With just three rounds of fixtures remaining in the Premier Division of the Kettering & District Table Tennis League it is the fight to avoid relegation that continues to be the most intriguing.
Thrapston Eagles prop up the division and it seems unlikely that they will turn their fortunes around but it still remains mathematically possible that they can maintain their Premier Division status.
Their latest match saw them take on Burton Baptist B who were sitting second from bottom going into the encounter.
Fine performances from Jacek Koltuiniuk and John Aberra enabled Burton to claim an important 7-3 victory as they shared seven wins between them.
Koltuniuk’s fourth treble of the season came for the loss of just two ends while Aberra’s first treble since joining Burton was only completed when de defeated Ian Donaldson 3-2 in the final singles of the night.
The Thrapston team of Donaldson, Chris Warliker and Mark Stockley all claimed a win over Gerry Crasto with Donaldson coming out on top with an 11-9 fifth end success.
The other two teams involved in the relegation battle faced each other as Harborough Athletic played host to Corby Town B.
Both teams had their strongest players on view with Barry Thompson, Nathan Thompson and Kevin Shield representing Harborough and Corby’s line-up consisting of Kyle Murie, Guy Sparrow and Aaron Moore.
The two team captains kicked off the match and in a tight clash it was Harborough’s Barry Thompson who edged out Murie 12-10 in the fifth.
This was the start of a run of four matches that all went to a deciding end.
Sparrow claimed the spoils against Nathan Thompson and Moore did likewise against Shield to give Corby a 2-1 lead.
The next match was a classic with Murie coming from 2-0 down to defeat Nathan Thompson as Corby gained the momentum.
From this point on, Corby turned the screw to complete an outstanding 9-1 victory with Murie’s match with Shield being the only other encounter that went to five ends.
This result leaves Harborough level with Burton Baptist B on 48 points with Corby B a further 12 points ahead and looking like they are almost safe.
Kettering Town A played their postponed match against Burton Baptist A and included Shandor Czuczor in their ranks for the first time.
He recorded an impressive double on his debut with 3-1 victories over Alex Aston and Chris Ross but could not get the better of the division’s top player with Dawid Przybysz recording a 3-0 win.
Przybysz went on to complete his 12th hat-trick from 13 appearances and has now secured the double over the Kettering Men’s Singles title holder John Fuller.
Ross added a single win to go with Przybysz’s treble with a win over Mike Hawes but Fuller’s two wins, Czuzzor’s double and a single win for Hawes gave Kettering a 5-4 lead with the doubles rubber to play.
Przybysz and Ross paired together to take on Fuller and Czuczor but it was the Kettering duo who claimed the extra point to secure a superb 6-4 win.
In their scheduled match, Kettering found themselves involved in another titanic clash, this time against Westfield C.
Fuller was back on the treble trail, dropping just two ends during the evening and Czuczor recorded his first treble but had to work tremendously hard to complete it with five-end wins over Matt Horrocks and Sam Wildman.
Hawes was unable to add to Kettering’s tally as Horrocks, Wildman and Dan Smalley all won once before the tried and trusted pairing of Wildman and Horrocks completed an 11-13, 12-10, 11-5, 8-11, 15-13 win over Hawes and Czuczor to narrow the margin of defeat for Westfield.
Burton Baptist A’s scheduled match saw them face Corby Town A and after Lee O’Boyle had given Corby the lead with his customary win over Alex Aston, Burton edged into a 4-1 lead.
This included wins in the fifth for Dariusz Gulbicki over Chris Haynes and also for Aston over Henry Arthur with Gulbicki also seeing off O’Boyle in four and Ross defeating Arthur 3-1.
Haynes then scored his maiden win over Ross and Arthur comprehensively defeated Gulbicki as Corby recovered to trail 4-3.
Ross was too good for O’Boyle on this occasion and gave his team a 5-3 lead only for Haynes to outplay Aston to leave the match nicely poised at 5-4 but Burton confirmed their slight superiority when Gulbicki and Ross defeated Arthur/Haynes to claim a 6-4 victory.
