With two full weeks left of the season, Westfield A have been crowned Premier Division champions in the Kettering & District Table Tennis League following a 5-5 draw with Higham.
With Steve Silk unavailable through injury, Westfield called on the services of the enigmatic and flamboyant Matt Horrocks for this crucial match.
It was Roumen Stefanov, however, who was to be the key player for the champions in this clash as he recorded his 17th treble of the season with wins over Andy Harrison (3-1), Richard Bashford (3-0) and Richard Elliott (3-2).
Westfield’s captain and commander in chief Kevin Bird had a below par night with his single win coming against Harrison and with Horrock’s form being a bit too erratic, Westfiled trailed 5-4 going into the doubles encounter.
Bird and Stefanov are the reigning two-time Men’s Doubles Champions but in Elliott and Bashford they found themselves up against formidable opposition but it was the Westfield duo who eventually came out on top to secure the draw and ensure the champions remain undefeated this season.
Burton Baptist A have long been favourites to take the runners-up position.
However, their fortunes took a turn for the worse this week following a surprising 9-1 defeat to mid-table Westfield B.
Without their star players Dawid Przybysz and Chris Ross, this was always going to be a tough match but no-one would have expected the Baptist trio of Dariusz Gulbicki, Alex Aston and Jacek Koltuniuk to capitulate the way they did.
Only one encounter went the full distance and that was in match nine as Antonio Jaraices defeated Aston 11-8 in the decider to secure his hat-trick.
Just four of the other nine matches required an additional end as Nicole Bird joined Jaraices on the treble trail and Matt Rushton won twice but fell to defeat against Gulbicki.
This shock result has opened the door for Corby Town A and Kettering Town A to challenge Baptist A for second place and it was Corby who made the most of this opportunity with a 9-1 win over Harborough Athletic.
Lee O’Boyle and Henry Arthur both scored hat-tricks though both had to survive five-end matches.
O’Boyle came from 2-1 behind to defeat Nathan Thompson 3-2 and Arthur defeated Barry Thompson with a strange 13-11, 10-12, 11-1, 9-11, 11-1 scoreline.
Nathan Thompson picked up Harborough’s consolation point with a 3-2 win over Chris Haynes to leave Corby just six points behind Burton with two matches to play.
Kettering Town A ensured they will have a say on who finishes in the silver medal position with a 7-3 success over Burton Baptist B.
John Fuller again proved to be much too strong for his opponents and recorded another unbeaten performance.
However, his team-mates struggled to follow suit as Burton’s John Aberra picked up two points with wins over Brian Harradine and Mike Hawes, while Harradine also slipped to defeat against Jacek Koltuniuk.
Kettering find themselves two points behind Corby and eight points behind Burton Baptist A as the season rolls into it’s penultimate week.
Corby Town B, although still not mathematically safe from relegation, look to have secured their place in the Premier Division following a 7-3 success over Thrapston Eagles.
Aaron Moore has hit a rich vein of form in the final third of the season and recorded consecutive hat-tricks to boost his team’s performances.
He was pushed hard by Chris Warliker and Steve West, winning through 11-8 in the decider against both players before seeing off Mark Stockley 3-0.
Guy Sparrow added two further wins for Corby and Kyle Murie scored one victory.
Warliker was on good form for Eagles with a double and West also got on the scoresheet but Eagles relegation fate is now almost sealed and it will take a miracle for them to escape from the relegation trapdoor.
In a mid-table clash, the much improved Westfield C team recorded their fifth win from their last six matches when they defeated Arthingworth 7-3.
For Arthingworth, their form has gone the other way and they have scored just one win in their last six matches.
Dan Smalley was the maximum man for Westfield and with support from Sam Wildman (2) and Matt Horrocks.
Chris Gibbons, Ray Kingston and Gerald Henson all won once for Arthingworth.
