After a long and thoroughly entertaining season in the Premier Division of the Kettering & District Table Tennis League, Westfield A have defended the title that they won last season.
The race for the title was much closer this year, but Westfield have led the pack from very early in the season and the team of Kevin Bird, Steve Silk and Roumen Stefanov, with occasional assistance from Sam Wildman, Brian Wooding, Dan Smalley, Stefan Dabev and Dan Sabhi-Appana still managed to go through the season unbeaten with an impressive 20 wins from 20 matches.
Higham put up a great effort in their bid to improve on last season’s runners-up spot but ultimately fell just 12 points short as they again finished in the silver medal position, with Burton Baptist A repeating the podium with a repeat of their third place finish from last season.
The final round of fixtures saw the champions taking on fourth-placed Kettering Town A with the big clash being in match seven as the division’s top player Steve Silk faced off against the Kettering Singles champion John Fuller.
Fuller looked like repeating the success that he had achieved against Silk in the closed tournament as he stormed into a 2-0 lead but it was Silk who was to take the honours this time, winning the next three sets 11-9, 11-8, 11-6.
Silk went on to complete his hat-trick and, with Bird and Stefanov losing only to Fuller, the champions recorded an emphatic 8-2 success to round off their perfect season.
Burton Baptist A confirmed third place when they took the final doubles of their match against Arthingworth to win 6-4 and finish just one point ahead of Kettering.
Alex Aston finished off his best-ever season with a hat-trick which included a five-set win over Chris Gibbons. Dariusz Gulbicki won twice for Baptist but went down in five ends to Gibbons.
Gerry Crasto stepped up from the Baptist B team to replace the unavailable Chris Ross and came close to gaining a win when he led Andy Wood 8-2 in the decider before losing it 11-8.
Westfield C have had a very good debut season following their promotion last season and have finished in a highly respectable sixth place.
In their final match they played their own B team and honours were shared in a 5-5 draw.
Dan Smalley was the hat-trick hero for the C team but he had to work tremendously hard for his treble, beating Steve Hobbs and Stefan Dabev in five ends and Scott Dixon in four.
Nicole Bird and Tom Wildman both got the better of Dixon for the C team’s other points while Hobbs and Debev both recorded two wins before Dixon and Hobbs joined forces to win the doubles and earn a draw.
At the half-way stage of the season Burton Baptist B looked odds on to finish bottom of the league with the question being would it be Harborough Athletic or Corby Town B that would follow them through the relegation trapdoor?
However, once it was announced that Dawid Przybysz was returning to the sport and had signed on for the relegation favourites, their chances of avoiding the drop were significantly enhanced.
Their final match was against Harborough and Przybysz was unbeaten in the 5-5 draw. Jacek Koltuniuk won twice for Baptists but was beaten by Barry Thompson who won twice for Harborough.
Nathan Thompson and the upgraded Steve Crook both defeated Nash Hooda and then the Thompsons teamed up to confirm the draw by defeating Koltuniuk and Przybysz in the doubles.
Corby Town B completed their fixtures with a respectable 7-3 loss to runners-up Higham.
Aaron Moore picked up two wins for his side, coming from 2-0 down to defeat Andy Harrison before seeing off Mark Nannery in four very close ends.
Kyle Murie was again called on to play up from Division one and gained another notable scalp when he also defeated Nannery in four ends.
Richard Bashford was untroubled for Higham though, recording a straight games hat-trick to add to Harrison’s two wins and Nannery’s solitary success.
Results: Westfield A 8 (Silk 3, K Bird 2, Stefanov 2, Bird/Stefanov) Kettering Town A 2 (Fuller 2), Burton Baptist A 6 (Aston 3, Gulbicki 2, Aston/Gulbicki) Arthingworth 4 (Gibbons 2, Wood, Henson), Westfield B 5 (Dabev 2, Hobbs 2, Dixon/Dabev) Westfield C 5 (Smalley 3, Wildman, N Bird), Harborough Athletic 5 (B Thompson 2, N Thompson, S Crook, Thompson/Thompson) Burton Baptist B 5 (Przybysz 3, Koltuniuk 2), Corby Town B 3 (Moore 2, Murie) Higham 7 (Bashford 3, Harrison 2, Nannery, Bashford/Harrison).
