Rivals continue to battle it out for the crown

Dan Smalley
Dan Smalley

Westfield’s A and B sides continue to go toe-to-toe in the battle for the Premier Division title in the Kettering & District Table Tennis League after both sides recorded 10-0 victories.

Westfield B have played above expectations all season and didn’t disappoint as they crushed bottom-markers Thrapston Eagles.

Mark Stockley came the closest to scoring for the visitors as he took Matt Horrocks to five ends.

Chris Warliker took an end off both Nicole Bird and Dan Smalley but couldn’t force a decider.

Westfield A sit four points behind with a game in hand and remain favourites to retain their crown after whitewashing club-mates Westfield C.

The struggling C team only took two ends all night although Matt Rushton was unfortunate not to snatch a win against Brian Wooding.

That result looks set to have condemned Westfield C to the second relegation spot as Burton Baptist A produced their best performance of the season at a crucial time by beating fourth-placed Higham 6-4.

Michael Wilkins rolled back the years with a fine treble which included comprehensive straight-game successes over Richard Bashford and Richard Elliott.

His tally was added to by a brace from the departing Alex Aston and a single win from Dariusz Gulbicki.

It could have been 7-3 but Aston and Wilkins blew a 2-0 lead in the doubles.

For Higham, Elliott scored two wins with Pete Bannister beating Gulbicki.

Bashford had a notable off night, failing to win an end in all three of his singles matches.

Kettering Town beat Corby Rothbury 8-2 although Rothbury aren’t safe from the drop just yet.

Chris Robertson and Aiden Smith both beat Hawes, although the tricky left-handed did well to beat Guy Sparrow in five.

John Fuller and Nigel Metcalfe proved too consistent for the Corby trio as they remained unbeaten.

Results: Westfield B 10 (Horrocks 3, Bird 3, Smalley 3, Horrocks/Smalley) Thrapston Eagles 0, Westfield A 10 (Bird 3, Wooding 3, Stefanov 3, Bird/Wooding) Westfield C 0, Burton Baptist A 6 (Wilkins 3, Aston 2, Gulbicki) Higham 4 (Elliott 2, Bannister, Elliott/Bashford), Kettering Town 8 (Fuller 3, Metcalfe 3, Hawes, Fuller/Metcalfe) Corby Rothbury 2 (Smith, Robertson).

Team of the week: Burton Baptist A.

Player of the week: Michael Wilkins.

As has long been expected, Harborough A and Harborough B secured the title and the second promotion spot respectively with one fixture to spare in Division One.

Harborough A only had two players but that was enough to secure a 5-5 draw with Burton Baptist B.

Effectively starting 3-0 down this became 5-0 as Dave Needham beat Barry Thompson in three close games and then Nash Hooda had a shock 3-1 win over Nathan Thompson.

From then on Harborough A showed their class in winning the next five sets as Nathan Thompson took away Needham’s 100 per cent record with a comfortable 3-0 win, but Hooda came close to another scalp before Barry won the final two games 11-9, 11-7.

Liam Burnham and Mike Brocklebank both got trebles as Harbourgh B beat Westfield D 8-2.

For Westfield both Nitin Patel and Paul Malpass got the better of Steve Crook but Chris Alder could not.

The shock result of the week and possibly the season was an 8-2 win for Thrapston Falcons, who are in sixth place, over third-placed Rothborough Arrows.

There were mitigating circumstances as Arrows were missing their leading player Helen Watts and Falcons had probably their strongest line-up of Ian Baldock, Trevor Beard and Nigel Payne.

Nevertheless it was a good treble for Baldock over Martin Watts, Julian Marlow and Sean Smith and Beard only lost to Marlow and Payne only lost to Watts, before Baldock and Payne added the doubles.

As the title and promotion races already looked inevitable, perhaps the most intriguing match was the relegation battle between the bottom two teams as this race has been close for the whole season and still is going into the final week.

With Burton Baptist C starting the match trailing Thrapston Kites by one point they came flying out of the blocks as they went 3-0 up as Paul Goodman beat Peter Briggs 3-0, Derek Muggleton beat Stewart Williams 3-0 and Chris Agg beat Bob Hickson 3-2.