Nicole Bird continues to show why she is the top female player in the county and she gained another two male scalps as Westfield B went down to a 6-4 defeat at Higham
Bird scored wins over Andy Harrison and Richard Elliott had to settle for just two due to an impressive treble from Higham’s Richard Bashford.
Elliott saw off Matt Rushton in five and Antoinio Jaraices in straight games to pick up two wins and the two Richard’s combined to clinch the match 6-4 with a close deciding end doubles success.
Rushton and Jaraices both defeated Harrison to add to Bird’s two successes.
It was business as usual for champions-elect Westfield A as they steamrolled their way to an 18th victory from 19 outings with Arthingworth this time being the conquered foes.
In the absence of Steve Silk, Dan Smalley stepped up from the Westfield C team and his defeat to Chris Gibbons was the only match that slipped through Westfield’s grasp with Roumen Stefanov and Kevin Bird sharing seven wins between them for the lost of a single end.
Westfield require just one point from their final three fixtures to confirm themselves as champions and are likely to claim their crown in their next fixture.
Results: Thrapston Eagles 3 (Donaldson, Warliker, Stockley) Burton Baptist B 7 (Koltuniuk 3, Aberra 3, Koltuniuk/Aberra), Harborough Athletic 1 (B Thompson) Corby Town B ( (Sparrow 3, Moore 3, Murie 2, Moore/Sparrow), Burton Baptist A 4 (Przybysz 3, Ross) Kettering Town A 6 (Fuller 2, Czuczor 2, Hawes, Fuller/Czuczur), Kettering Town A 6 (Fuller 3, Czuczor 3) Westfield C 4 (Wildman, Smalley, Horrocks, Wildman/Horrocks), Burton Baptist A 6 (Gulbicki 2, Ross 2, Aston, Gulbicki/Ross) Corby Town A 4 (Haynes 2, Arthur, O’Boyle), Higham 6 (Bashford 3, Elliott 2, Bashford/Elliott) Westfield B 4 (N Bird 2, Rushton, Jaraices).
Player of the Week: Dawid Przybysz.
There was little change in the status quo at the top of the Division One table with all three of Harborough Rangers, Thrapston Kites and Thrapston Falcons winning 7-3.
With only three rounds of matches to go, Rangers who lead by 14 points, now require a maximum of 17 points to definitely win the title which is well below their seven and a half points per match average.
In the race for second place there is nothing to choose between three teams with Thrapston Kites on 114, Thrapston Falcons on 112 and Rothborough Arrows on 111.
Of these three teams, Arrows have the slightly easier run-in and much will depend on whether these three teams and their opponents play their strongest sides and whether or not Rangers take their foot off the gas having secured the title.
The match of the week was Thrapston Falcons’ clash with Westfield D.
Incredibly, a total of eight out of the 10 sets went all the way to a deciding fifth end including the first seven singles and the doubles. Six of these eight deciders went to the slightly higher-placed team Falcons as Ian Baldock beat Scott Dixon 11-4 and Chris Alder 12-10 while a back in form Nigel Payne had 11-6 wins over Alder and Nitin Patel.
All three of Antony Marray’s sets required a decider and he beat Dixon 12-10 but lost 11-8 to both Patel and Alder.
Payne then completed his treble with a four-end win over Dixon and then, in the least close set of the evening even though it contained two ends going past 9-9, Patel won 3-0 over Baldock.
The doubles was in keeping with the rest of the match and true to form Baldock and Payne beat Alder and Patel 13-11 in the fifth to complete the 7-3 victory for Falcons.
Kites were helped by the fact that Burton Baptist C could only field two players but Stewart Williams was the only one to beat both as Burton’s Paul Goodman lost out narrowly 11-8 in the fifth but had 3-0 wins over Geoff Judd and Peter Briggs.
David Simmons also had an easy 3-0 win over Judd with Burton winning three of the seven sets decided on the table.
Lacking Mike Brocklebank, Rangers could not get a huge win over Burton Baptist D but 7-3 was more than enough to keep them well on track for the title.
Liam Burnham got his expected treble but not without having to work hard for a 3-2 win over Kelvin Marshall.
