Thrapston Harriers pushed hard to take the Kettering & District Table Tennis League’s Division Two title at the death, inflicting third-placed Comets’ heaviest defeat by a 9-1 scoreline.
That result meant Burton Baptist D, on an adjoining table, needed to get eight points to win the league outright, and that’s just what they managed against a very determined Exocets.
So Burton are champions by one point, but Ray Harrison nearly upset the odds.
He was tenacious in defeat to Kelvin Marshall and Steve Smith, losing both in hard fought fifth ends but overcoming Jon Sanders for his sole victory. Smith and Marshall did complete hat-tricks and teamed up for Burton’s 16th doubles win out of 18.
It was Comets’ Kelvin Linnett who inadvertently helped out Burton with his lone success over Keith Stockley the only game to go the full distance.
Otherwise maximum men Alan Tyler – sitting at the top of the averages with only three defeats all season – and Ian Baldock in his second appearance of the season, with Stockley’s double nearly forced the tie at the top.
There were two whitewashes this week as Harborough Imps finished the season in style with an improved win over Town B and Dakotas defeated a depleted Gladiators.
Jamie Burgess, John McGowan and Ron Palfrey did the damage for Imps, but only two games were over in three ends. The first game set the tone with Burgess edging Jim Chatburn 11-9, 10-12, 12-10, 10-12, 14-12.
Imps’ second half of the season saw them score 55 points compared to 40 in the first, a warning to their adversaries in the end of season leagues.
Dakotas were untroubled against a Gladiators team without absentee Tony Yeomans and the match lasted barely over an hour as Sean Smith, Martin Bradford and Will Ravenscroft were merciless.
Gladiators’ Pete Ainsworth has the distinction of playing every match for his team this season, one of only three players this year to do so.
The other players in that elite group – Pete Rowbotham and Dan Bottrill – were in opposition in the last match of the regular season at Corby.
It was notable also for Bottrill’s first hat-trick of the season and his improvement is primarily the reason Corby have scored more than double the points in the second half of the season than in the first.
The Phantoms trio of Lauren Ainsworth, Cathy Fleming and Rowbotham, who, having played a match for Comets, has been the busiest player of the season in the second division playing 19 matches, progressed untroubled otherwise.
Results: Corby E 3 (D Bottrill 3) Rothborough Phantoms 7 (L Ainsworth 2, Fleming 2, Rowbotham 2, L Ainsworth/Fleming), Kettering Town B 0 Harborough Imps 10 (Burgess 3, McGowan 3, Palfrey 3, Burgess/McGowan), Rothborough Comets 1 (Linnett) Thrapston Harriers 9 (Baldock 3, A Tyler 3, Stockley 2, Baldock/A Tyler), Rothborough Dakotas 10 (Bradford 3, W Ravenscroft 3, Smith 3, Bradford/Smith) Rothborough Gladiators 0, Rothborough Exocets 2 (Harrison, Tomlin) Burton Baptist E 8 (Marshall 3, Smith 3, Sanders, Marshall/Smith).
With just four weeks remaining in the Premier Division there is still everything to play for at both ends of the table.
At the top of the division, Westfield A remain in pole position to retain their title but both Higham and Kettering Town A remain their slipstream and are ready to take advantage of any late season lapses.
At the other end, Harborough Athletic, Burton Baptist B and Corby Town B continue their own three-way battle to avoid finishing in the bottom two spots and suffer relegation from the elite league.
Westfield A’s title prospects were helped when, for the third time this season, they played against a Corby side that could only muster two players.
This time is was Corby B that were playing a man short and the Westfield trio of Kevin Bird, Steve Silk and Roumen Stefanov won all six singles matches on offer, although Stefanov was tested by Henry Arthur before winning in five ends.
It looked likely that Westfield would complete a whitewash but Arthur and Mickey Clarke teamed up fantastically well to defeat Silk/Bird 13-11, 11-4, 11-3 to prevent the clean sweep.
In another battle of title chasers versus relegation battlers, Higham defeated Harborough Athletic 9-1.
Barry Thompson gave Athletic a great start when he got the better of Mark Nannery 11-7 in the decider.
After that shock start it was fairly plain sailing for Higham as Andy Harrison and Richard Elliott both recorded trebles.
Kevin Shield almost added a second point for Harborough but Nannery fought back from 2-0 down to win 6-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 14-12.
Burton Baptist B were without their big guns Dawid Przybysz and Jacek Koltuniuk in their match at Westfield C, who took full advantage in romping to a 10-0 win.
Stefan Dabev, Nicole Bird and Dan Smalley carried all before them, dropping just two ends all night. The availability or otherwise of Przybysz and Koltuniuk could well be the deciding factor in the relegation dogfight.
Kettering Town A remain in fourth position following a 7-3 win at Arthingworth.
John Fuller continued in the same rich vein of form that saw him lift three titles at the recent annual tournament with a straight games hat-trick. Nigel Matcalfe won twice and Mike Hawes once with Chris Gibbons (2) and Michael Edwards replying for Arthingworth.
Corby Town A extended their run of victories to six matches with a 10-0 win over Westfield B.
Lee O’Boyle, Chris Haynes and Henry Arthur were all on the treble trail with Haynes and Arthur sealing the clean sweep with another victory in the doubles.