Last week saw the completion of the group matches, with the exception of a Group E clash between Corby E and Kettering Town B, which was due to be played this week.
Last week, Town B beat Harborough Imps by 21-15 thanks to Alan Woolston (5) Jim Chatburn (4) and Barry Davis (4) and an 8-4 doubles success. For Imps, Jamie Burgess (6) was unbeaten alongside team-mates Ron Palfrey (4) and David Patmore (1).
Dan Bottrill starred for Corby E with two maximums and a 3-1 doubles win with Nathan Brown (3) against Rothborough Gladiators (Anthony Yeomans 4, Sally Taylor 1). Unfortunately, Corby again only fielded two players and the points forfeited gave Gladiators a 22-14 victory.
Rothborough Comets have already qualified for the final after a 34-2 win against two-man Rothborough Exocets as Gareth Lewis and Pete Sturges were unbeaten on the night. Will Ravenscroft drew 2-2 with Alan Brisley, who was otherwise undefeated.
The other game in Group D saw Phantoms win their first match with a 29-7 victory over Exocets, who could also only field two players.
Pete Rowbotham (7), Cathy Fleming (7) and Lauren Ainsworth (6) were the singles scorers. Helmut Salander (2) drew 2-2 with Ainsworth and then joined Lee Mordecai (2) to win the doubles 3-1.
Corby C went down 21-15 against Harborough Rangers in Group A but still topped the division by one point.
Steve Crook (7) and Vaughan Allington (6) were unbeaten for Rangers, while Stephen Woolston (4) and Kyle Murie (4) replied for Corby, as they took the doubles 7-5 to narrow the gap.
Thrapston Eagles beat Rothborough Arrows, who only fielded two players, 24-12.
From the games played, the singles finished 10-6 as Mark Stockley (5), Steve West (5) and Ian Donaldson (4) scored for Eagles while Julian Marlow (6) and Helen Watts (4) replied.
In Group B, Thrapston Kites won two matches in as many nights to take top place.
Against Diamonds, Pete Briggs (6) Geoff Judd (5) and Paul Goodman (5) helped secure a 26-10 win. Vaughan Allington (5), playing two matches in one night, was again unbeaten with Mark Pearson beating Judd 3-1. Kites won the doubles 10-2 to complete the scoring.
The following evening, Kites beat Baptists C 21-15, after trailing 13-11 in the singles but took the doubles 10-2.
Briggs (4), Goodman (4) and Judd (3) were on the mark for Kites with Derek Muggleton (5) and Jack Wright (4) both unbeaten and joined by David Simmons (4).
In the other Group B match, Thrapston Falcons beat Harborough Diamonds 22-14 mainly thanks to a 9-3 doubles success.
Antony Marray (5), Nigel Hunt (4) and Alan Tyler (4) did the damage for Falcons with David Coombs (5) Adam Campbell (4) and Mark Pearson replying.
Buccaneers topped Group C despite a narrow 19-17 loss against Corby D.
Keith McLaren (6), Tom Cardwell (5) and John Hunt (4) saw Corby take the singles 15-9 against Ivor Jones (4), Luke Saywood (3) and Pete Sturges (2) while Buccaneers won the doubles 8-4 to narrow the gap.
Thrapston Harriers and Baptists B drew 18-18.
Harriers edged the singles thanks to Ian Baldock (7), Keith Stockley (4) and Alan Tyler (3) as Kelvin Marshall (4), Jack Wright (3) and Steve Smith (3) replied. Baptists levelled the match with an 8-4 success in the doubles.