Harborough Rangers shortened their odds of winning the Kettering & District Table Tennis Division One title with a commanding 9-1 victory over struggling club-mates Harborough Rovers.
The scoreline was a repeat of the previous fixture, the only difference being that Sam Burgess replaced Mark Pearson as the victor over Steve Crook.
Burgess also did well to go 2-1 up on Liam Burnham before the favourite came back to win in five ends while Burgess was the only one to win an end against Mike Brocklebank.
Rangers now lead Thrapston Kites by 12 points while Rovers are third-from-bottom.
A one-sided contest was expected when Kites met Burton Baptist D but what transpired was quite the opposite.
The match was locked at 3-3 late on in the night after no less than six out of the 10 sets went to five ends and three went to four.
Steve Smith got his team off to a good start with a 13-11 verdict over Peter Briggs before losing 11-9 to Stewart Williams before his 12-10 win over Geoff Judd made the score 4-4.
Despite Williams’ apparent nerves, he appeared to perform better when under pressure as he won all of his sets in deciding ends.
Brett Owen recovered from being 11-6, 11-6, 8-1 down to Judd to record a victory in five while Kelvin Marshall beat Judd in four.
Briggs beat Owen to make it 5-4 to Kites and they won the doubled 3-0 to edge home 6-4 victors.
With Rothborough Arrows’ Helen Watts and Julian Marlow hard to beat, the opposition generally have to make do with the scraps left by Ivor Jones.
With Jones beating Chris Agg 3-2, Arrows raced into a 5-0 lead over Burton Baptist C.
Paul Goodman got his team off the mark with a 13-11 decider over Jones before Darryl Sutcliffe doubled their points by beating the same player.
Sutcliffe and Goodman did put pressure on Watts and Marlow, winning five ends over those four, but Arrows secured an 8-2 success.
Considering bottom team Thrapston Harriers could only put two players out against fifth-placed Westfield D, the 8-2 beating could have been worse for them.
Mike Burrows claimed a surprising fifth-end win over Westfield’s Bhavika Mistry and Westfield’s Scott Dixon continued his disappointing season when he lose in five to Alan Tyler.
However, Paul Malpass didn’t lose an end for the winners.
Results: Harborough Rovers 1 (S. Burgess) Harborough Rangers 9 (Burnham 3, Brocklebank 3, Crook 2, Crock/Burnham), Thrapston Kites 6 (Williams 3, Briggs 2, Briggs/Williams) Burton Baptist D 4 (Smith 2,/Owen,Marshall), Burton Baptist C 2 (Sutcliffe,Goodman) Rothborough Arrows 8 (Marlow 3, Watts 3, Jones, Marlow/Watts), Westfield D 8 (Malpass 3, Dixon 2, Mistry 2, Malpass/Dixon) Thrapston Harriers 2 (Burrows,Tyler).
Player of the week: Steve Smith.
Although there are still eight weeks left of the league season in the Premier Division, it would already appear that three of the four important positions have been finalised.
Reigning champions Westfield A sit at the top of the table and with a 16-point lead over second-placed Burton Baptist A.
Having taken 126 points out of a possible 140, it would take a monumental loss of form to prevent the Wellingborough side taking the crown for the third consecutive year.
As for the Baptists, it looks very likely that they will have improved on their two consecutive third-placed finishes as they currently sit in the runners-up spot with a healthy 14-point lead over third-placed Corby Town A.
At the other end of the table, Thrapston Eagles look certain to be relegated back to Division One after just one season in the top flight having scored a meagre 17 points all season, leaving them 18 from safety.
It is the battle to avoid the second relegation spot that is the most intriguing aspect in this division as the end of the season starts to loom.
Harborough Athletic (34 points), Burton Baptist B (35) and Corby Town B (40) all have high hopes of keeping their place amongst the elite and it will be fascinating to see which one of these three teams ultimately face the heartbreak of relegation.
Corby Town B have a slight advantage over the other two but found the going tough against their own A team.
Chris Haynes in particular was not in the mood to help out his club colleagues. He quickly recorded a straight games hat-trick.
Lee O’Boyle wasn’t far behind his captain, dropping just two ends as he also recorded a treble.
Guy Sparrow prevented the whitewash when he defeated Henry Arthur but the 9-1 defeat for the B team means they are still very much involved in the relegation battle.
Harborough Athletic played host to Arthingworth and put up a superb fight before ultimately going down to an 8-2 defeat.
Only two of the 10 matches were won by the short route, with four of them going the full distance.
However, after a battling performance, a single win for Nathan Thompson over Gerald Henson and then a doubles win for the Thompson father and son pairing over Ray Kingston and Chris Gibbons was all Harborough could show for their efforts.
Burton Baptist B edged themselves one point ahead of Harborough and out of the final relegation spot despite their 7-3 loss to Westfield B.
Nicole Bird and Sam Wildman both recorded comfortable trebles for Westfield before teaming up to win the doubles encounter but Scott Dixon, playing up from Division One, couldn’t add to his team-mates’ successes.
Jacek Koltuniuk, Nash Hooda and John Aberra all scored wins over Dixon, with Aberra having the closest scare as he recovered from 2-1 down to win in five ends.
The big match at the top end of the division was the game between Kettering Town A and Higham.
Going into the match, Higham had a four-point lead over their opponents and a close score was expected. However, Kettering were to dominate the match to record an impressive 8-2 win.
John Fuller was again key to Kettering’s fortunes. His treble included straight-games wins over Richard Bashford and Andy Harrison but he was made to work hard by Richard Elliott before easing through 11-7 in the decider.
Fuller’s hat-trick was probably expected but Nigel Metcalfe’s was probably a little bit more surprising.
