Westfield A require just one point from their final two games to retain their crown after a scintillating 8-2 win over Higham in the Premier Division of the Kettering & District Table Tennis League.
Kevin Bird was the hat trick hero although he was pushed to five games in two of his matches, with no fewer than six matches going the distance.
Pete Bannister fought off a fight from Nicole Bird to win in five with Richard Elliott’s nailbiting win over Roumen Stefanov accounting for Higham’s two points.
Richard Bashford was scoreless although he wasted a match point against Stefanov and led 2-0 against Kevin Bird before falling at the last.
Kettering Town A look nailed on for second after a 9-1 win at two-man Burton Baptist B.
Jacek Koltuniuk got the host’s only point with a four-game win over Mike Hawes, who held off a fightback from Asif Manji to make sure it didn’t end 8-2.
John Fuller and Nigel Metcalfe both claimed trebles, although Metcalfe was made to work hard before beating Koltuniuk in five.
Rothborough Arrows’ inevitable relegation was confirmed as they lost 7-3 to Burton Baptist A.
Alex Aston and Dariusz Gulbicki both hit maximums, although Gulbicki was taken the distance by Helen Watts.
Helen, Martin Watts and Julian Marlow all picked up solitary wins over the improving Ben Freeman, who made the big step up from Division Two side Team Jim.
Corby Smash continued their impressive debut season with a 6-4 win at Westfield B.
Sam Wildman, Matt Rushton and Dan Smalley all picked up wins over Adam Wilson with Wildman and Smalley adding the doubles.
Colin Wilson and Tony West were both undefeated, with both averaging well over 85 per cent for the season.
Results: Higham 2 (Elliott, Bannister) Westfield A 8 (K Bird 3, N Bird 2, Stefanov 2, Bird/Bird), Rothborough Arrows 3 (H Watts, M Watts, Marlow) Burton Baptist A 7 (Aston 3, Gulbicki 3, Aston/Gulbicki), Westfield B 4 (Wildman, Smalley, Rushton, Wildman/Smalley) Corby Smash 6 (C Wilson 3, West 3), Burton Baptist B 1 (Koltuniuk) Kettering Town A 9 (Fuller 3, Metcalfe 3, Hawes 2, Fuller/Hawes)
Team of the week: Westfield A
Player of the week: Kevin Bird
With two matches to go Thrapston Eagles have a ten point lead over Westfield C and look pretty much nailed on to win the Division One title.
For them not to do so they would have to score less than 10 points against Burton Baptist C and Harborough D when in the first half they scored 19 points against them.
Even if they only score nine points, Westfield C would still need 20 points against Burton Baptist D.
The more intriguing race is for second place between Westfield C and Harborough B as Westfield now only lead by three points.
This could get closer with Harborough having an easier penultimate match on paper against Rothborough Buccaneers who are tenth, while Westfield take on Burton Baptist D who are sixth – and the two teams play each other in the final week which looks like being a decider.
A repeat of the first half results would put Thrapston Eagles on 180 points, and Westfield C and Harborough B both on 163 points with Harborough ahead by virtue of one more win, however Westfield C had to make do without Steve Hobbs in that pre-Christmas clash which Harborough B won 6-4.
Thrapston Eagles beat Corby C 7-3 but the details were unknown when the report was written as the scorecard was late due to the bank holidays.
Westfield C would have hoped for a convincing victory when Thrapston Falcons turned up with only two players and neither of those was Ian Baldock.
However both Nigel Payne and Alan Tyler played above expectations and better than their rankings suggested as Payne inflicted only the third loss of the season on Steve Hobbs and they both beat Nitin Patel.
Then the pair teamed up to beat unbeaten in the singles Paul Malpass and Hobbs in the doubles 11-9 in the fifth game.
This means that despite starting effectively 0-3 down due to the lack of a third player they actually won 4-3 in sets played on the table making it a 6-4 win for Westfield C.
It was a similar story in the match between Harborough’s C and B sides as the C team had only two players and if each set had been won by the higher ranked player the B team would have won 9-1.
However Sam Burgess had other ideas beating Liam Burnham and Mike Brocklebank, ranked seven and six places above him, and Steve Crook who is one place below.
Mark Pearson was not able to trouble any of them though in either singles or doubles meaning a 7-3 result in favour of the B team.
A good team performance gave fifth-placed Thrapston Kites a 8-2 victory over Burton Baptist C who are only two places below them in seventh.
Peter Briggs got a treble and both Stewart Williams and Geoff Judd got a brace before Briggs and Williams won the doubles.
The player closest to beating Briggs was Division Two’s Harry Lade.
