Shock results were in short supply in the first round of matches in the Premier Division of the Kettering and District Table Tennis League, with all three of the main title protagonists recording convincing wins.
Reigning champions Westfield A kicked off their campaign against the promoted Division One champions Thrapston Eagles. However, the gulf in class between the two divisions was highlighted with Westfield recording an emphatic 10-0 victory. Mark Stockley managed to take the first end from Kevin Bird but that was as good as it got for the Thrapston side in the singles matches with Roumen Stefanov being particularly impressive, dropping just 28 points on the way to his hat-trick. The doubles rubber was more keenly contested with Eagles' Stockley and Chris Warliker taking a 2-1 lead over Bird and Stefanov, but the Westfield pair turned things round to win 3-2 and complete the whitewash.
Burton Baptist A looked to have a tougher match than their Westfield rivals as they faced an Arthingworth side strengthened by the inclusion of new signing Dan Appanna. In the first match of the night he led Dawid Przybysz 2-1 only for the Burton player to fight back to earn the victory. Appanna also went to five ends against Alex Aston but faltered in the decider against Aston's pimpled rubber. He finally scored a deserved win when he defeated Dariusz Gulbicki in four ends. Aston secured his treble with a 13-11 fifth end decision over Chris Gibbons and with Przybysz also unbeaten, Burton secured an excellent 9-1 victory.
The other potential title contender, Higham, also started their season with a 9-1 victory with Harborough Athletic their victims. Nathan Thompson put up a stern rearguard action for Athletic, taking an end off Richard Bashford and Richard Elliott and then gaining his side's solitary point with a 14-12 fifth end decision against Andy Harrison. The rest of the singles matches were won by Higham in straight games and the two Richards confirmed Higham's superiority with a doubles win in four ends against the father and son Thompson pairing.
As is often the case, John Fuller was the star man for Kettering Town A in their clash at Westfield B. Westfield's Nicole Bird and Matt Rushton both took Fuller to four ends but could not find a way past Fuller's defensive master class. Bird did pick up two victories on the night. A comfortable victory over Mike Hawes was followed up with a much tougher 3-2 win over Nigel Metcalfe. These were the only two matches that escaped Kettering's grasp as they opened up with a 8-2 victory.
Corby Town A looked to have one or two selection issues at their start of their match against Westfield C. Lee O'Boyle was unavailable so Kyle Murie stepped up from the B team and captain Chris Haynes was also unavailable so Mickey Clarke was due to step in. However, his late withdrawal meant Corby were likely to play a man short. However Haynes managed to get back from his business trip to London in by 8.30pm and so Corby were back to full strength. By the time he arrived, his team were tied at 1-1 after Henry Arthur had defeated the returning Carl Leeson and Murie had went down to Matt Horrocks, another player to return to the Kettering League this season following his successful time at University. Haynes may have arrived late, but he wasted no time in getting his season off to a perfect start, dropping just one end on the way to his treble. Corby led 5-3 but after Horrocks edged out Arthur 11-9 in the decider, Leeson and Horrocks secured the 5-5 draw with a tight 13-15, 11-8, 12-10, 11-9 doubles succes over Haynes and Arthur.
The match of the week in this division was no doubt the clash between Corby Town B and Burton Baptist B with the opening match between Aaron Moore and Jacek Koltuniuk an early contender for match of the season. Both players had several match points but finally the victory went to the Burton player 10-12, 11-7, 13-15, 11-6, 19-17. Koltuniuk's next match against Kettering League newcomer Guy Sparrow was just as close but again he came through another thriller to clinch the win 7-11, 17-15, 11-7, 11-13, 11-9. Koltuniuk came unstuck on his quest for a hat-trick when Nigel Hunt defeated him 3-1. For Hunt, this victory went some way to erasing the pain of losing to Gerry Crasto in five ends and leading 2-0. At one stage Burton led 4-2 but Corby then took the next four matches to take record an important 6-4 win. Northampton University team-mates Sparrow and Moore both won twice and then teamed up to take the match clinching doubles.
Player of the week: Alex Aston
Westfield A 10 (Silk 3, Stefanov 3, K Bird 3, Stefanov/Bird) Thrapston Eagles 0
Burton Baptist A 9 (Przybysz 3, Aston 3, Gulbicki 2, Przybysz/Gulbicki) Arthingworth 1 (Appana)
Westfield B 2 (N Bird 2) Kettering Town A 8 (Fuller 3, Metcalfe 2, Hawes 2, Metcalfe/Hawes)
Corby Town A 5 (Haynes 3, Arthur 2) Westfield C 5 (Horrocks 2, Leeson, Smalley, Horrocks/Leeson)
Corby Town B 6 (Moore 2, Sparrow 2, Hunt, Sparrow/Moore) Burton Baptist B 4 (Koltuniuk 2, Crasto, Hooda)
Higham 9 (Elliott 3, Bashford 3, Harrison 2, Elliott/Bashford) Harborough Athletic 1 (N Thompson)
Division One promises to be quite close this season and the opening round of fixtures brought up two matches between four teams with the potential to make the two promotion spots.
