The latest round of fixtures in the Premier Division of the Kettering & District Table Tennis League saw the top two face off while, on the adjacent table, the teams in third and fourth were also up against each other.
Both matches were keenly fought but at the end of the night it was Westfield A that had the most to shout about after they narrowly overcame Burton Baptist A.
It was not to be an easy night for the unbeaten league leaders though.
With Alex Aston having to leave early, the matches were played out of order and after he had lost to Kevin Bird and Roumen Stefanov, few would have fancied his chances to get anything out of Steve Silk.
However, Aston battled hard for an excellent and completely unexpected 12-10, 11-7, 9-11, 4-11, 11-9 win.
Silk, who was struggling to show his best form due to illness, tasted success against Dariusz Gulbicki despite losing a mammoth fourth end 20-18 but then had to concede his match to Chris Ross when trailing 2-1.
Ross and Bird were then involved in a titanic match with Ross emerging victorious 11-9 in the decider.
Bird was also taken to a decider by Gulbicki but just edged out the Burton player 11-7. It was left to Roumen Stefanov to preserve Westfield’s 100 per cent record as he dropped just two ends on the his way to an emphatic treble to give Westfield a commanding 6-3 lead.
But Burton were to have the last word as Ross/Gulbicki took the doubles by getting the better of Stefanov/Bird in four ends.
Higham and Kettering Town A were both hoping that they could close the gap on the top two teams.
But after three hours of battle they could not be separated and both teams had to settle for five points as the match ended as a draw.
Richard Elliott had given Higham the perfect start when he defeated Mike Hawes but then Nigel Metcalfe beat Mark Nannery 11-9 in the decider and John Fuller won in straight games against Richard Bashford to give Kettering the lead.
Nannery then levelled the match with a win over Hawes before Elliott and Fuller renewed their rivalry in another close battle.
Elliott went 2-0 ahead but Fuller turned the match on its head to win 3-2 and avenge his defeat earlier in the season.
Metcalfe and Fuller then completed straight-game wins over Bashford and Nannery respectively as Kettering took a 5-2 lead.
Bashford then defeated Hawes to keep his team in it and, after Elliott defeated Metcalfe in five ends, it was left to the pairing of Nannery and Bashford to secure the draw when they saw off Hawes and Fuller in another five end match.
At the other end of the table, Corby Town B and Harborough Athletic were involved in a match just as important as those involving the top four sides, as both teams battle to avoid relegation.
In a match that included no less than six five-enders, unusually it also included three games won in straight ends.
Michael Clarke was the hat-trick hero for Corby but only after he had beaten Nathan Thompson 13-15, 11-8, 7-11, 21-19, 11-9 in the final singles of the night.
Aaron Moore won twice for Corby and Rob Warrander once as Corby emerged 7-3 victors and moved out of the relegation places for the first time this season.
The result could have been even better if Moore had seen off Nathan Thompson when leading 2-0, and if Warrander had managed to close out his matches against either of the Thompsons but the Harborough players displayed admirable fighting qualities to win both matches from 2-0 down.
Burton Baptist B are the other team embroiled in the relegation battle and they enhanced their own chances of avoiding the drop with a 6-4 victory over Westfield B.
David Przybysz recorded a double success but lost out to Matthew Rushton in five ends.
Rushton was to also miss out on a treble when he lost out to Jacek Koltuniuk, who in turn went down in five ends to Scott Dixon.
Gerry Crasto added a single success to go with the doubles achieved by his team-mates who then completed the win by taking the doubles.
Corby Town A’s fine run continued with a 9-1 success over Arthingworth. Chris Haynes and Lee O’Boyle both recorded hat-tricks but only Chris Gibbons had taken them both to a deciding end.
Gerald Henson recorded Arthingworth’s solitary point when he won the final singles of the night against Henry Arthur.
Results: Westfield A 6 (Stefanov 3, Bird 2, Silk) Burton Baptist A 4 (Ross 2, Aston, Ross/Gulbicki), Higham 5 (Elliott 2, Nannery, Bashford, Nannery/Bashford) Kettering Town A 5 (Fuller 3, Metcalfe 2), Corby Town B 7 (Clarke 3, Moore 2, Warrander, Clarke/Moore) Harborough Athletic 3 (B Thompson 2, N Thompson), Burton Baptist B 6 (Przybysz 2, Koltuniuk 2, Crasto, Koltuniuk/Przybysz) Westfield B 4 (Rushton 2, Hobbs, Dixon), Corby Town A 9 (O’Boyle 3, Haynes 3, Arthur 2, O’Boyle/Haynes) Arthingworth 1 (Henson).
Thrapston Eagles maintained their lead at the top of the Division One table with a 7-3 win over third placed Rothborough Arrows.
The two sides between them have the top three players in the averages but only Julian Marlow featured in the match and after winning his opening two matches, he fell to Eagles’ Chris Warliker.
Paul Watts beat Steve West in the only match of the night to go the full five ends but Warliker’s treble along with a double from Ian Donaldson and one win for West ensured Eagles maintained their unbeaten record for the season with Warliker and Donaldson also taking the doubles.
For the second week running Corby C won 10-0 and are now 11 points clear of third-placed Arrows with just three matches of the season remaining.