He gained a 3-0 win over Bashford and a 3-1 victory against Harrison but it was his 3-2 success over the luckless Elliott that would probably be the shock result of the week in this division.
Mike Hawes scored a single win with victory over Bashford and then teamed up with Metcalfe for a 3-2 doubles win over Elliott and Bashford as Kettering leapfrogged ahead of their vanquished opponents in the league table.
The top two teams both recorded convincing wins.
Westfield A were 9-1 victors over Westfield C. Kevin Bird, Roumen Stefanov and Steve Silk were all in mercurial form in singles competition but for the second week on the trot, Bird and Stefanov tasted defeat in the doubles encounter.
Burton Baptist A secured the expected big win against Thrapston Eagles.
Dariusz Gulbicki, Dawid Przybysz and Alex Aston were all unbeaten though Aston had to come through a tough five-set match with Mark Stockley.
Gulbicki and Aston completed the 10-0 win with a 3-0 win over Stockley and Chris Warliker in the doubles.
Results: Corby Town B 1 (Sparrow) Corby Town A 9 (Haynes 3, O’Boyle3, Arthur 2, Haynes/Arthur), Harborough Athletic 2 (N Thompson, Thompson/Thompson) Arthingworth 8 (Gibbons 3, Kingston 3, Henson 2), Burton Baptist B 3 (Aberra, koltuniuk, Hooda) Westfield B 7 (N Bird 3, Wildman 3, Bird/Wildman), Kettering Town A 8 (Metcalfe 3, Fuller 3, Hawes, Metcalfe/Hawes) Higham 2 (Elliott, Harrison), Westfield C 1 (Horrocks/Smalley) Westfield A 9 (K Bird 3, Silk 3, Stefanov 3), Thrapston Eagles 0 Burton Baptist A 10 (Gulbicki 3, Aston 3, Przybysz 3, Gulbicki/Aston).
Player of the week: Nigel Metcalfe.
This week marks the end of the second part of this three-part season for Division Two and it looks like a Rothborough B, C, D finish but Dakotas needed good results against their competitors to make changes likely.
Comets defeated two-man Corby D 8-2 but the duo of Dan Bottrill and John Hunt both beat Kelvin Linnett and Bottrill nearly beat Pete Sturges until the latter player recovered from two down.
Sturges returned to form and returned a treble, and he allied with the other maximum man Martin Watts for the doubles too.
Dakotas have lost only two matches all season until the last two which were both lost 8-2 against the top two teams but both of these were improved on their earlier matches.
Against Comets, Pete Rowbotham and Lauren Ainsworth were the successful players, both beating Pete Sturges.
Cathy Fleming only just lost to Alan Brisley in her first game but Brisley ensured his treble as did Martin Watts who both remain at over 90 per cent for their winning percentage.
Against leaders Buccaneers, it was Fleming and Rowbotham who gained a point, both against last week’s hat-trick hero Gareth Lewis.
Ainsworth’s game against Lewis was most notable for the highest aggregate score of the season in the division when she won 22-20.
Otherwise Buccaneers’ Ray Harrison and Tom Ravenscroft lost only five ends all night including the doubles.
They also have 90 per cent winning percentages, these four mentioned above the only ones with this impressive record. Thus after these results the upper table remains unchanged with Buccaneers and Comets firming up their promotion places.
Towards the bottom end, Kettering Town B had an improved win over Burton E when Nick Loake prevented the whitewash.
There was only one player the same in each team from the earlier 6-4 victory and Pete Scrivener duly repeated his maximum, his fourth of the season.
He was matched on this occasion by Jim Chatburn’s second treble and Ann Woolston was only denied the same by Loake in the only singles game to go the distance.
The two least successful Burton players, Jim McNeely and Jacob Tattersall, took on the most successful Kettering pair and very nearly forced an unlikely comeback, just to fail at the fifth end.
But the team of the week was Harborough Imps as they secured their first win of the season, an impressive 7-3 scoreline over Rothborough Exocets who had almost twice the number of points before the game started.
David Patmore was the man of the match, only needing five ends against Sally Taylor when he came from two down to win and so obtaining his first hat-trick of the season.
He was ably supported by Ron Palfrey who so nearly matched the maximum when he lost at the last gasp against Tony Yeomans.
Palfrey and Patmore also gained the doubles and Ian Lauder his second victory of the campaign to make it a real team effort.
Results: Kettering Town B 9 (Chatburn 3, Scrivener 3, An Woolston 2, Chatburn/Scrivener) Burton Baptist E 1 (Loake), Rothborough Comets 8 (Sturges 3, Watts 3, Linnett, Sturges/Watts) Corby D 2 (Bottrill, Hunt), Rothborough Buccaneers 8 (Harrison 3, Ravenscroft 3, Lewis, Harrison/Ravenscroft) Rothborough Dakotas 2 (Fleming/Rowbotham), Rothborough Dakotas 2 (L Ainsworth, Rowbotham) Rothborough Comets 8 (Brisley 3, Watts 3, Sturges, Sturges/Watts), Rothborough Exocets 3 (Yeomans 2, Taylor) Harborough Imps 7 (Patmore 3, Palfrey 2, Lauder, Palfrey/Patmore).
Player of the week: David Patmore.
Kettering & District Table Tennis League team of the week: Harborough Imps.
One of the biggest events of the local table tennis scene takes place on Saturday when the Kettering League holds its annual closed tournament at Weavers Leisure Centre.
Play is scheduled to start at 9am with the junior and veteran events with the men’s and ladies singles scheduled for 10 am.
Spectators are welcome to attend and entry is free.