The Kettering and District Table Tennis League entered the final week of the season with the Premier Division and Division Two titles already decided, and so all eyes were on the Division One title race with Westfield C and Corby Town B both looking to take the title.
Westfield C were the first to play but were up against tough opponents in the guise of third placed Rothborough Arrows, represented by the prolific Julian Marlow, the consistent Helen Watts David Steele, the former Northants and England cricketer and winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 1975.
Westfield were looking to get off to a good start but Arrows had different ideas and went 2-0 ahead with Steele defeating Paul Malpass and then Watts seeing off Tom Wildman. It was not looking good for Westfield and when Marlow opened up a 2-0 lead over Nicole Bird, Westfield’s title challenge seemed to be fading rapidly. However, the Wellingborough youngster dug deep and fought back to win 9-11, 3-11, 11-7, 11-8 11-6. The next four matches were shared with Watts easily defeating Malpass, Steele losing to Bird, Marlow beating Wildman and then Bird winning the battle of the ladies with a 11-9, 11-8, 8-11, 9-11, 11-8 success over Watts. Marlow picked up his second win of the night when he defeated Malpass to put Arrows 5-3 ahead, Wildman then got the better of Steele to give Westfield hope of salvaging a draw but Arrows completed an excellent night’s work when Watts and Marlow teamed up to beat Westfield pair off Wildman/Bird and complete a 6-4 victory.
This result meant that Corby Town B required four points to take the title as they faced up to fourth placed Harborough Rangers. Rangers were missing their regular three players and so drafted in Steve Crook, Mark Pearson and the highly talented 14 year old Ben Tombs. Corby’s captain Aaron Moore went into the match knowing that a hat-trick would see him crowned as the Division’s top player.
Tombs gave Rangers the lead with a win in four ends over Rob Warrander but there was to be no further nervous moments for Moore’s team as they won the next five matches to confirm that the title would be heading to Corby, with Warrander being the man to confirm the title when he saw off Pearson in straight games. Moore’s battle to take the individual award was going well; a close, straight games win over Crook was followed up by an excellent 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-9 success over Tombs. However, a shock was on the cards as, in his final match of the season, Moore fell to a 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 5-11, 8-11 defeat to Pearson and so lost out on top spot, which instead went to Chris Haynes of Corby Town C. Warrander and Stephen Woolston have both had successful seasons, giving solid support to Moore, and they both won twice before teaming up to take the doubles to complete a 7-3 win.
Corby Town C finished their season with an 8-2 win over Harborough Diamonds. Chris Haynes hat-trick, in connection with Moore’s defeat to Pearson, gave him top spot in the Divisional averages in his first season in the Kettering League. Ryan Cassidy and Kyle Murie have shown significant progress over the season and both recorded another two wins each.
Thrapston Kites played two matches on the same night and came away with two comprehensive wins. Against Rothborough Buccaneers, Geoff Judd was the star man with a hat-trick and a doubles win with Pete Briggs as Buccaneers were defeated 7-3. But against Burton Baptist D, Judd could only manage to pick up one win, and it was Briggs and Paul Goodman who recorded hat-tricks before teaming up to take the doubles for an 8-2 success.
Burton Baptist D had also played the night before but found the going just as tough as they went down 9-1 to Arrows. David Steele and Helen Watts were both unbeaten, but Martin Watts missed out as he lost in five ends to James Young.
Burton Baptist C completed their campaign with a 7-3 win at Thrapston Falcons. Chris Agg, Derek Muggleton and Steve Smith all won twice for Baptists, with the Falcons trio of Alan Tyler, Nigel Payne and Anthony Marray all picking up a single win apiece.
Results: Rothborough Arrows 6 (Marlow 2, Watts 2, Steele, Marlow/Watts) Westfield C 4 (Bird 3, Wildman), Corby Town B 7 (Warrander 2, Moore 2, Woolston 2, Warrander/Woolston) Harborough Rangers 3 (Tombs 2, Pearson), Harborough Diamonds 2 (Crook 2), Corby Town C 8 (Haynes 3, Cassidy 2, Murie 2, Haynes/Cassidy), Thrapston Kites 7 (Judd 3, Briggs 2, Goodman, Judd/Briggs) Rothborough Buccaneers 3 (Saywood 2, Ravenscroft), Thrapston Kites 8 (Briggs 3, Goodman 3, Judd, Briggs/Goodman) Burton Baptist D 2 (Sutcliffe, Marshall), Burton Baptist D 1 (Young) Rothborough Arrows 9 (H Watts 3, Steele 3, M Watts 2, Watts/Watts), Thrapston Falcons 3 (Tyler, Payne, Marray) Burton Baptist C 7 (Agg 2, Muggleton 2, Smith 2, Smith/Muggleton).
Champions Westfield A completed their Premier Division season in style with a 9-1 win over Westfield B.
Kevin Bird and Roumen Stefanov shared seven wins between them and Nicole Bird won twice. Brian Wooding prevented the whitewash with a four end win over Miss Bird.
Mick Allsopp was reinstalled into the Harborough Athletic team and duly recorded a hat-trick as they defeated Thrapston SAS 9-1. Barry Thompson was also unbeaten but Kevin Shield lost to Steve West as SAS made an immediate return to Division One.