Steve Crook had two five-enders of mixed fortune, beating Steve Smith 11-8 before losing 11-9 to Marshall but he found Derek Muggleton much easier to beat in a 3-0 win.
Sam Burgess filled in for Brocklebank and beat a winless Smith but couldn’t account for either Muggleton or Marshall.
The situation in the relegation battle has changed rapidly in the last three weeks.
Harborough Diamonds had looked as though they were easing away from Harborough Rovers but now the opposite is true due to poor results by the former and good ones for the latter.
During the cup week, Diamonds were catching up with a postponed match with Corby C.
Things did not go well for them despite having Steve Crook of the champions-elect team playing for them.
Crook could only beat Keith McLaren in a five-end win and that was the only point for the home team.
For Corby, Stephen Woolston was on form again beating Crook 11-8 in the fifth and Phil Dixon and Vaughan Allington in four and three ends respectively.
Rob Warrender also scored a treble, Phil Dixon did well but lost 11-9 in the fifth to Warrender and McClaren won his other two singles sets followed by a 3-0 doubles win for the visitors completing a 9-1 thrashing.
Following that match, Diamonds and Rovers were level on points from the same number of matches played and then they played each other in a crucial match and if either team could win by a clear margin it would give them a big advantage.
The Burgess brothers and Mark Pearson were all in form for Rovers with Sam Burgess getting a treble for the loss of two ends and Jamie Burgess and Pearson both getting a brace when beating David Coombs and Phil Dixon and losing to Vaughan Allington, who got a brace for Diamonds.
The Burgess brothers then teamed up to win the doubles and an 8-2 victory was an excellent result for them.
Meanwhile, Diamonds were playing another match with the same team at the same venue against bottom-placed Thrapston Harriers.
With Harriers only able to field two players Diamonds needed a big win.
But Alan Tyler was in superb form for Harriers, not losing an end to either Vaughan Allington or Phil Dixon and came from 2-0 down to beat Crook 11-9 in the fifth end.
Diamonds’ players all beat Mike Burrows and won the doubles for a 7-3 victory which was not really enough for their cause.
Diamonds are now on 53 points with three matches to play and Rovers on 52 points with four to go.
It has been agreed to have an award for the most improved junior this season and the two main contenders seem to be Harry Lade of Burton Baptist and Dan Bottrill of Corby.
Bottrill has improved his average in division two from 30 per cent last season to 75 per cent this time.
He has also played two matches in Division One winning four out of six and two matches in the Premier Division without winning any sets but winning an end against three players.
His latest match playing up was the most impressive against Thrapston Harriers.
Although they are bottom and are likely to be in the second division next season, Bottrill’s treble without losing an end was very impressive, especially against the in-form Alan Tyler who he only conceded 17 points to.
Tom Cardwell also played up from Division Two and did well when beating Keith Stockley 3-1 and Mike Burrows 3-0.
Harriers’ two points were scored by Tyler as he beat Cardwell and Stephen Woolston.
Results: Harborough Diamonds 1 (Crook) Corby C 9 (Warrender 3, Woolston 3, McClaren 2, Warrender/Woolston), Thrapston Falcons 7 (Payne 3, Baldock 2, Murray, Baldock/Payne) Westfield D 3 (Patal 2, Alder), Thrapston Kites 7 (Williams 3, Briggs, Judd, Williams/Briggs) Burton Baptist C 3 (Goodman 2, Simmons), Burton Baptist D 3 (Marshall 2, Muggleton) Harborough Rangers 7 (Burnham 3, Crook 2, Burgess, Crook/Burnham), Harborough Diamonds 2 (Allington 2) Harborough Rovers 8 (S.Burgess 3, J.Burgess 2, Pearson 2, S.Burgess/J.Burgess), Harborough Diamonds 7 (Allington 2, Crook 2, Dixon 2, Allington/Crook) Thrapston Harriers 3 (Tyler 3), Corby C 8 (Bottrill 3, Woolston 2, Cardwell 2, Woolston/Bottrill) Thrapston Harriers 2 (Tyler 2).
