Crunch time around the tables
Star Paving Services North Norfolk Table Tennis League
IT was crunch time in the first division as Delta's Andy Beane, Tom Baldock-Yaxley, John Vaughan and Jack Morton ended their first season in the top flight with a pivotal fixture against Specials' John Paul, Ray Howe and Martin Lawes.
Beane had no answer to Paul in the opener, but the next two battles went the hosts' way as Baldock-Yaxley came from a set down to defeat Howe in four and Vaughan won in straight against Lawes.
A tremendous contest followed between Baldock-Yaxley and Paul featuring tactical play mixed with brave shots and immense steadiness by both players, but it was Paul who just won 11-3, 10-12, 8-11, 11-2, 11-9.
Two more five-set battles followed with Lawes and Vaughan defeating Beane and Howe respectively to lock the match at 3-3, but with a four set victory for Lawes against Baldock-Yaxley and Paul beating Vaughan in straight, Specials were guaranteed the draw.
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Beane took his first win over Howe in four to keep Delta in contention but Paul and Lawes won the doubles in straight against Baldock-Yaxley and Morton to win the match for Specials 6-4.
So Delta end the season on 107 points and are currently 17 points ahead of Specials who have two matches left to play. Two 7-3 wins in those would be enough for Specials to win the league and those matches are against Sharks and already-relegated Pirates.
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Specials are also through to the Knockout Singles Cup final courtesy of a walk-over from Cobras and in the final will meet Delta again.
It has been a strange week in the league. A mixture of holidays and illness saw the Seaflames Club struggle to find players on a night where three of their teams were in action.
They ended up with seven players to fill nine places and so it was that a two-man Barracudas team lost 10-0 to Backhanders and that Chris Marshall (with the agreement of the opposition) played in two matches on the same night.
He started at Trunch by playing up alongside Shark's Peter Betts and Steve Nichols against Outlaw's Jamie Craig, Colin Humphries and Andrew Tuddenham. Betts took a brace, but a maximum from Humphries was supported by braces from his team-mates — including a five-set win for Tuddenham over Nichols — and saw Outlaws to a 7-3 win. Marshall lost two close four set battles in the match — a 13-15, 11-9, 11-1, 11-6 defeat by Humphries and Tuddenham beating him 11-8, 4-11, 13-11, 13-11 — but by the time Sharks were winning the doubles in five, he had travelled to join his regular Seal's team-mates Ray Amo and Matt Hudson at Gimingham for a match against Goblin's Derek Sidaway, Peter and Rosie Ward. Peter Ward took a maximum including a 9-11, 3-11, 11-9, 13-11, 11-5 recovery against Hudson, but Seals controlled most of the rest of a 7-3 match win.
There was more odd goings on at Gresham's School as Echoes achieved the rare feat of securing a draw without winning a game.
Gresham's were down to a two-man team and then during his opening win against Joe Kirkup, Haken Bennell aggravated a recent arm injury. Although he did play and get a doubles win with Ian Darricott, who took a maximum for the school, the injury forced Bennell to quit his remaining two singles and those walkovers coupled with the three from the absent player saw the night end after an hour's play with a draw.
Meanwhile Echoes' Charlie Usher, Phil Mole and Paul Price won their Handicap Singles Cup quarter-final against Outlaws, for whom Steve Patterson took a maximum, 5-3 and face Crosscourts in the semi-final.
Hunworth saw Poachers' Alan Rutledge, Barry Evans and Andy Woods host second division leading Beta, represented by Chris Johnson, Simon Halliday and Paul Price (playing up).
All of Johnson's singles went to five sets as the Beta captain won the opener against Rutledge, but fell to both his team-mates. Halliday did not drop a set as he took a maximum while Price was unlucky not to take a single, losing to Rutledge 15-13 in the fifth. However he got a win in the doubles, along with Halliday as the duo secured a draw.
Beta now lead Backhanders by 10 points but Cromer, in second, have a game in hand against Poachers — with 12 points available for a 10-0 win. Both teams will then end their season against Goblins. Beta and Backhanders are guaranteed promotion, but it looks to be one of the closest finishes to a division ever.
The relegation issue in the first division has yet to be sorted. Alpha's Dennis Elliott, Dave Johns and Mary Sawyer boosted their chances of survival with a 9-1 win against Pirates — Andy Marsh taking the single for Pirates in four against Johns while David Thompson took Sawyer the distance. The win has moved Alpha to third, but only 12 points separate third from sixth place.