They may have won all nine of their matches, but Liberal A have yet to establish any kind of authority at the top of division one of the Braintree Table Tennis League as it reaches its halfway stage.
Their main rivals Netts A have won only five out of their eight matches yet before Liberal’s 10-0 win in their last match they were only six points behind.
The two finished level on points last season and there is every indication that it is going to be another close-run thing this year.
Both have lost a key player since last season. Netts’ Kevin Gowlett has left the district while Liberal’s Peter Hayden has opted to rest his chronic wrist injury and has turned out only when there were no other options.
Those options have included calling on members of their B team three times and even the C team on one occasion when Garry Fryatt during obliged with two wins out of three.
But it has been the signing of Chelmsford League players Brandon Crouchman and Ryan Gooday that has significantly boosted their squad.
Both have only been called upon twice but they are both unbeaten and if they continue to be available when necessary, the trophy could find its way back to Coggeshall Road.
Netts A have adopted a contrasting strategy. Paul Davison and James Mullane have played in every match while Alistair Hill has missed only two.
They will hope their consistency might yet stand them in good stead.
Rayne D, Netts B and Rayne A fill the next three places, as they did last season although in a different order, and may well do so again, although Netts C could overhaul them.
At the other end of the table, Sible Hedingham have benefited from the more regular appearances of Richard Jennings and look well placed to avoid the bottom rung that was their fate on their last three appearances in division one.
Rayne C have missed the drop by one place for the last two years but with ten defeats out of ten are looking on much shakier ground this time.
The anticipated course of events in division two has been confounded by the unexpected availability of Black Notley C’s new signing Glen Laing.
At the start of the season it was expected that Laing would play one or two matches, if at all. Instead, he has turned out seven times and won all 21 sets.
His regular appearances added to the greater consistency of Gary Jackson, second in the division’s individual averages with 89 per cent compared with 65 per cent last season, have enabled Notley C to open up a 15-point lead over their own B team
With Sean Clift joining Dave Parker and Gordon Fairchild, the B team had looked a good bet for the title and with 14 matches still to play are far from out of the running.
Like their village neighbours, Hedingham Lions are used to propping up the rest at the bottom, but have shown encouraging signs that that will not be their fate this year.
Their habit of picking up points in 6-4 and 7-3 defeats has lifted them well clear of Felsted RBL B, who are finding their first season at the higher level just as tough as they expected.
If they go down, it could well be their C team who replace them.
With the addition of Mike Pitt from Notley and with 16-year-old Matthew Laws in particularly good form, they look the team to beat after pre-season favourites Notley E’s plans have gradually fallen apart.
Hoping to field the first all-female team in the league for many years, they lost Diane Pitt through illness before the start of the season and now look like being without Helen Barnett, whose long-term knee injury could rule her out for the rest of the season.
Jill Canning’s absence for most of January is likely to mean more points dropped even though they have the division’s outstanding player, Hannah Pitt, unbeaten in 38 sets, all but four of which have been won in straight games.