Rothborough Arrows are perennial promotion contenders and are the only team with two players currently ranked in the top 50 on the Kettering ranking list. Julian Marlow, ranked 50, got his season off to a perfect start winning all three matches without dropping an end against Thrapston Falcons. The other, Helen Watts ranked 49 got the only other win for their team against Ian Baldock 3-1 .For the Falcons, Nigel Payne and Alan Tyler both won twice before teaming to win a close doubles 11-9 in the fifth to seal the 6-4 win.
Westfield D are a new team and it was decided to put them straight in to Division 1 as they are far too strong for Division 2. Multiple bat user Nitin Patel selected the right one from his bag and won all three matches. Scott Dixon, who is used to playing in British League and Premier Division would have been expecting the competition to be far easier at this level. However Harborough Rangers displayed their credentials in only allowing him a single end in the match. Chris Alder added a brace against Mike Brocklebank and Steve Crook before the latter pair won another close doubles against Alder and Patel 11-8 in the fifth to earn a 5-5 draw.
The recovery of the week was by Harborough Rovers against Burton Baptist C. At 7-0 behind they were facing a whitewash but showed grit and determination winning the last three matches to make it a respectable 7-3 loss. After Paul Goodman had completed his treble Sam Burgess stopped the rot by beating David Simmons 3-1 before Mark Pearson did the same against Darryl Sutcliffe and they then paired up in the doubles and again won 3-1 against Simmons and Goodman.
In the Thrapston derby between Harriers and Kites, the former could only get two players meaning they started 3-0 down and only managed to get one win when Beth Tyler beat Geoff Judd in five ends. The match was not that one sided though as all of the other matches were won by a 3-1 margin.
Rob Warrander found it tough in the Premier Division last season but ranked at 41. he is the highest ranked player in Division 1 so should win most of his games this season. He got off to a good start for Corby C with a treble against Burton B, and Stephan Woolston and Stewart Abraham both chipped in with one win each against Steve Smith and Kelvin Marshall respectively. Warrander and Woolston then paired up and won the doubles against Marshall and Smith to claim the win 6-4.
Rothborough Arrows 4 (Marlow 3, H Watts) Thrapston Falcons 6 (Tyler 2, Payne 2, Baldock, Payne/Tyler)
Harborough Rangers 5 (Burnham 2, Brocklebank, Crook, Brocklebank/Cook) Westfield D 5 (Patel 3, Alder 2)
Harborough Rovers 3 (S Burgess, Pearson, Burgess/Pearson) Burton Baptist C 7 (Goodman 3, Simmonds 2, Sutcliffe 2)
Thrapston Harriers 1 (Beth Tyler) Thrapston Kites 9 (Briggs 3, Williams 3, Judd 2, Briggs/Williams)
Burton Baptist D 4 (Muggleton 2, Marshall, Smith) Corby C 6 (Warrender 3, S Woolston, Abraham, Warrander/Woolston)
Player of the week: Julian Marlow
Rothborough are showing the early form with all four of their teams winning in the first week. First in action at Westfield were the Dakotas where Sean Smith took the individual honours earning the only maximum of the match. Cathy Fleming came from two down to beat Jim Chatburn and it set the tone for the Dakotas as all the games going the distance were won by the away team. Alan Woolston started and finished for Kettering B in good fashion but that was to be all there was for Town in this fixture.
There were two young debutants at John Yeomans Hall as 11 year old Jacob Tattersall and 15 year old Harry Lade took to the table against Exocets. It was a baptism of fire though as they went down 1-9; Anthony Yeomans and Helmut Salander getting trebles and a double for Sally Taylor for Exocets. It was when Harry met Sally that the tables turned for Baptist when Lade won his very first game and Burton’s only victory on the night.
John Hunt showed his class in restricting Buccaneers to eight victories against his Corby D team, but Ray Harrison had the last laugh with his first maximum of this fledgling season. Luke Saywood and Gareth Lewis got a pair apiece and combined for the doubles too. Saywood’s 15-13 defeat of Nathan Brown was the closest end of the night in the division.
Another difficult first match for Harborough Imps after last season’s opener against eventual winners Burton but Ron Palfrey saved their blushes with a fifth end success over an off-colour Pete Sturges, and he also forced the returning Martin Watts to dig deep to finish 14-12, 12-10 to retrieve a losing position. However Watts and Alan Brisley did achieve four wins each when they took the doubles too. It was a difficult night for debutant John Carpenter but I’m sure he will have better matches to come.
Burton Baptist E 1 (H Lade) Rothborough Exocets 9 (Salander 3, Yeomans 3, Taylor 2, Taylor/Yeomans)
Kettering Town B 2 (Al Woolston 2) Rothborough Dakotas 8 (Smith 3, Fleming 2, Rowbotham 2, Fleming/Smith)
Rothborough Buccaneers 8 (Harrison 3, Lewis 2, Saywood 2, Lewis/Saywood) Corby D 2 (Hunt 2)
Rothborough Comets 9 (Brisley 3, M Watts 3, Sturges 2, Brisley/Watts) Harborough Imps 1 (Palfrey)
Player of the week: John Hunt
Team of the week: Burton Baptist A