Results: Westfield A 5 (Stefanov 3, K Bird, Stefanov/Bird) Higham 5 (Bashford 2, Elliott 2, Harrison), Westfield B 9 (N Bird 3, Jariaces 3, Rushton 2, Bird/Jaraices) Burton Baptist A 1 (Gulbicki), Corby Town A 9 (O’Boyle 3, Arthur 3, Haynes 2, Arthur/Haynes) Harborough Athletic 1 (N Thompson), Burton Baptist B 3 (Aberra 2, Koltuniuk) Kettering Town A 7 ( Fuller 3, Hawes 2, Harradine, Fuller/Hawes), Corby Town B 7 (Moore 3, Sparrow 2, Murie, Moore/Sparrow) Thrapston Eagles 3 (Warliker 2, West), Westfield C 7 (Smalley 3, Wildman 2, Horrocks, Wildman/Smalley) Arthingworth 3 (Gibbons, Kingston, Henson).
Player of the week: Aaron Moore.
With three matches to go it looked neck-and-neck between three teams for second place in Division One.
But following Thrapston Falcons’ best result of the season and indifferent results fromThrapston Kites and Rothborough Arrows, Falcons are now firm favourites with two matches remaining.
They are only two points ahead of Kites but have an easier run-in, having to play Harborough Rovers and Harborough Rangers compared to Kites having to face Rangers and Arrows.
The Falcons trio of Nigel Payne, Antony Marray and Ian Baldock were all on top form as they whitewashed sixth-placed Burton Baptist C 10-0.
Payne had to work the hardest for his treble, being taken to five ends by both Paul Goodman and David Simmons while Ian Baldock lost an end each to Chris Agg and Goodman.
Antony Marray only lost one end on the night to Agg while the doubles was a comfortable 3-0 win by Marray and Baldock.
The match between Harborough Rovers and Thrapston Kites was crucial for both sides with the former trying to avoid relegation and the latter trying to gain promotion.
The underdogs would have been the far happier with only a 6-4 defeat.
Sam Burgess has been a thorn in Kites’ side this season, playing them twice, once for Rangers and once for his own team Rovers and both times scoring a treble.
And following this latest hat-trick it looks possible that he has scuppered Kites’ chances of promotion while at the same time saving his own team from relegation.
Having said that, both Kites and Arrows still have a chance of second place as do Harborough Diamonds of staying up.
Sam was aided by brother Jamie Burgess’ single win over Judd 11-9 in the fifth end.
Rothborough Arrows’ promotion prospects perennially hinge on the availability of Julian Marlow.
With him not playing against eighth-placed Burton Baptist D the resulting 5-5 draw. which could otherwise have been an 8-2 win. leaves them six points behind Falcons and to have any chance of catching them they will surely need to be at full strength for both of their remaining matches against Diamonds and Kites.
For Arrows, Helen Watts was in dominant form, her treble coming for the loss of no ends.
Ivor Jones had a fifth-end win over Marshall but lost to Steve Smith and Derek Muggleton.
The promoted Luke Saywood has previously had success in Division One but this time could not add to the score.
With Burton 5-4 up going into the doubles, Watts and Jones won 11-9 in the fifth end.
An 8-2 win for Rangers over Diamonds puts them 14 points ahead of Falcons with two matches remaining and they can wrap up the title in the next round of matches if things go their way.
Liam Burnham and Mike Brocklebank got their expected trebles although Brocklebank had to come from 2-1 down to Dave Coombes before easing to victory with two 11-4s.
For Diamonds, Vaughan Allington and Coombes would have been pleased with their victories over Steve Crook and an 8-2 defeat would have been a decent result against the top team but for their rivals Rovers doubling their score against Kites.
As it is, Diamonds are one point behind Rovers who have three matches to play compared to Diamonds’ two.
With only two players, seventh-placed Corby C had little chance against fifth-placed Westfield D.