Player of the week: Dan Bottrill.
Fourth-placed Corby D overcame Rothborough Dakotas, the team just above them in Division Two, 6-4 with another maximum for Dan Bottrill - his ninth in a row.
He needed five ends to beat Pete Rowbotham in the last game but eventually contributed four points to the total.
The only other game to go beyond three was Lauren Ainsworth’s impressive victory over Tom Cardwell. Both of these players contributed a pair to their team’s total, with Rowbotham and Cathy Fleming adding one each.
Bottrill was at it again against Exocets, with Ken Murie adding a double for good measure and Nathan Brown scoring another singles and the doubles with Bottrill for their seven points.
Helmut Salander followed up last week’s excellent cup showing with another two here and one more for the reliable Tony Yeomans.
Exocets are pushing to overtake Burton in the table but Burton matched them in the best result of the week when they faced joint-leaders Comets, a team that beat them 10-0 in their previous two meetings this season.
At one stage it was 3-3 before the Rothborough outfit won all the remaining games.
For the home team, the man of the moment was Jon Sanders who, when he was two ends up over Martin Watts, was on for an excellent hat-trick but Watts pegged him back for his own maximum, then paired up with Pete Sturges, who had earlier got two, for the doubles.
The third 7-3 scoreline of the week also saw an excellent performance from a lower-placed team and again it was the most experienced player who showed the way, when Imps’ Ron Palfrey played his best match of the season in beating Pete Rowbotham in five ends, lost in five to Lauren Ainsworth, and then saw off the previously unbeaten Sean Smith in four ends.
John Carpenter got his second victory of the season to support Palfrey but they couldn’t team up for the doubles.
The only unbeaten player on the night was Ainsworth and her four points ensured Dakotas stay in third.
Buccaneers are now top on their own after a 10-0 defeat of Kettering Town B but again it was far from straightforward.
Half the games went beyond three ends and Jim Chatburn took both Ray Harrison and Luke Saywood the full distance before missing out.
Ann Woolston also put up a fight when losing in four to Saywood and Gareth Lewis.
Buccaneers take on Burton next week while Comets play club-mates Dakotas.
Results: Burton Baptist E 3 (Sanders 2, H Lade) Rothborough Comets 7 (Watts 3, Sturges 2, Linnett, Sturges/Watts), Corby D 6 (Bottrill 3, Cardwell 2, Bottrill/Brown) Rothborough Dakotas 4 (L Ainsworth 2, Fleming, Rowbotham), Kettering Town B 0 Rothborough Buccaneers 10 (Harrison 3, Lewis 3, Saywood 3, Harrison/Lewis), Rothborough Dakotas 7 (L Ainsworth 3, Smith 2, Rowbotham, L Ainsworth/Rowbotham) Harborough Imps 3 (Palfrey 2, Carpenter), Rothborough Exocets 3 (Salander 2, Yeomans) Corby D 7 (Bottrill 3, Murie 2, Brown, Bottrill/Brown).
Player of the week: Ron Palfrey.
Kettering & District Table Tennis League Team of the Week: Corby Town B.
Westfield C comfortably saw off their own D team 402-296 to secure a place in the semi-finals of the Wellingborough & District League’s Stanley L Hunt (Printers Ltd) Challenge Trophy.
Both teams started from scratch and it proved disastrous for the D side as Glen Morris went down 4-1 in all three games with Mark Ramsden doing likewise against Charlie Morrow.
Roger Ellingham was the hero for Wanderers D as he drew with Tony Wallis to help wrap up a 46-point success over their own C team.
The D side belied their lowly league position and games two and four were decisive as Carl Singh went down to both Graham Babbage and Ellingham.
Division Two champions WDHA Royals were impressive 52-point winners over Chesterwell B despite starting with a handicap of 120.
Craig Dilley and Luke Hughes were both well beaten by Rishan Patel and Mihir Mistry as those matches proved decisive.
Higham Band A suffered without cup hero Keith Stockley as Westfield E claimed a big 64-point victory to move into the semi-finals.