With reigning champions Westfield A enjoying a commanding lead at the halfway stage in the Premier Division of the Kettering & District Table Tennis League, attention switched to the battle for positions of second through to fifth.
Burton Baptist A, currently sit in the runners-up spot and fielded a full strength team in their match with fifth-placed Higham. This included a return after illness for the unbeaten Dawid Przybysz.
After a hard-fought match, it was Burton that claimed the spoils with an 8-2 victory.
Chris Ross was Burton’s hat-trick hero which was fully deserved and included an 11-8 fifth-end win over the otherwise unbeaten Richard Elliott.
Richard Bashford came even closer to defeating Ross when leading 2-1 in ends and then creating three match points when 10-7 ahead in the fourth.
Ross fought back to win that one at deuce to take it to a decider.
Bashford again had match points with a 10-6 advantage but incredibly Ross saved all of these as well to eventually claim victory from the jaws of defeat having saved a total of seven match points.
As for Przybysz, he lost his seasonal unbeaten record to Elliott but did win his other two matches, albeit 11-9 in the fifth against Bashford and Andy Harrison respectively.
Dariusz Gulbicki further aided Burton’s cause with wins over Bashford and Harrison as Baptist made a strong claim to take the runners-up spot.
In the other big match of the week, fourth-placed Kettering Town A played host to third-placed Corby Town A.
These two very evenly matched sides played out a fascinating, although very predictable 5-5 draw.
The outstanding individual performance in this encounter came from Kettering’s John Fuller with a hat-trick plus a doubles win in tandem with Nigel Metcalfe.
Corby’s Chris Haynes came closest to defeating Fuller but ultimately lost out in five ends.
Haynes was to have a very active evening with all of his matches going to a deciding end.
After losing to Fuller, he found himself 2-0 down to Mike Hawes before winning in five ends but only after saving two match points in the fourth.
When Haynes faced Metcalfe, he again fell 2-0 behind but showed his determination to again come back and claim a 3-2 victory.
Metcalfe was also to lose to Lee O’Boyle but did taste success against Henry Arthur before teaming up with Fuller to add the doubles to confirm the draw.
Arthur gained his solitary point with a win over Mike Hawes who failed to add to Kettering’s points tally.
Corby Town B, despite having a larger squad than most, continue to rely on club colleagues from their other teams in the league to ensure that they can put a full team out each week.
Their latest match against Westfield C saw 16-year-old Dan Bottrill, a player who made his league debut last season, make the leap up from Division Two to join Corby B’s captain, 18-year-old Kyle Murie. Henry Arthur also subbed into the team to add some much needed experience.
Murie got his team off to a perfect start with a 3-0 win against Sam Wildman and came close to gaining a second victory of the evening before eventually succumbing 11-9 in the decider to Matt Horrocks.
Bottrill performed admirably, taking ends off Dan Smalley and Horrocks as he gained valuable experience at the higher level.
Horrocks and Smalley both won twice for Westfield with Wildman recording a single win but it was Arthur who showed his younger Corby team-mates the way as he scored a hat-trick of wins but only after dispatching both Wildman and Smalley in five ends.
Westfield finally secured their third win of the season when Smalley and Horrocks teamed up to defeat the two young Corby players in the doubles and claim a 6-4 win for their team.
Burton Baptist B find themselves nine points from safety at the halfway stage of the season but they did gain a vital three points in their 7-3 defeat at Arthingworth.
Jacek Koltuniuk picked up two wins and Gerry Crasto gained an impressive win over Ray Kingston but nobody could lower the colours of Arthingworth’s Chris Gibbons who recorded a hat-trick, although Koltuniuk did take him to a deciding end.
For Arthingworth, Gerald Henson won twice and Kingston once with a Henson/Gibbons doubles win seeing them sit in sixth position as the calendar year draws to a close.
In the two remaining matches of the week, runaway leaders Westfield A travelled to Harborough to face Athletic and recorded yet another 10-0 win and have now picked up 101 from points from the 110 available to them.
At the other end of the table, bottom markers Thrapston Eagles lost 9-1 to Westfield B to leave without a win so far and with just 16 points on the board.
