Division One: Hilton ‘B’ 6 – 3 Heaton ‘C’
This was a meeting of the grey-haired crews; each player sporting a debonair mane of sorts. Hilton, after two narrow 5-4 defeats were glad to welcome new signing, Alan Ingerson plus stalwarts, David Scowcroft and Steve Hathaway. Heaton, yet to register a point following promotion trooped in with Paul ‘Mad Dog’ McCormick, Stephen Woods and Dave Hall.
The evening started as expected – Scowcroft overpowering Woods 11-3, 11-5, 11-6. Hilton’s no.1, playing behind dark glasses, with a slightly demonic aura, immediately made his presence felt. There is swagger in abundance, bounce and unrelenting belief in this man. Woods, unfortunate to meet him fresh out of the blocks, was made to look like a ponderous milk man.
The second match offered hope to Heaton – the gravel-voiced McCormick using plenty of elbow in his serves to conjure an 11-9 initial set. Ingerson, back in the big time following his heavy-hearted transfer from BRASS, took the next set, however (11-8); superb top spin and forehand resistance clearing the way.
The third set was pivotal – McCormick 5-2 up, then 7-6 but suddenly the self-admonishing cry of “Greedy swine”; a point not there to exploit, thus Ingerson in the ascendency (12-10). The moustachioed marvel narrowly completed matters (9-11, 11-3) – a vintage final game demonstrating his canny ability to switch to back hand top spin.
It was cruel for McCormick – his 7th long match of the season ending in yet another defeat. There is something of the mud-splattered war veteran about him; the victim of strong artillery yet still somehow running.
Hall, receptive to the Heaton bugle call having witnessed the slaying of his teammates, leapt into the table tennis jungle, weapons packed. 11-9 – opponent, Hathaway unable to respond to a clinical, forehand blaster. Ragged in the second set – perhaps overwhelmed by his team’s need of a win – Hall stumbled (5-11). Up again though, shifting the imaginary branches from his face, Hall penetrated the Hathaway camp – unglamorous forehand pushes and relentless chops flummoxing his opponent: 11-8, 12-10.
Relief from the Heaton bench. Finally, an individual win. Normality returned though: Ingerson smashing Woods 3-0; Scowcroft – his injection of speed too much for Hall (3-0). 4-1 to Hilton but then the fight back – McCormick, two match-points down (8-10), willing himself: “Dig in…Deep breaths”. 12-10. Hallelujah! (3-2 versus Hathaway). Hall, two sets down, but then the rhythmic chops (3-2 against Ingerson).
Victory? Alas – no. Hathaway 3-0 Woods. Scowcroft 3-0 McCormick.
By Jeff Weston