In a see-saw battle Lade led 2-1 in games before Briggs led 5-1 and 10-8 in the decider, only for Lade to fight back before Briggs eventually won 15-13.
Lade was unluckily the only person not to get a win as he also went down 7-11 in the decider to Judd.
The two points for Burton were convincing 3-0 victories for Kelvin Marshall over Williams and David Simmons over Judd.
The third instance of a two-player team doing better than expected was bottom markers Rothborough Comets against second to bottom Harborough D.
Rhys Emery played for Harborough D and he is a class above the other four players on show so he unsurprisingly beat both Kelvin Linnett and Lauren Ainsworth 3-0, however Ainsworth beat both Vaughan Allington and Phil Dixon.
She then teamed up with a previously winless Linnett to beat the same two players in the doubles, the 7-3 scoreline being one of Comets better losses this season.
Rothborough Buccaneers were weakened without Sean Smith and Gareth Jones for their clash with Burton Baptist D.
The only surprising result was a 3-0 win for Ivor Jones over Derek Muggleton but Muggleton recovered for a brace and with Steve Smith and Chris Agg collecting trebles plus the doubles the result was 9-1 to Burton.
This means Buccaneers are only 2 points above Harborough D and in theory the relegation zone, depending on league formation.
However the remaining fixtures look much easier for Buccaneers as Harborough D have tough matches against Thrapston Kites and Thrapston Eagles, whereas Buccaneers have a tough match against Harborough B and one they will expect to win against Rothborough Comets.
A repeat of the first half results would see Buccaneers leading Harborough D by nine points.
Results: Thrapston Eagles 7 Corby C 3, Westfield C 6 (Malpass 3, Hobbs 2, Patel) Thrapston Falcons 4 (Payne 2, Tyler, Payne/Tyler), Harborough C 3 (S Burgess 3) Harborough B 7 (Burnham 2, Brocklebank 2, Crook 2, Brocklebank/Crook), Burton Baptist C 2 (Marshall, Simmons) Thrapston Kites 8 (Briggs 3, Williams 2, Judd 2, Williams/Briggs), Harborough D 7 (Emery 3, Allington 2, Dixon 2) Rothborough Comets 3 (Ainsworth 2, Ainsworth/Linnett), Rothborough Buccaneers 1 (Jones) Burton Baptist D 9 (Smith 3, Agg 3, Muggleton 2, Agg/Smith)
Team of the week: Thrapston Kites
Player of the week: Sam Burgess
With one game to play Burton Baptist Team Jim gained promotion from Division Two after their 9-1 defeat of Westfield D.
Only Corby E can dethrone them, so depending on the late result from the Corby against Kettering Town B match they need a maximum of five points to ensure they are champions, however they play Dakotas who they lost to last time and Corby play Exocets who they beat 10-0.
This week Harry Lade beat Sidney Wright for the first time this season on his way to his eleventh maximum, dad Bryan Lade got his third hat trick and only Wright denied Ben Freeman in the last singles of the night.
Westfield will finish with the wooden spoon but their regular players have served them well, with Wright gaining more than half of their points, Evie Elliott having played every match with regular successes throughout the season and Bronwen Grigg has only missed one match and stuck to her task well.
Rothborough Dakotas have been in the top two every week bar one, but they could finish second, third or fourth depending on results.
This is because they were beaten 7-3 by fourth-placed Harborough E who could also finish in any of those places.
Ben Baker demonstrated his improvement by gaining a very impressive maximum, previously having registered no wins against them.
He was two up against Pete Rowbotham before rebuffing the fightback, but was two down to David Steele before taking it 15-13 at the death.
Unusually for Harborough, Baker and John McGowan – the other maximum man – lost the doubles to give Rowbotham and Steele another point to go with their lone singles victories.
Old Village have continued their impressive rise, from seventh in week nine to a comfortable fifth to end the season, and they beat Exocets 8-2 in their last home game.
Beth Tyler and Mike Burrows got their customary trebles to maintain their 80 per cent plus averages, although Tyler was stretched in the initial match by Helmut Salander.
They were both stretched by Lee Mordecai and Sally Taylor – who both gained singles successes – in the doubles to finish 13-15, 12-10 in the fourth and fifth ends respectively.
Results: Old Village 8 (Burrows 3, Tyler 3, Bryant, Burrows/Tyler) Rothborough Exocets 2 (Mordecai, Taylor), Rothborough Dakotas 3 (Rowbotham, Steele, Rowbotham/Steele) Harborough E 7 (Baker 3, McGowan 3, Palfrey), Westfield D 1 (Wright) Burton Baptist Team Jim 9 (B Lade 3, H Lade 3, Freeman 2, Lade/Lade)
Player of the week: Ben Baker
Team of the week: Harborough E