Honours were shared by the end of a tight match at the Riverside Centre between West Exe D and Wingfield C. Player of the match was Sabin Pavel, who collected his first maximum of the season, whereas at the other end of the scale, Bob Landberger endured the sort of evening that Mike Kavanagh suffered recently, all of his singles matches going the distance, only to lose each by the minimum margin in the fifth.
The only time any real daylight emerged between the teams was at 4-2 to the home side at the halfway stage, but Mike Ware began the rearguard, drawing back from two legs down to emerge with an 11-9 fifth-leg victory against Emery. Indeed, the patterns of fight-backs from 0-2 and minimum-margin victories in the fifth leg were often repeated in this closely-fought encounter. Wingfield levelled the match at 4-4. Seven of the sets went to five legs, which resulted in the home team having to concede the final doubles match as the deadline of 11pm was fast approaching.
Ivan Emery had himself earlier rescued and emerged the victor from a 0-2 situation against Landberger, as did Chip Gimbuta in the final singles against Ware. Louis Wilshire, as ever, was far more efficient in terms of expenditure of energy, seeing off Gimbuta and Emery quite ruthlessly in three straight, but in Pavel he found an opponent to seriously trouble him, as Sabin found his way through the pimple-induced flight variations and inflicted on Louis a first defeat in three matches, 11-9 in yet another fifth leg. Landberger, on the other hand, seemed to have Pavel in his sights at 8-6 in the fifth, but a wicked serve, just clipping the edge of the edge at 9-10, finally denied him the win, thereby earning Sabin his first maximum.
The escape of the night belonged to Gimbuta, who escaped Houdini-like from 4-10 down in the final leg. The unfortunate - or hapless, depending on one’s point of view - Landberger was the Wingfield player who was left holding his head in shame as the delirious Gimbuta suddenly erupted into unbridled paroxysms of Tarzan-like elation! (and was later to earn himself a reprimand for similar misbehaviour from a very stern Pat Lyon, playing on an adjoining table!). No doubt, he’ll soon be starring on Strictly following such a performance!
Hard-fought wins in the first two doubles matches had helped keep Wingfield in the match, and notwithstanding the fact that the final set could not be played, the draw was a very fair result, reflecting the ups and downs of the match throughout the evening. It all starts again next Friday evening, as the teams prepare to do battle again in the first round of the Bridle Cup.