Two of the contenders for promotion to the Premier Division next season became slight favourites to gain those top spots in Division One after impressive 9-1 victories in week two of the Kettering & District Table Tennis League.
The match between Westfield D and Rothborough Arrows, on paper, looked as though it would be a close encounter between two of the stronger teams of the division.
The Rothwell-based team had other ideas however as Julian Marlow recorded his second consecutive treble, ably assisted by Helen Watts with a hat-trick and Ivor Jones with a brace.
Marlow trailed Scott Dixon 2-0 before making an emphatic comeback, only conceding nine points in winning the following three ends.
Dixon has now surprisingly lost all six of his matches this season and all to lower-ranked opponents, though he proved he is capable of much better when he claimed two creditable victories in the British League in the intervening weekend between the first two league fixtures.
Westfield’s solitary victory came from Paul Malpass, replacing the previous week’s hat-trick hero Nitin Patal, 3-0 over Jones.
Thrapston Falcons looked to have an easier match than Arrows and their 9-1 victory over struggling Thrapston Harriers has put them top of the table.
Ian Baldock and Nigel Payne both gained trebles for Falcons and Anthony Marray a brace, just losing to Geoff Judd 3-1.
The result puts Harriers bottom of the table and although there is a long way to go, they will need to add to their tally of two points quickly if they are too avoid the dreaded relegation.
Although Harborough Rangers beat Burton Baptist C 7-3, the match was only a four-point swing away from being 5-5 as Steve Crook and Mike Brocklebank both won 12-10 in the fifth end against Paul Goodman and Chris Agg respectively.
Brocklebank was undefeated in singles though he did lose the doubles with Liam Burnham against Agg and David Simmons.
Burton’s D team produced a good team effort against Harborough Diamonds as Steve Smith, Derek Muggleton and Brett Owen all won two singles before Smith and Owen combined for a close doubles win over Dave Coombs and Phil Dixon.
Coombs earned two of his teams points, losing only to Muggleton 3-0 while Phil Dixon got the other point when beating Muggleton 3-0.
Results: Westfield D 1 (Malpass) Rothborough Arrows 9 (Marlow 3, Watts 3, Jones 2, Marlow/Watts), Thrapston Falcons 9 (Baldock 3, Payne 3, Marray 2, Baldock/Payne) Thrapston Harriers 1 (Judd), Harborough Diamonds 3 (Coombs 2, Dixon) Burton Baptist D 7 (Smith 2, Muggleton 2, Owen 2, Smith/Owen).
Player of the week: Helen Watts.
Kettering Town A hosted reigning champions Westfield A in the second round of fixtures in the Premier Division in what was always likely to be an intriguing match that featured several of the stars of the Northamptonshire table tennis scene.
Kettering’s team included John Fuller, number two on the Northants County Ranking list, while Westfield were represented by Steve Silk (ranked three), Kevin Bird (8) and Roumen Stefanov (10).
Stefanov gave his team the lead with a hard fought fifth-end win over Nigel Metcalfe but Fuller quickly evened things up when he defeated Bird 3-1.
Westfield regained the lead when Silk saw off Mike Hawes 3-0 before Stefanov returned to the table to record a fantastic 3-1 victory over the higher-ranked Fuller to increase the Wellingborough team’s advantage.
Further wins for Bird and Silk over Hawes and Metcalfe respectively gave the title favourites a 5-1 lead.
Match number seven saw the much anticipated clash between Fuller and Silk and they produced another typically close encounter.
On this occasion it was Fuller who emerged victorious with a win in the deciding end.
The final two singles rubbers also went to a deciding end, but both ended up in Westfield’s grip as Stefanov completed an excellent hat-trick courtesy of a comeback win against Hawes and Bird edging out Metcalfe.
Finally, Stefanov and Silk teamed up to complete the 8-2 win with a 3-1 doubles win over Fuller and Hawes.
The all-Westfield clash between the B and C teams ended deadlocked but the latter must be wondering how they failed to win having led 4-0 and then 5-1.
Surprisingly, there were no games that required a fifth end but seven of the rubbers were won 3-1 and every player won at least once with no-one remaining undefeated.
Matt Rushton (two wins), Steve Hobbs and Nicole Bird had given the C team the early advantage.
Carl Leeson scored the C team’s first point when he defeated Hobbs only for Bird to get her second win to leave them trailing 5-1.
Matt Horrocks initiated the comeback with a win over Hobbs and Sam Wildman continued the momentum with a win over Rushton.
Leeson then produced a fantastic performance to double his personal tally and, in doing so, deny Bird her hat-trick and the fightback was confirmed when Leeson and Horrocks emerged victorious over Rushton and Bird.