This week it was club colleagues Corby D who were whitewashed with only Stewart Abraham managing to take a match to five ends as Corby C’s regular three of Kyle Murie, Stephen Woolston and Nigel Hunt took another step towards promotion to the Premier Division.
Rangers’ Liam Burnham won the first match of the night against Falcons’ Nigel Payne but the Thrapston side took the next six matches, three with five-end wins and the other three in four ends with Antony Marray recording his treble during these matches.
Burnham did get the better of Alan Tyler in another five-ender in match eight and Steve Crook took the next match against Nigel Payne in the only straight ends win of the night. Marray then returned to add the doubles with Payne to give Falcons a 7-3 win.
Diamonds’ Mike Brocklebank maintained his fourth place in the Division One averages with a treble against Kites.
Mark Pearson got the better of Geoff Judd to add a fourth point for the Harborough side but two wins apiece for Peter Briggs and Paul Goodman along with one from Judd and a doubles win for Briggs and Goodman meant Kites returned home with a 6-4 success.
Results: Rothborough Arrows 3 (Marlow 2, P Watts) Thrapston Eagles 7 (Warliker 3, Donaldson 2, West, Warliker/Donaldson), Corby D 0 Corby C 10 (Murie 3, Woolston 3, N Hunt 3, Woolston/N Hunt), Thrapston Falcons 7 (Marray 3, Tyler 2, Payne, Marray/Payne) Harborough Rangers 3 (Burnham 2, Crook), Harborough Diamonds 4 (Brocklebank 3, Pearson) Thrapston Kites 6 (Briggs 2, Goodman 2, Judd, Briggs/Goodman), Burton Baptist C 7 (Agg 3, Muggleton 3, Agg/Muggleton) Rothborough Buccaneers 3 (Jones, Saywood, Lewis).
Phantoms repeated their previous 9-1 victory margin over club-mates Gladiators with the same teams lining up against each other in Division Two.
However, this time Tony Yeomans beat Pete Rowbotham whilst Cathy Fleming got revenge for her earlier defeat.
It was Fleming’s first hat-trick but team-mate Lauren Ainsworth’s third when she also showed no mercy to dad Pete in a straight-ends win in the first game of the night. The ladies made it a very successful evening when teaming up for the doubles as well.
Kettering B reversed the previous defeat to Dakotas with their 6-4 result and the only player difference was Jim Chatburn replacing Pete Scrivener.
But it was a close match with no more than a point between them until the very last game. This, like the other games going the full distance, all went Town’s way and Martin Bradford was the unlucky loser in all of them.
Tom Ravenscroft was the only maximum man though for the losing team, and it was comfortable for him except for one end against Chatburn which finished 19-17 in the Rothborough player’s favour. Despite this win, Town drop behind Phantoms in the table.
Although Dan Bottrill won the first game for Corby, Harborough Imps won the rest – Bottrill did give Ron Palfrey a scare though before the veteran won out 14-12 in game eight.
It was Palfrey’s third maximum and Jamie Burgess’ fifth of the campaign to take the latter to 72 per cent for the season. Imps take on Dakotas, who are just above them in the table, next week.
Burton Baptist had an improved 7-3 result against third-placed Rothborough Comets for whom Pete Sturges was under the weather and came away with his first blank night, as did Alan Brisley, who had previously managed at least two wins every match.
Jon Sanders was Burton’s star man with a hard-fought hat-trick, including beating two higher-ranked players but Steve Smith and debutant Jack Wright each got a brace.
They couldn’t stop Gareth Lewis’ defiant rearguard action though and he also teamed up with Brisley to inflict Burton’s second doubles defeat.
It was an improved performance, although still a defeat, when Exocets visited Islip and Phil Tomlin replaced Helmut Salander from the reverse fixture.
Tomlin matched Ray Harrison in winning two but no-one could even take an end from Thrapston Harriers’ imperious Alan Tyler who now sits on top of the divisional averages having lost only three of his 42 games.
The Blantern/Burrows doubles partnership chalked up another of their successes and are unbeaten as a pair this season.
Results: Burton Baptist D 7 (Sanders 3, Smith 2, Wright 2) Rothborough Comets 3 (Lewis 2, Brisley/Lewis), Harborough Imps 9 (Burgess 3, Palfrey 3, Patmore 2, Burgess/Palfrey) Corby E 1 (Bottrill), Kettering Town B 6 (Chatburn 2, Al Woolston 2, An Woolston, Chatburn/Al Woolston) Rothborough Dakotas 4 (T Ravenscroft 3, W Ravenscroft), Rothborough Gladiators 1 (Yeomans) Rothborough Phantoms 9 (L Ainsworth 3, Fleming 3, Rowbotham 2, L Ainsworth/Fleming), Thrapston Harriers 6 (A Tyler 3, Blantern, Burrows, Blantern/Burrows) Rothborough Exocets 4 (Harrison 2, Tomlin 2).
Player of the week: Jon Sanders/Roumen Stefanov.
Team of the week: Kettering B.
All players are reminded that the annual closed tournament is being held at Westfield Table Tennis Club on Saturday, March 8 and the closing date for entries is on Monday. Players should see their team captain or league committee member for an entry form.