With only four weeks left to play in the regular season in Division One of the Kettering & District Table Tennis League, Thrapston Eagles look almost certain to return to the Premier Division after last season’s relegation.
The battle for the second promotion place now seems to be a straight fight between Corby Town C and Rothborough Arrows, although both teams could still overhaul Eagles.
The Corby trio of Stephen Woolston, Nigel Hunt and Kyle Murie have hit a rich vein of form and this was on show as they overcame Thrapston Falcons 10-0.
Three matches needed a deciding end and Anthony Marray was involved in two of those but with no reward, with the closest finish being Nigel Hunt’s 17-15 fifth-end win over Nigel Payne.
Arrows ensured that they stayed in the promotion mix with a 7-3 win over Thrapston Kites.
Helen Watts and Julian Marlow were unbeaten in singles and doubles with Watts particularly impressive but Kites’ Pete Briggs, Geoff Judd and Paul Goodman all saw off David Steele. For Arrows, Marlow’s availability could be a decisive factor in the promotion race.
Leaders Eagles kept up their good form with an 8-2 win over Rothborough Buccaneers.
Steve West was the main man for Eagles with a maximum but Chris Warliker and Ian Donaldson both suffered defeat against an inspired Luke Saywood.
With Donaldson being ranked 23 places ahead of Saywood and Warliker ranked 34 places ahead, it was a very impressive performance from the Buccaneers player.
In the all-Harborough clash, Rangers and Diamonds played out a closely-fought match and it was no surprise that it finished in a 5-5 draw.
Rangers led 5-2 after Liam Burnham and Steve Crook had both won twice and Vaughan Allington once but Diamonds ensured parity with Dave Coombs and Mike Brocklebank winning the last two singles matches before combining to take the doubles.
Results: Corby Town C 10 (Murie 3, Woolston 3, Hunt 3, Woolston/Murie) Thrapston Falcons 0, Thraspton Kites 3 (Briggs, Goodman, Judd) Rothborough Arrows 7 (H Watts 3, Marlow 3, Watts/Marlow), Thrapston Eagles 8 (West 3, Warliker 2, Donaldson 2, Warliker/Donaldson) Rothborough Buccaneers 2 (Saywood 2), Harborough Rangers 5 (Burnham 2, Crook 2, Allington) Harborough Diamonds 5 (Coombs 2, Brocklebank 2, Coombs/Brocklebank).
With three teams battling to avoid relegation from the Premier Division, it was Corby Town B who were the big winners this week, following up the 5-5 draw with Westfield C with an 8-2 victory at Arthingworth.
After being a bit-part player for several years due to work commitments, Michael Clarke is starting to show his true form and recorded his third hat-trick of the season, dropping just two ends in the process.
Skipper Aaron Moore made only his seventh appearance of the season but won twice.
Kyle Murie displayed further signs of his development as he matched his skipper’s endeavours but both Corby men were to lose out to Gerald Henson.
Finally a Moore/Clarke doubles win in five ends confirmed Corby’s first win of the season against an Arthingworth side missing the services of the dependable Chris Gibbons.
Burton Baptist B’s chances of avoiding relegation have been given a massive boost with the news that Dawid Przybysz has rejoined the club just days before the ‘transfer window’ closed.
Although short of match practice, his display for Burton in their match against high-flying Higham suggests that he could be the deciding factor in the engrossing relegation fight.
After losing his first match in straight ends to Richard Elliott, he returned to the table to defeat Mark Nannery in four ends and then came back from 2-0 to beat Andy Harrison in the decider. Jacek Koltuniuk gained a creditable success over Nannery but with Elliott unbeaten, Higham ran out 7-3 victors.
With Corby Town B showing improved form, and Burton’s survival hopes boosted with Przybysz’ return, Harborough Athletic could have done with an easier fixture then a match against the unbeaten league leaders, Westfield A.
Kevin Bird, Roumen Stefanov and Steve Silk were pretty much untroubled as they ran out 10-0 winners, though Nathan Thompson put up a brave battle in losing 13-15, 14-16, 7-11 to the league’s top player Silk.
Burton Baptist A lost ground on the leaders despite a 7-3 success over Westfield B.
Brian Wooding proved to the stumbling block for Baptist, edging out Alex Aston 11-9 in the decider in the opening match of the night, then defeating Dariusz Gulbicki in straight ends before narrowly losing 11-8 in the decider to Chris Ross. Finally, he teamed up with Steve Hobbs to take the doubles against Gulbicki and Ross.