4-0 looked likely when Muggleton led Briggs 2-0 but when Briggs took the third game 11-3 this proved to be a turning point, not just in that particular set but in the whole match.

Briggs completed his comeback, winning the fifth game 13-11 and then Kites ran through the rest of the card to win 7-3 putting them five points in the lead and favourites to avoid relegation.

The good news for Burton is that on paper they have an easier final match as they are playing sixth-placed Thrapston Falcons and Kites take on runners-up Harborough B.

Burton will have to score at least five more points against Falcons than Kites score against Harborough B which looks difficult going by recent results from all four teams involved, however much will depend on which players play for each of those teams.

Results: Harborough A 5 (N Thompson 2, B Thompson 2, N Thompson/B Thompson) Burton Baptist B 5 (Needham 2, Hooda 2, Crasto), Harborough B 8 (Burnham 3, Brocklebank 3, Crook, Burnham/Brocklebank) Westfield C 2 (Patel, Malpass), Rothborough Arrows 2 (M Watts, Marlow) Thrapston Falcons 8 (Baldock 3, Payne 3, Beard 2, Baldock/Payne), Burton Baptist C 3 (Goodman, Muggleton, Agg) Thrapston Kites 7 (Briggs 2, Williams 2, Hickson 2, Briggs/Williams).

Team of the week: Thrapston Falcons.

Player of the week: Ian Baldock.

Corby Smash B fielded Alex Cochrane, playing up, against two-player Corby Halesowen and won 7-3, but it wasn’t enough to go above Corby Lakeview with two matches of the season in Division Two left.

It’s been five games since Adam Wilson lost a game and Sam Wilson is still unbeaten so their victories were unsurprising despite Halesowen playing their best two players according to the rankings.

Smash B have Rothborough Comets next and have won 6-4 and 7-3 previously whereas Lakeview – two points ahead – have Halesowen who they have only dropped one point to in their previous two matches so could be several points ahead, before the final showdown in the last match where they play each other for the title.

When Smash B visited Montsaye to play Comets there was a last minute change when Gareth Lewis was called away, which meant Ivor Jones had to play in two matches.

He might have wished he hadn’t as Smash won all their games in straight ends.

There were three ends that went to deuce when Pete Sturges went down 13-15 to Damian Carr – playing his first game since the first match of the season – and two in the doubles when Sturges and Lee Mordecai lost the first end 15-17 and the third 13-15.

Carr and the Wilson siblings can now prepare for the title decider against Lakeview next week.

The six players on display between Rothborough Buccaneers and Harborough C are just nine places apart on the ranking list – from 80 to 89 – so a close game was expected, especially as both previous matches were drawn, and it delivered again with Buccaneers’ sixth draw and Harborough’s third.

Jones was more successful in this one with a pair, matched by Luke Saywood, both winning tight five-enders along the way.

Vaughan Allington and Phil Dixon also got a brace for Harborough, also negotiating long games along the way.

Jamie Burgess was unluckiest in a blank night for him.

The result takes Buccaneers just one point ahead of Comets with one match still remaining.

Lakeview remain just a point ahead with 135 to Smash’s 134 with the impending final showdown as they beat Halesowen 9-1, Neil Stone being the thorn in the side with his defeat of Lakeview captain Stephen Woolston in the second game.

The leaders have lost only four singles games in the last five matches, with Rob Warrander and Adam Bendyk leading the way with one loss each.

All season, three points is the biggest difference between the two leaders when they have played the same number of matches, and that was in week 13 when Lakeview were ahead.

Results: Corby Lakeview 9 (Bendyk 3, Warrander 3, Woolston 2, Bendyk/Woolston) Corby Halesowen 1 (Stone), Corby Smash B 7 (A Wilson 3, S Wilson 3, Cochrane) Corby Halesowen 3 (McLaren, Stone, McLaren/Stone), Rothborough Buccaneers 5 (Jones 2, Saywood 2, Linnett) Harborough C 5 (Allington 2, Dixon 2, Allington/Burgess), Rothborough Comets 0 Corby Smash B 10 (Carr 3, A Wilson 3, S Wilson 3, Carr/S Wilson).

Player of the week: Neil Stone.

Team of the week: Corby Halesowen.