North Walsham trio closing in on table tennis title

NWSCA's Andy Beane, John Batchford, Tom Baldock-Yaxley and John Vaughan are now odds-on favourites to win the Star Paving Services North Norfolk Table Tennis League crown following a 10-0 win over Goblins.

NWSCA are currently 18 points clear at the top of the table with two matches remaining. Although those matches are against second placed Specials and third ranked Outlaws, a win against either would be enough to secure the title (and even without, the chasing teams would have to score almost maximum points while hoping NWSCA pick up virtually none).

The NWSCA quartet (with Vaughan making an appearance in the doubles) were however pushed by the Goblins in their away whitewash win. Batchford defeated Peter Ward 16-14 in the fourth in an entertaining spectacle while Dave Johns and Hugh Rout went to five sets with Beane and Batchford respectively.

Gresham's School meanwhile are now confirmed winners of the second division, but the race for the second promotion spot looks like going to the wire as Poachers and Barracudas are currently tied on points with only one match left each. The Poachers' team of Dave Thompson, Stan Munn and Alan Rutledge hosted Aylsham Methodists for whom the team of John Hall and Neil Powell found themselves a man short and recruited Ian Potter as a guest player with both team's agreement that his games would be void but played as friendly encounters to make up numbers.

It was perhaps a shame for Aylsham that Potter was not registered as he won a tight five-setter against Munn and lost a close battle in four to Thompson and hopefully will be a new signing for the league's newest club next year. Of the regular match, Hall beat Rutledge in five and was involved in a doubles win, but Poachers' 8-2 win included five set victories for both Thompson and Munn against Hall.

Meanwhile a John Welsh maximum plus doubles involvement proved crucial as Poachers' nearest rivals Barracudas were beaten 6-4 by Crosscourts.

However the race for the second spot in the second division is not just a two horse race – NWSCC are currently nine points behind but still have two matches left (one being against Poachers) and a strong finish could also see them in contention.

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Chris Johnson, Phil Mole and Toby Usher won 8-2 against NWSCE. Joel Lodge defeated Johnson 15-13, 12-14, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7 while Tom Wardle saved two set-points as he edged out Johnson 12-10 in the fourth. The derby took place on the middle table during a hectic night at the Sports Centre – on one side, NWSCE fielded a completely different team as they also played Dropshots on the same night while on the other Usher played up for NWSCD against Backhanders at the same time as playing for his own team. James Morter, Stuart Hook and Edna Stone all took braces for NWSCE. Stone only won six points in the first two sets before making a comeback to defeat Sally Homfray-Davies in five. Rhodri Oliver took a maximum, but NWSCE won the match 7-3.

Meanwhile Usher was a point away from a maximum against Backhanders as he beat Whil De Neve in straight and took his first win against Teucer Wilson in four but was unable to convert a match-point at 10-9 in the fifth against Rod Goffin – the Backhander taking his third chance to win 14-12. De Neve beat Sawyer in five as Backhanders won 6-4.

There was a trio of matches for Sharks' Chris Marshall and Steve and Matt Hudson in the first division who also lost to the same Backhanders team 6-4.

Wilson took a maximum while De Neve beat Marshall in five and took Matt Hudson the distance. Steve Hudson took a brace including a good four set win against Ray Howe and there was impressive dominance from Chris Marshall to beat Jonathan Care 11-4, 11-9, 11-8 when the Sharks faced Specials, for whom a Martin Lawes maximum helped them win 7-3. Meanwhile five games went the distance when Sharks played Goblins – Care won six straight points from 5-8 in the fifth to deny Matt Hudson, who was edged out 12-10 in the decider by Johns but beat Rout in five.

This time Care beat Marshall in five with the Shark also narrowly losing out to Rout. With Steve Hudson getting a maximum, the end result was a draw – and a late night with the match finishing at 11.37pm..