Corby Town A recorded an excellent 9-1 victory over Westfield C with Chris Haynes and Henry Arthur both recording their second hat-tricks of the season.
Haynes dropped just two ends but Arthur had to fight harder for his treble which was only achieved after turning round a 2-0 deficit against Dan Smalley. With the match score standing at 8-0, Nicole Bird found her best form to defeat Lee O’Boyle before Haynes and Arthur completed the scoring by taking the doubles.
Results: Arthingworth 2 (Henson 2) Corby Town B 8 (Clarke 3, Moore 2, Murie 2, Clarke/Moore), Higham 7 (Elliott 3, Harrison 2, Nannery, Elliott/Harrison) Burton Baptist B 3 (Przybysz 2, Koltuniuk), Harborough Athletic 0 Westfield A 10 (K Bird 3, Stefanov 3, Silk 3, Bird/Stefanov), Burton Baptist A 7 (Ross 3, Gulbicki 2, Aston 2) Westfield B 3 (Wooding 2, Hobbs/Wooding), Westfield C 1 (N Bird) Corby Town A 9 (Haynes 3, Arthur 3, O’Boyle 2, Haynes/Arthur).
A complete overturn of the previous result saw Dakotas, fifth in the table, beat third-placed Comets 7-3 in Division Two.
With Sean Smith replacing Will Ravenscroft as the only change in personnel from that match, it transformed the result.
Tom Ravenscroft repeated his hat-trick but was matched by Smith and they also took the doubles on a wonderful night for them.
In the process, Gareth Lewis, who had previously lost only twice all season, lost twice in one night, and suffered only his second doubles defeat of the season, and therefore loses his place at the top of the divisional averages.
Club colleagues Exocets, however, retained their fourth position with a comfortable defeat of Harborough Imps.
Ray Harrison was untroubled, with 12 straight winning ends and avenging an earlier defeat by Jamie Burgess, and Helmut Salander was unlucky to miss out on his maximum in a 13-15 fifth-end loss to Burgess.
Burgess also needed to come from two ends down to beat the otherwise unlucky Lee Mordecai, who also lost at the death to David Patmore.
It was a brief match when Burton visited Gladiators, as the Rothborough outfit were without the services of the absent Sally Taylor, and only one game went beyond the bare minimum ends.
Otherwise the players and the result were exactly the same as the previous match, with Tony Yeomans beating Nick Loake for Gladiators only point, but Jon Sanders and Kelvin Marshall had perfect nights winning all of their games in straight ends.
At Corby, Dan Bottrill keeps his improvement on the fast track as he beat another two players higher than him in the rankings – Ann and Alan Woolston – the latter 26 places higher.
Nathan Brown is also putting some improved performances in as he also took an end off Ann Woolston. Kettering B won the game 8-2 though with Jim Chatburn remaining steadfast for his second hat-trick in his last three outings.
Another man beating higher ranked players in defeat was Pete Rowbotham when his Phantoms team took on second-placed Harriers.
He won the first and last singles matches against Paul Blantern and Mike Burrows respectively and took an end in defeat in the doubles and against the consistent Alan Tyler, who got his customary treble.
Despite Rowbotham’s success, Phantoms drop a place with Kettering’s comprehensive win, and Harriers keep up the pressure on Burton Baptist, who play Comets next match.
Results: Corby E 2 (D Bottrill 2) Kettering Town B 8 (Chatburn 3, Al Woolston 2, An Woolston 2, Chatburn/Al Woolston), Rothborough Dakotas 7 (T Ravenscroft 3, Smith 3, T Ravenscroft/Smith) Rothborough Comets 3 (Lewis, Linnett, Sturges), Rothborough Exocets 7 (Harrison 3, Salander 2, Mordecai, Harrison/Mordecai) Harborough Imps 3 (Burgess 2, Patmore), Rothborough Gladiators 1 (Yeomans) Burton Baptist D 9 (Marshall 3, Sanders 3, Loake 2, Marshall/Sanders), Rothborough Phantoms 2 (Rowbotham 2) Thrapston Harriers 8 (A Tyler 3, Blantern 2, Burrows 2, Blantern/A Tyler).
Players of the week: Sean Smith, Luke Saywood, Kyle Murie.
Teams of the week: Rothborough Dakotas, Corby Town B.
The annual Kettering & District Table Tennis League Closed Tournament is being held at Westfield Table Tennis Club on Saturday, March 8.
Entry forms will be emailed to team captains shortly and are available online. The closing date for entry is Monday, February 24.