For Corby, Stephen Woolston continued his recent good form by beating Scott Dixon in five ends and junior Bhavika Mistry in four but Westfield’s Paul Malpass is also on good form and beat Woolston in four ends and Keith McLaren 3-0. Malpass is now unbeaten in his last three matches.
Dixon and Mistry both beat McLaren in four and five ends respectively before veterans Malpass and Dixon teamed up to win the doubles 3-0.
Results: Burton Baptist C 0 Thrapston Falcons 10 (Payne 3, Marray 3, Baldock 3, Marray/Baldock), Harborough Rovers 4 (S. Burgess 3, J.Burgess 1) Thrapston Kites 6 (Briggs 2, Williams 2, Judd 1, Briggs/Williams), Rothborough Arrows 5 (Watts 3, Jones, Watts/Jones) Burton Baptist D 5 (Muggleton 2, Smith 2, Marshall), Harborough Rangers 8 (Burnham 3, Brocklebank 3, Crook, Burnham/Brocklebank) Harborough Diamonds 2 (Coombes, Allington), Westfield D 8 (Malpass 3, Dixon 2, Mistry 2, Malpass/Dixon) Corby C 2 (Woolston 2).
Player of the week: Sam Burgess.
Buccaneers and Comets both showed little mercy to their rivals in Division Two as they secured 10-0 wins on adjacent tables at Montsaye.
Comets now need to win their game against Corby by four more points than Buccaneers score against Dakotas next week to win the title outright.
As there have only been three occasions this year when Buccaneers have failed to score seven in a match and the fact their two previous scores against Dakotas were 10-0 and 8-2, it is a big challenge.
Alan Brisley, Pete Sturges and Martin Watts were the successful Comets trio.
Six of the games went to four ends, none went beyond that and Brisley was the meanest, conceding only one end and Pete Rowbotham the hardest to beat as all of his went to four.
Tom Ravenscroft – still only beaten once all season – Ray Harrison and Gareth Lewis were the team steering Buccaneers closer to the title against Burton Baptist.
Seven of the first 10 ends finished 11-6 to the home team and there were only four games that went beyond three ends, three of these involved Harry Lade but that was as good as it got against the best team in the league.
Kettering B completed three victories over Exocets for the season but it was the narrowest victory so far.
Jim Chatburn and Barry Davis got a pair, both beating Sally Taylor and Tony Yeomans, and Ann Woolston beat Taylor although had to come from behind to win in five then Chatburn and Woolston ensured the win with the doubles.
Star man though was Helmut Salander whose third maximum of the season was against two players of higher ranking.
Another player on form was Imps’ David Patmore with a double including a win over Dan Bottrill who he beat 12-10 in the fifth – after two defeats to him this season - after starting the evening with a similar close victory over Nathan Brown.
That was to be sum total of the wins though as Corby took every other end with Ken Murie taking the honours with a straight-game hat-trick and, although he has played only a fifth of the matches Bottrill has played, he has the same 75 per cent success rate.
Certainties after the penultimate round of matches then are that Rothborough Dakotas will finish third, Corby D will finish fourth, Kettering Town B fifth and Harborough Imps will finish with the wooden spoon.
The winners will be between Rothborough Buccaneers, in pole position, and Comets and for Exocets to finish sixth, they need to do no worse than two less points than Burton Baptist D in the last match.
Results: Harborough Imps 2 (Patmore 2) Corby D 8 (Murie 3, Bottrill 2, Brown 2, Bottrill/Brown), Kettering Town B 6 (Chatburn 2, Davis 2, An Woolston, Chatburn/An Woolston)Rothborough Exocets 4 (Salander 3, Yeomans), Rothborough Buccaneers 10 (Harrison 3, Lewis 3, Ravenscroft 3, Harrison/Ravenscroft) Burton Baptist E 0, Rothborough Comets 10 (Brisley 3, Sturges 3, Watts 3, Brisley/Sturges) Rothborough Dakotas 0.
Player of the week: Helmut Salander.
KDTTL team of the week: Thrapston Falcons.