Results: Burton Baptist A 8 (Ross 3, Przybysz 2, Gulbicki 2, Ross/Przybysz) Higham 2 (Elliott 2), Kettering Town A 5 (Fuller 3, Metcalfe, Fuller/Metcalfe) Corby Town A 5 (Haynes 2, O’Boyle 2, Arthur), Westfield C 6 (Smalley 2, Horrocks 2, Wildman, Smalley/Horrocks) Corby Town B 4 (Arthur , Murie), Arthingworth 7 (Gibbons 3, Henson 2, Kingston, Gibbons/Henson) Burton Baptist B 3 (Koltuniuk 2, Crasto), Harborough Athletic 0 Westfield A 10 (no card received), Thrapston Eagles 1 Westfield B 9 (no card received).
Player of the week: Chris Ross.
In the last week before the mid-season break the top four teams in Division One all played each other, making these matches crucial while also giving fifth-placed Westfield D the opportunity to gain some ground on them.
There were several interesting and surprising scorelines, some of which were due to player unavailability and some not, which have shaken up the league table and brought the top five teams closer together.
Leaders Harborough Rangers travelled to fourth-placed Thrapston Falcons hoping to continue their recent run of impressive wins.
However, they found that the Falcons were on much better form than their recent opponents including Thrapston Kites the week before.
Ian Baldock earned the man of the match award with a treble. Antony Marray also did well beating both Sam Burgess and Mike Brocklebank in four ends and only narrowly missed out on a treble, losing to Liam Burnham by the narrowest margin, 12-10 in the fifth end.
Nigel Payne got the other win by beating Sam Burgess 11-6 in the fifth end.
Burgess has been a fine addition to the Rangers team and prior to this match had won an impressive 11 out of 12 for them but this dropped to 11 out of 15 which is still good.
The closeness between the two teams on the night was shown by five of the sets requiring five ends and the other five requiring four and the rarity of no 3-0s.
When they have their usual three players, Rothborough Arrows are arguably the strongest team in the division but when either Julian Marlow or Helen Watts are missing they are considerably weaker and when both are absent they are one of the weakest.
This was the case against third-placed Thrapston Kites who they didn’t really have much of a chance against. Replacing Helen Watts and Marlow were brother Martin Watts and Luke Saywood.
These are two of the strongest players in Division Two with Watts on 92 per cent and Saywood on 83 per cent, but due to there being a big difference in standard between the divisions they were likely to struggle against players with nearly as good an average in Division One, namely Peter Briggs on 83 per cent and Stewart Williams on 80 per cent although Watts did well winning two ends against Williams and one against Briggs.
They were probably also slight underdogs against 50 per cent Geoff Judd who beat Saywood in five close ends and Watts in four.
Ivor Jones seemed to miss his team mates and just won one end which was against Williams. The final score of 10-0 to Kites moves them up to second place in the table and Arrows down to fourth. Rangers are now seven points ahead of Kites at the top which is a healthy lead at the halfway stage but it only takes a couple of poor matches by Rangers and big wins by Kites for that lead to disappear.
Westfield has a number of very promising juniors, one of which Bhavika Mistry impressed on her Kettering League debut with a treble against Harborough Rovers.
Some people may be surprised to see the youngster do so well in her first match but she is not that inexperienced having competed for a few years mainly in junior competitions and the occasional Grand Prix.
Her England ranking of 10 in the Cadet Girls out of 192 ranked as well as those unranked suggests that she ought to do well in division one and beat some players in the Premier Division. Therefore Sam Burgess did well to take her to a deciding end with Jamie Burgess and Mark Pearson winning a single end against her.
Paul Malpass scored an easier treble for the loss of just one end to Sam Burgess and Sam avoided the whitewash by beating Scott Dixon.
The 9-1 win keeps Westfield in fifth place but now only two points behind Rothborough Arrows and nine behind Thrapston Kites in second.
It is yet to be seen whether Mistry will play more matches for Westfield but if she does they can be expected to be better in the second half of the season and maybe make a challenge for promotion.
With only one point separating Corby C and Burton C there was nothing to choose them on paper.
It can be argued that Corby were weakened without Rob Warrender however as he had only played in four of their previous nine matches this limits his influence of their league position.
Burton C had a good night though equaling their previous best score of the season of 9-1, the other time being against bottom-placed Thrapston Harriers.
David Simmons and Chris Agg both got trebles and, for Corby, Stephen Woolston avoided the whitewash by beating Darryl Sutcliffe in five ends.