Higham recorded their second big win of the season with a comprehensive 10-0 whitewash of a Thrapston Eagles side still searching for their first point.
Mark Stockley came close to breaking Eagles’ duck when he led Andy Harrison 2-0.
However, the Higham player regrouped to record an 11-13, 3-11, 11-6, 11-6, 12-10 win.
Richard Elliott and Richard Bashford both scored trebles and combined to take the doubles to ensure that neither have tasted defeat so far this season.
With Lee O’Boyle available, Corby Town A were back to full strength for their clash at Burton Baptist B.
Although taken to five ends by Asif Manji, he recorded a treble and this feat was matched by his captain, Chris Haynes.
Haynes’ treble was secured in straight games and he has now won 18 ends without reply since dropping the first end of his season to Carl Leeson.
Jacek Koltuniuk and Henry Arthur had their traditional five-set match and this time it was the Burton player who emerged victorious to gain his team’s solitary point.
Burton came close to doubling their tally but, in a terrific doubles contest, O’Boyle and Haynes just edged it 9-11, 12-10, 9-11, 18-16, 11-8 to complete the 9-1 victory.
Arthingworth scored their first victory of the season with a crushing 9-1 win over Corby Town B.
Andy Wood made a rare appearance in the Kettering League and was rewarded with a fine treble.
Aiden Smith came close to preventing Wood’s unbeaten display when he led 2-0 but Wood fought back to win in five ends.
Chris Gibbons was also unbeaten but only after saving several match points against Kyle Murie. Earlier in the evening, Smith had secured Corby’s solitary point when he defeated Gerald Henson in four ends.
No scorecard was received from the clash between Harborough Athletic and Burton Baptist A but it is understood that Baptist earned a 9-1 victory.
Results: Kettering A 2 (Fuller 2) Westfield A 8 (Stefanov 3, K Bird 2, Silk 2, Sefanov/Bird), Westfield C 5 (Leeson 2, Horrocks, Wildman, Horrocks/Leeson) Westfield B 5 (Rushton 2, Bird 2, Hobbs), Thrapston Eagles 0 Higham 10 (Elliott 3, Bashford 3, Harrison 3, Elliott/Bashford), Burton Baptist B 1 (Koltuniuk) Corby Town A 9 (O’Boyle 3, Haynes 3, Arthur 2, O’Boyle/Haynes), Arthingworth 9 (Wood 3, Gibbons 3, Henson 2, Wood/Henson) Corby Town B 1 (Smith).
Player of the week: Roumen Stefanov.
All of Buccaneers’ players are ranked higher than opponents Harborough and the scoreline in the Division Two clash reflected this.
But Ian Lauder and Ron Palfrey fought tirelessly to lose in fifth ends to Tony Yeomans and Tom Ravenscroft respectively, and 18-year-old John Carpenter took his first end of the season.
The fighting spirit was also typified when Lauder was edged 17-19 by Luke Saywood in the highest score in one end so far this season.
It was to no avail in the final reckoning though as the visitors took the full points - Saywood, Ravenscroft and Yeomans all getting maximums and the youngsters took the doubles for good measure. Imps will be hoping for an easier time against Kettering B next week.
Yeomans was in action again the next night as his Exocets hosted Comets.
Unfortunately he was on the receiving end this time as the higher-ranked team took all bar one, that one being a first class victory for Helmut Salander against Alan Brisley in five.
Pete Sturges and Martin Watts were imperious and didn’t lose an end all night.
After taking on Exocets at home last week Burton Baptist faced Dakotas at Montsaye and had an improved result.
Jon Sanders, in his first outing, took a point and Harry Lade, defeated twice in fifth-end finishes in the singles, got retribution in the doubles with a 13-11 final end win teamed with Sanders.
So bragging rights in the Lade household go to Harry as dad Bryan went home without reward.
Sean Smith was again firing on all cylinders as he got another treble and Cathy Fleming got a similar outcome for her nights work to repeat the score from their first match.
Results: Harborough Imps 0 Rothborough Buccaneers 10 (Ravenscroft 3, Saywood 3, Yeomans 3, Ravenscroft/Saywood), Rothborough Dakotas 8 (Fleming 3, Smith 3, Rowbotham 2) Burton Baptist E 2 (Sanders, H Lade/Sanders), Rothborough Exocets 1 (Salander) Rothborough Comets 9 (Sturges 3, Watts 3, Brisley 2 Sturges/Watts).
Player of the week: Cathy Fleming.
Team of the week: Rothborough Arrows.