 points adrift at the bottom of the table and it seems only a miracle can save them now.

Second-placed Kites took on third-placed Thrapston Falcons with both battling for a promotion place while also having an outside chance of the title should Rangers have a monumental slip-up.

With a five-point lead Kites held a slight advantage but with Falcons winning 6-4 the gap was narrowed to just three, which could mean the race for second place will go right up until the final week of matches.

For Falcons, Ian Baldock continued his good recent form with his fourth consecutive treble and eighth of the season and only for the loss of one end which was to Stewart Williams.

Alan Tyler also had a good match for Falcons. After a 3-0 victory over Geoff Judd he took on Peter Briggs.

Briggs started as a strong favourite for this encounter and when he went 2-0 up a comeback looked highly improbable.

But Tyler defied the odds and the formbook by winning the next three ends and taking the fifth 11-9.

For Kites, Stewart Williams beat Nigel Payne 3-2 and Tyler 3-1 while Briggs’ solitary victory was 3-1 over Payne.

Payne’s 3-0 victory over Judd put Falcons 5-1 up before a comeback by Kites reduced the lead to 6-4 after Briggs and Williams beat Baldock and Tyler 3-2 in the doubles.

In the relegation battle, Harborough Diamonds are looking likely to secure their place for next season having gone three points ahead of Harborough Rovers but Diamonds have been helped a couple of times by oppositions fielding less than full teams.

A full-strength Westfield D would be expected to win this match by around 8-2 or 9-1 (It was 9-1 in the reverse fixture) but playing with only two players they instantly gifted Diamonds three points.

Paul Malpass scored a treble for Westfield, losing only the first end of the night against Dave Coombes.

Chris Alder scored a brace, beating both Phil Dixon and Coombs 3-1, but Vaughan Allington scored Diamonds’ only point on the table with a convincing 3-0 win over Alder for the loss of 14 points.

Burton Baptist’s rising star Harry Lade is making a strong case for being the league’s most improved player this season.

The 15-year-old is in his debut season and was expected to find it tough against experienced players in Division Two.

This was the case at least for his first two matches when he only won one singles set out of six.

He then improved to four out of nine in his next three matches followed by 11 out of 12 in his last four matches and is now looking one of the best players in division two.

He was therefore the obvious choice for promotion to Division One when Burton Baptist C were short of players for the derby with Burton Baptist D.

This gave him the chance to take on his long-term coach Derek Muggleton and only six months ago it would have been unthinkable that Lade would get anywhere near to close in this match up.

This time, however, only two points in each end could separate them with experience beating youth 3-0 on this occasion but it is surely only a matter of time before Lade is consistently beating players of Muggleton’s standard.

None of Burton D’s players found it easy against Lade and Kelvin Marshall had to withstand a comeback which Lade has made a habit of doing from 2-0 up to 2-2 but Marshall held firm in the fifth end, winning 11-7. Steve Smith beat the youngster 3-1 but this included a 11-5 end to Lade.

At the other end of the age spectrum, 77-year-old David Simmons, also playing for the C team, proved that table tennis is a game for all ages when winning the only treble of the match though he was pushed all the way in a five-end classic with Muggleton before eventually winning 17-15.

He was also taken to five ends by Smith though this time he won the fifth easily 11-4 followed by a 3-1 win over Marshall.

In another of five fifth enders in the match, Darryl Sutcliffe got his one win for the C team 11-5 over Marshall.

For the D team, Muggleton and Smith both won two with Smith’s second being an 11-9 decider over Sutcliffe.

With the score at 5-4 to the D team, Sutcliffe and Simmons teamed up to win the doubles 3-0 over Muggleton and Smith and to ensure a draw in this mid-table clash.

Results: Thrapston Harriers 0 Harborough Rangers 10 (Burnham 3, S.Burgess 3, Crook 3, Burnham/Crook), Thrapston Kites 4 (Williams 2,Briggs,Williams/Briggs) Thrapston Falcons (Baldock 3, Tyler 2, Payne), Harborough Diamonds 4 (Allington 2,Coombs, Dixon) Westfield D (Malpass 3, Alder 2, Malpass/Alder), Burton Baptist D 5 (Muggleton 2, Smith 2, Marshall) Burton Baptist C 5 (Simmons 3, Sutcliffe, Simmons/Sutcliffe).

Player of the week: Harry Lade.

Kettering & District Table Tennis League Team of the week: Rothborough Comets.