Woolston continued his habit of going to five ends and now has the extraordinary statistic of going to five ends in every set for two matches (or six consecutive sets) running in the league.
Results: Thrapston Falcons 6 (Baldock 3,Marray 2, Payne) Harborough Rangers 4 (Burnham 2, Brocklebank, Burnham/Brocklebank), Thrapston Kites 10 (Briggs 3, Williams 3, Judd 3, Briggs/Judd) Rothborough Arrows 0, Westfield D 9 (Malpass 3, Mistry 3, Dixon 2, Dixon/Malpass) Harborough Rovers 1 (S. Burgess), Corby C 1 (Woolston) Burton C 9 (Simmonds 3, Agg 3, Sutcliffe 2, Simmons/Agg).
Player of the week: Ian Baldock/Bhavika Mistry.
Having a third player helped Corby D to reverse the result against Burton Baptist E in Divisio Two as Dan Bottrill avenged a defeat to Jon Sanders on the way to his treble, John Hunt got a treble in his first match since week two and they then paired up to secure the seven points.
It was also notable for Bryan Lade’s first win, his son Harry and Jon Sanders also got a point and both pushed Hunt all the way before losing out. Corby have reinforced their position in mid-table.
After being whitewashed by Comets before, Kettering B were out to make amends and, after seven games, were 4-3 up.
A strong finish by Comets forced the victory in their favour and the main reason was Alan Brisley’s straight ends hat-trick and doubles.
Team-mates Pete Sturges and Kelvin Linnett chipped in with one apiece but both Jim Chatburn and Pete Scrivener upset the rankings by beating them for Town B
Although Exocets failed to trouble the scorers they all managed to get at least one end against Buccaneers and Helmut Salander got an end of each of his opponents but was not to triumph any further.
Ray Harrison, Tom Ravenscroft and Gareth Lewis each hit maximums and Harrison and Ravenscroft teamed up for a straightforward doubles to extend their lead at the top, which is gradually increasing over Comets.
Burton Baptist’s young guns beat Harborough Imps 6-4 and in doing so outdid their senior counterpart’s previous draw.
They were never behind, but it was nip and tuck all the way.
Harry Lade won his first-ever hat-trick in leading the charge for the home team, setting the scene in the first game when he won 12-10 in the final end versus Ron Palfrey.
Ben Freeman took up the baton finishing the last three ends of the next game 12-10, 12-10, 11-8 in the first of his brace and Jacob Tattersall nearly got in on the act when he forced Palfrey the full distance.
John Carpenter got off the mark when he scored his first point for Imps in his sixth match.
The doubles which ensured the victory for Burton was very tight with Tattersall and Lade holding their nerve better in winning 15-13, 9-11, 13-11, 12-10.
It moves them to within touching distance of Exocets but they will do well to make their move next week against Comets.
There were no changes from the Corby team who lost 9-1 to Dakotas previously, and only one change for Dakotas but the Corby side forced a draw this time with improved performances from Dan Bottrill but particularly Ken Murie who scored his first treble in his second outing this season, beating seasoned players above him in the rankings without being extended to five ends.
He couldn’t quite make the victory losing the final end in the doubles to Cathy Fleming and Pete Rowbotham who had earlier defeated Nathan Brown, but they were outshone for Dakotas by Lauren Ainsworth’s double, the first time this season she has outscored both her fellow team mates.
Results: Burton Baptist E 6 (H Lade 3, Freeman 2, H Lade/Tattersall) Harborough Imps 4 (Palfrey 2, Carpenter, Patmore), Corby D 7 (Bottrill 3, Hunt 3, Bottrill/Hunt) Burton Baptist E 3 (B Lade, H Lade, Sanders), Kettering Town B 4 (Chatburn 2, Scrivener 2) Rothborough Comets 6 (Brisley 3, Linnett, Sturges, Brisley/Sturges), Rothborough Dakotas 5 (L Ainsworth 2, Fleming, Rowbotham, Fleming/Rowbotham) Corby D 5 (Murie 3, Bottrill 2), Rothborough Exocets 0 Rothborough Buccaneers 10 (Harrison 3, Lewis 3, Ravenscroft 3, Harrison/Ravenscroft).
Player of the week: Ken Murie.
Team of the week: Burton Baptist A.