Season Update: Weeks 20, 21, 22 & 23 - Close Race In All Three Divisions – Handicap Cup Final Decided – Upcoming Championships
It is a rare at this stage of the season for all three divisions to be close at the top, no single team yet being successful in really separating themselves from the pack; the 2018/19 season of the Burnham & District Table Tennis League is proving to be an excellent one and with the Individual Championships and Team Handicap Cup Final still to come there is a ton of exciting table tennis still in store!
Page & Scammell do Battle
In Division 3, Maldon E keep their nose ahead of Stow Maries E by six points with equal matches played and six fixtures remaining for both sides, while the mid-table is very compact with third place Woodham E significantly behind on 88 points but a mere four points difference between them and seventh place West Maldon E. Leaders Maldon E helped their campaign by very impressively defeating Blackwater A 8-2 in their most recent fixture; two of the division’s strongest players – both on 100% records – 15 year-old Thomas Page and the much more experienced Alan Scammell doing battle to see who would come away with their record intact. Any guesses? In a match of high pressure Page must have shown great composure to defeat Scammell’s awkward combination-bat style 7, 9, 3. Meanwhile Scammell came away with his other singles’ victories although he was pushed to a fifth end by Maldon’s Denis Crapnell. An eclectic Woodham E side welcomes new signing Said Alami-Merrouni and alongside teammates Jo Hart and Sanjay Saptarshi they fought three points off Burnham A’s Michael Pratley, Terry Frost and David Bateman; Pratley was undefeated and in the closest match of the night Frost got past Alami-Merrouni 5, 11, -10, -7, 10, nail-biting! In a derby match between Woodham’s E and F teams Saptarshi showed his guile to defeat two of the club’s two young rising stars – both lefties! – 13 year olds Ben Porter and Ewan Hynd both three straight.
Too Close to Call
In Division 2, wow, five points separating the top four sides! Simply too close to call, all having played an equal amount of matches with six fixtures remaining each. Stow Maries B lead on 107 points from a possible 160, with second-placed West Maldon B on 105 points, third-placed Maldon C on 102 points and fourth-placed Woodham C also on 102 points. Fifth-placed Mayland A can also not be discounted as although on 86 points they have two matches in hand. In the most recent week of fixtures it was fourth-positioned Woodham C who made up the most ground, scoring a 10-0 win versus the maximum 8-2 scorelines of the higher placed teams; Woodham C were fortunate, in fact, as they faced only a two-player West Maldon D team with 15 year old Noah Sage playing up from the third division, but all is fair in love and table tennis! Sage did very well to hold his own in fact, taking ends off all three of Woodham’s players, an impressive feat indeed when you consider the opposition strength of Allan Steel, Matt Saville and Luca Bailey at this level. Two of the best individual performances lately must be Chris (or Chis) Crooks’ hard-fought hat trick over Maldon D (Ev Lucas, Denis Crapnell and Bryan Speller), and Mayland A’s Ralph Gibson’s treble over Woodham B, opening proceedings by coming back from two-nil down against one of the division’s strongest players, Daniel Piggott, to win -9, -3, 6, 7, 7. Next week’s fixture between third and fourth-placed sides – equal on points – Maldon C and Woodham C must be a much anticipated one! At the bottom of the table, Stow Maries D seem doomed to relegation at this point but the battle between second-from-bottom and third-from-bottom is still competitive, and it is between two West Maldon sides C & D with D only two points behind C but with one match in hand; it is somewhat surprising to see these sides dwelling this far down the pecking order but then again that displays the strength in depth of the second division this season.
