Pipped at the Post-ling (by Mike Holiday)
Moving into the final week of the season Division 1 remained closer than anyone can remember. Of the seven teams involved in the division five were either up for the title or trying to avoid relegation. Ruckinge A were not in action having completed all of their fixtures, and were guaranteed at least fifth place and another shot at the title next season.
In their final match Challock A (6th) were taking on Postling A (1st). In the reverse fixture Postling inflicted an 8-1 defeat on Challock, and a similar result this time would seal the title for Postling.
Across town Little Chart B (2nd) welcomed Challock B (7th) to the Village Hall. In the reverse fixture Little Chart inflicted a 6-3 defeat of Challock and it is unlike a better result would be required for both teams to either win the title or avoid relegation.
The final fixture was a home derby with Iron Room A (3rd) taking on Iron Room B (5th). The latter were playing for pride, and a possible fourth place. They held enough of a lead over the bottom side to have no fear of relegation. In the reverse fixture Iron Room A edged to a 5-4 win.
First up Little Chart B were playing Challock B at their home venue at Challock Village Hall. From the outset neither team we holding back with the both sides fielding their two strongest players. First up Paul Amos, currently leading the singles averages, up against Alan Provan the average winner from the first half. Alan was fast out of the blocks, catching Paul cold with an 11-4 win. However Paul soon woke up and took the next two 11-8, 11-8 before the fourth leg saw a complete reversal of the first leg with Paul taking the leg and the win 11-4. 1-0 Challock. Next up the attack of Chris Senior against the defensive spin of Kevin Beasley, but with only three wins this season it was always going to be a big ask for Chris. Like Alan, Kevin was quick out of the blocks with an 11-6 win before Chris followed Pauls lead and took the next two 11-9, 13-11. But digging deep Kevin clung on 11-7, 11-7 in the final two legs to level the match at 1-1. The final encounter saw Tim Pichowski taking on junior Tom Down. Averages to date would put Tom favourite for this one, but you can write off Tim. But Tom, showing continued improvement from the first half put in an assured perform to run out 3-0 winner and steal the lead for Little Chart, and put them top of the league (for now). Alan then followed Toms lead and beat Chris 3-0 to put Little Chart into a 3-1 lead, but Paul Amos and Tim Pichowski breezed past Tom and Kevin respectively to tie the match. The next two matches were shared. As expected Tom came through a tight encounter with Chris 9-11, 12-14, 10-12 to put Little Chart to within a point of victory. But Tim was not about to go quietly against Alan taking all three legs with relative ease, although a second leg 12-10 did give Alan a glimmer of hope. So 4-4, with both teams knowing a point could be the difference between 1st & 2nd or relegation and survival! Averages would suggest Paul Amos would brush Kevin Beasley aside, but it seems Kevin had other ideas. In a tight first leg Paul struggled to get to grips with the unique style edging through 11-9, but in with true fighting spirt Kevin took the next 11-8 to keep the tie alive. But the effort of winning the second leg started to show as Tim pulled away in the final two legs to seal a 5-4 win for Challock. This would put Challock 3 point clear of the bottom placed side, and Little Chart 3 points clear at the top. But Postling A v Challock A was still to be played which could change everything.
Next up was the local derby with Iron Room A taking on Iron Room B, and anything less than a 9-0 win would probably not be enough to trouble the leaders. On the night Iron Room A were unable to field their strongest side, with regulars Mike Lee & Keith Harris being supported by David Cue in a rare appearance. They were up against junior, Shem Legarde, along with Mick Micklethewaite and Paul Walmsley. In the first encounter David took on Shem with the later brushing David aside 3-11 and 1-11 in the first and third legs, however David was able to sneak a win in the second leg 11-9, and almost repeated this in the fourth finally losing out 16-14. 1-0 to the B side. Mike Lee then took the match to Mick Micklethewaite, and the fast attacking style proved too much with a straight sets victory to tie the match. Paul Walmsley then took revenge for the B team only droping14 points over the three legs against Keith Harris, and from then on it was almost one-way traffic. Shem beat Mike and Keith 3-0, and 3-1 respectively. Paul dropped a leg against Mike Lee, but ended the evening with a hat trick along with Shem. However not willing to go quietly the tightest match of the night was the last with the two ‘elder statesmen’ going head to head. Mick took a quick 2-0 lead, but ever the sportsman David fought on and was rewarded with a 3-2 to finish the season for Iron Room A with a win, even if the match was lost 7-2 and with it any hope of winning the league.
In the final match Postling A hosted Challock A with both teams needing at least four points but unaware of this fact. Again both teams aware of the match’s importance field arguably their strongest sides, but the strongest side of Postling A were playing on a different level. With the Postling team losing just one leg in total to the Challock pair of Roy Baker and Cliff Ball; it was down to Challock’s Steve Smith to lead the fight back. First up was Chris Hooper, with Postling already 2-0. Steve started well by edging a first leg 16-14, before Chris found his stride and hitting through Steve’s’ defence for an 11-4 win. At 1-1 though Steve started to wear down Chris returning smash after smash, and this started to show with Chris going to tighter angles and harder hits. But with greater risk comes more misses. Steve prevailed 11-8, 11-4 to keep Challock in the tie. Next Steve took on a slightly difference style in Nick Owen. After a fast start Steve lead 1-0 by virtue of an 11-3 win, before Nick got into his stride and they traded blows to tie the match 2-2, but the constant solid defence again prevailed with an 11-8 final set win to keep Challocks hopes alive at 3-2. But sadly for the Challock side that would be their last victory in Division 1 for now. Chris swept past Roy 3-0, before dropping one leg to Cliff but still winning 3-1, and then Nick beat Roy 3-0. The only hope came between Malcolm Skates and Steve. Steve started well rushing into an 2-0 lead, but Malcolm settled into the match, and proved to be a more consistent player than his team mates taking the next three legs but an ever increasing margin 12-10, 11-6, 11-2. Final score 7-2 consigned Challock A to relegation and Postling to yet another title. Although they will be first to admit this has been the hardest fought title for many years with the top three teams all being beaten at least four times!