Kettering Town A’s season has been badly hampered by player availability but they gave a glimpse of what they can achieve with a full strength side in their match against third placed Burton Baptist C. The big match of the night was between John Fuller and Chris Ross. These two have had many titanic matches down the years and this one was no different. Ross opened up with a 12-10 win. Fuller responded to take the second end 11-9. Ross went 2-1 ahead with an 11-4 game only for Fuller to take the match to a deciding end with an 11-7 game. Finally Fuller’s defensive game overcame Ross’ attacking style to take the win by virtue of an 11-7 game. Fuller went on to record a hat-trick but two wins for Ross and Alex Aston, and a single from Dariusz Gulbicki gave Baptists the lead and the 6-4 success was completed when Ross and Gulbicki took the doubles.
Higham Band completed their season with a 10-0 whitewash of Thrapston Eagles, with Richard Elliott, Andy Harrison and Mark Nannery all unbeaten. The Higham Band team are moving to a different venue next season so it was a fitting way to end their many years of association at the club where they have had many successful seasons winning numerous cups and league titles.
Tom Wildman stepped up from the first division to record a hat-trick for Westfield B in their 7-3 victory over Burton Baptist B. Steve Hobbs and Scott Dixon picked up two wins each with Baptist’s points coming from Asif Manji and Jacek Koltuniuk.
Corby Town A finished their season with an 8-2 victory over Arthingworth. Aiden Smith and Lee O’Boyle both recorded trebles and Henry Arthur won twice, with Arthingworth’s reply coming from Chris Gibbons and a doubles win for Gibbons and Gerald Henson.
Results: Westfield B 1 (Wooding) Westfield A 9 (K Bird 3, Stefanov 3, N Bird 2, Stefanov/K Bird), Harborough Athletic 9 (Thompson 3, Allsopp 3, Shield 2, Thompson/Shield) Thrapston SAS 1 (West), Kettering Town A 4 (Fuller 3, Harradine) Burton Baptist A 6 (Ross 2, Aston 2, Gulbicki, Ross/Gulbicki), Higham Band 10 (Elliott 3, Harrison 3, Nannery 3, Harrison/Nannery) Thrapston Eagles 0, Burton Baptist B 3 (Manji, Koltuniuk, Manji/Koltuniuk) Westfield B 7 (Wildman 3, Hobbs 2, Dixon 2), Corby Town A 8 (Smith 3, O’Boyle 3, Arthur 2) Arthingworth 2 (Gibbons, Henson/Gibbons).
In Division Two, Rothborough Exocets signed off their season in style when they won the last three games, the last two from two ends down, to force a very creditable draw against Corby D who secured second place in the process. In one of the matches where nobody dominated and everybody achieved something, Lauren Ainsworth was the stand-out performer. In fifth end defeats of John Hunt and Keith McLaren she helped avenge her team’s previous whitewash and only lost to Stewart Abraham in an unusual sole victory for him. In fact, all five wins for Exocets were in the five games that went the full distance including only the third doubles defeat for Corby, where Ainsworth again and Will Ravenscroft took the honours.
Champions Comets also had a tight match where only two games were over in the shortest time, but compassion was in short supply as they still beat club mates Dakotas 9-1. Pete Rowbotham’s face-saving victory over Pete Sturges after a close defeat to David Simmons and nearly forcing the unbeaten Comets duo to their first defeat, was scant reward as Ivor Jones, Simmons and Sturges did what they have done all season and gained a substantial victory to celebrate their championship win.
Harborough Imps second maximum victory of the season came at the expense of unlucky Gladiators; Mark Pearson, Jamie Burgess and Rhys Emery were too strong and as a result leap-frogged Phantoms in the final table. They have now won exactly half of their doubles and just over half of their games in total and finished half way up/down the table.
Burton Baptist’s first draw of the season was Thrapston Hawks’ fourth but it needed a strong finish by the home team at John Yeoman’s Hall to prevent the defeat. Alfie Wright won all three singles but needed five ends to beat Nick Loake, who was just denied his second hat-trick of the season. Wright then teamed up with seasonal debutant Tom Warliker to take the doubles to a deciding end but Burton triumphed and ensured the stalemate. Warliker was particularly unlucky against Loake as he reached at least 11 in four ends but still lost.
Harriers handsome revenge win over Phantoms took them into a comfortable fourth place in the table. Mike Burrows and Paul Blantern were serene in their progress, Beth Tyler had it a bit harder and did succumb in a long game to Anthony Yeomans but came from behind to beat Helmut Salander –both results reversed from the earlier match - to get a valuable double and push her seasons win percentage over 50 per cent.
Results: Burton Baptist E 5 (Loake 2, Young 2, McNeely/Young) Thrapston Hawks 5 (A Wright 3, Kent, Warliker): Rothborough Comets 9 (Jones 3, Simmons 3, Sturges 2, Simmons/Sturges) Rothborough Dakotas 1 (Rowbotham): Rothborough Exocets 5 (L Ainsworth 2, Ravenscroft, Smith, L Ainsworth/Ravenscroft) Corby D 5 (Hunt 2, McLaren 2, Abraham): Rothborough Gladiators 0 Harborough Imps 10 (Burgess 3, Emery 3, Pearson 3, Burgess/Emery), Thrapston Harriers 9 (Blantern 3, Burrows 3, B Tyler 2, Blantern/Burrows) Rothborough Phantoms 1 (Yeomans).
Player of the week – Lauren Ainsworth.
Team of the week – Rothborough Exocets.