Mapledene Bookending the Top Flight
In Division 1, speaking of teams you wouldn’t expect to find in the relegation zone, top club Mapledene’s B & C teams continue to struggle to lift themselves from the bottom, although recently they have been made progress in the way of defeating another struggling side, Woodham A. Which of these teams will come away surviving at season-end? Maldon B are also not safe, being just one point ahead of Woodham A but also a match ahead. Mapledene C defeated Woodham A 7-3, Tony Jacks getting his team off to a good start by defeating George Ashley over five ends, meanwhile Gus Heath avenged that result by beating Jacks three straight, and Cameron Gray scored a good four-games win over Bill Smith; Lin Roff was on fine form, perhaps powered by her disdain of combination bats in beating Heath 8, 8, -8, -7, 8, a great win. Mapledene B beat Woodham A 8-2, Paul Brown registered as player of the match and Ian Rattray also joined him in a hat trick, while Cameron Gray and George Ashley each scored wins over Anthon Ranjit-Singh; Woodham’s 16 year old Luca Bailey made his first division debut of the season, and although he did not register a win I dare say “watch this space” as he is certainly a top player who is going to come through. Mapledene C also fought four points off of Stow Maries A, and in a fascinating clash of styles Stow (Ryan Pitt, Peter Layzell, Matthew Brown) and Mapledene (Tony Jacks, David Jacob, Barrie Delf) all came away neither being unbeaten or winless; four matches went the distance and in the final match of the night Jacks beat Pitt 11-9 in the fifth, while Pitt earlier in the evening scored an excellent 11-8 in the fifth win over the tricky returner Barrie Delf. In a mid-table derby clash Cold Norton A and B sides finished 8-2 in favour of the B (!) and in a battle of the no.1s Chris Ballard defeated Sam Lowman 8, -8, 9, -6, 6. At the top of the table Mapledene A lead on 105 points from a possible 140 however title holders Fambridge A are tied on points and have a match in hand; a significant advantage but all still to play for I believe; these two teams played this week and Mapledene (Reece Seddon, Babul McLeod and Kevin Read) shaded a 6-4 victory over Fambridge (John Poysden, Mark Strones and Keith Adams). Read was on fine form and showed great fortitude, coming back from two-nil down to defeat Adams -10, -10, 9, 8, 8 in what must have been an absolute corker; Read also impressed by defeating Stones three straight and Poysden over four ends; Adams got the better of Seddon and in the final match of the night Seddon closed the door on his team’s close victory by beating Stones -11, 9, -9, 8, and somewhat remarkably 11-1 in the fifth and final end! (Those who have played Stones will know this is no mean feat!). These two title-chasing teams have still yet to play each other one more time and I expect Fambridge will feel they have the advantage on their own turf; surely a match that will warrant some spectators!
Handicap Cup Final Decided
In an extremely tense Team Handicap Cup semi-final St Lawrence A defeated last year’s winners, Woodham A, 5-4 by winning the tie-breaking doubles at what I suspect was a very late hour! St Lawrence will play Woodham C in the final to see who takes the cup this year; will it remain at Champions Manor Hall or will it travel out to the Dengie? In the semi-final between Woodham C and West Maldon A things were much more clear cut; Allan Steel leading his young compatriots Ewan Hynd and Ben Porter (three left-handers, good grief! should be banned) raced home to a 5-0 victory over Dave Razzell, Gary Smith and West Maldon junior Ollie Wylie. Dare I say Hynd’s and Porter’s +8 handicaps are a tad generous given their rapid improvement, and also Wylie on +14 (!) but the match between Wylie and Porter must have been an absolute cracker, Porter winning 21-18, 27-25!
Burnham League Tournament
The Individual Championships fast approach and they will be held on the weekend of March 16th/17th in the Sports Hall of William de Ferrers School in South Woodham Ferrers, with Finals Night taking place on the following Thursday (21st) at Champions Manor Hall. A preview article giving a taster of the action to come will be released the weekend before. We hope to see as many of you there as possible, friends and relatives also encouraged to attend as entrance is free, and whether you are a player or a spectator I am sure you will enjoy the refreshments on offer and also seeing a little white ball travelling back and forth across eight 9x5 foot tables.
Hall & McHugh - Press & Publicity Officers - Burnham Table Tennis League