Results: Westfield A 9 (K Bird 3, Silk 3, Stefanov 3) Corby Town B 1 (Clarke/Arthur), Harborough Athletic 1 (B Thompson) Higham 9 (Elliott 3, Harrison 3, Nannery 2, Harrison/Elliott), Westfield C 10 (Dabev 3, N Bird 3, Smalley 3, Bird/Smalley) Burton Baptist B 0, Arthingworth 3 (Gibbons 2, Edwards) Kettering Town A 7 (Fuller 3, Metcalfe 2, Hawes 1, Metcalfe/Hawes), Corby Town B 10 (O’Boyle 3, Haynes 3, Arthur 3, Haynes/Arthur) Westfield B 0.
Player of the week: Dan Bottrill.
Team of the week: Thrapston Harriers.
The Millman Salver quarter-finals produced four exciting games, none more so than Harborough Rangers’ 21-20 victory over Higham.
Higham were quick off the mark and were soon leading 6-1 thorough Mick Allsopp and Mark Nannery.
Vaughan Allington, Liam Burnham and Steve Crook began to whittle down the lead and after the completion of nine singles the match score was tied at 18-18.
Burnham and Crook and Allsopp and Nannery then halved the doubles to send the match into a tie break. Crook clinched the tie with a straight games win over Allsopp after being defeated 3-1 in their earlier singles match.
Thrapston Falcons produced another unexpected result with a 22-18 win over champions elect Westfield A.
Matt Rushton and Steve Silk both whitewashed Nigel Payne and Antony Marray for an 8-0 lead. After a poor start, Marray took full advantage of his handicap with straight games win over Kevin Bird and Rushton and Alan Tyler against Bird and suddenly held a 20/16 lead.
The doubles combination of Bird and Silk levelled again at 20-20 but Falcons stars Marray and Tyler clinched the next two ends for a narrow and hard fought win.
The last remaining Premier Division side Kettering Town A also lost to Division One bottom side Corby D.
The match was tied at 6-6 after three singles but the Corby trio of Keith McLaren, John Hunt and Tom Cardwell gradually took command and ran out 21-15 winners after the nine singles matches had been completed.
Kettering Town B took the last remaining semi-final spot defeating the youngsters of Corby E 27-13.
After four ends Corby E led 9-7 but after this excellent start they rather fell apart and only managed to pick up another four points from the remaining 24.
Skipper Jim Chatburn scored 12 points ably assisted by Pete Scrivener with nine and Ann Woolston with six.
Results: Corby D 21 McLaren (+7) 6/6, Cardwell (+8) 8/4, Hunt (+8) 7/5 Kettering Town A 15 Metcalfe (SCR) 3/9, Fuller (SCR) 7/5, Hawes (+1) 5/7. Kettering Town B 27 Chatburn (SCR) 10/2, Scrivener (+1) 7/5, Ann Woolston (+1) 6/6, Scrivener/Chatburn 4/0 Corby E 13 Bottrill (+2) 9/3, Brown (+3) 2/10, Sturdy (+4) 2/10. Harborough Rangers 21 Burnham (+5) 4/8, Crook (+6) 8/5, Allington (+7) 7/5, Burnham/Crook 2/2 Higham 20 Allsopp (SCR) 7/6, Nannery (SCR) 8/4, Harrison (+1) 3/9, Allsopp/Nannery 2/2. Westfield A 18 Rushton (+1) 4/8, Silk (SCR) 9/3, Bird (SCR) 3/9 Bird/Silk 2/2 Thrapston Falcons 22 Payne (+5) 4/8, Marray (+7) 8/4, Tyler (+7) 8/4, Marray/Tyler 2/2.
Corby A and Westfield B from the Premier Division and Corby D and Thrapston Kites from Division One have reached the semi-finals of the Points Cup following this week’s quarter-final matches.
Corby A conceded a massive 220 points to Division Two leaders Thrapston Harriers but with Lee O’Boyle only dropping 29 points, their target was reached before the doubles were played and ran out winners by 30 points.
Ian Baldock, Keith Stockley and Mike Burrows fought hard to hold the advantage but the handicapping and final score line highlighted the difference in class between top of Division Two and higher end of the Premier Division.
Westfield B had to concede an even greater deficit of 250 points but still managed to win by 10 points.
Skipper Brian Wooding only dropped 34 and his fine performance finally swung the game for Westfield. Steve Hobbs and Matt Rushton both dropped 49 points and after nine singles Rothborough Phantoms were still leading by four points.
Wooding and Rushton defeated Lauren Ainsworth and Cathy Fleming 42-28 for an overall victory 420-410.
Corby D clinched their second cup semi-final in two days when Keith McLaren, John Hunt and Stewart Abraham consistent play ensured they defeated another Division One side Burton C 425-405.
David Simmons was Burton’s star player but Derek Muggleton and Chris Agg needed a few more points to pull back the starting deficit of 100 points.
In a similar story to their Millman Salver defeat last week Corby E again faltered after a promising start against Thrapston Kites.
Dan Bottrill again showed promise of things to come but the experienced Kites trio of Peter Briggs, Paul Goodman and Geoff Judd eventually ran out comfortable winners 420-338.
Results: Corby A 419 O’Boyle (126-29), Arthur (126-66), Haynes (126-67) Thrapston Harriers (+220) 389 Baldock (57-126), Stockley (42-126), Burrows (52-126). Burton C 405 Muggleton (116-118), Simmons (127-79), Agg (120-108) Corby D (+100) 425 McLaren (97-118), Hunt (93-126), Abraham (105-119). Westfield B 420 Wooding (126-34), Hobbs (126-49), Rushton (126-49) Rothborough Phantoms (+250) 410 Rowbotham (41-126), Ainsworth (48-126), Fleming (43-126). Corby E (+190) 338 Bottrill (57-126), Brown (27-126), Billington (45-126) Thrapston Kites 420 Briggs (126-44), Goodman (126-46), Judd (126-39).