Player unavailability played a significant part in all but one of the six matches in this week’s matches in the Premier Division of the Kettering and District Table Tennis League. Of the 12 teams in action, no fewer than five had to deal with the loss of at least one of their major players.
It could be argued that Burton Baptist A were the team that were hit the hardest with both their top players, Dawid Przybysz and Chris Ross absent. And their chances of success in their match with Westfield C were hit further as Dariusz Gulbicki was also unavailable for selection. With Alex Aston being the only one of their regular squad available for the match, Jacek Koltuniuk was promoted from the Burton B team and Derek Muggleton played up from the Burton c team.
Westfield’s Sam Wildman has hit a rich vein of form and this continued in this match as he recorded his third successive treble. He did have to survive a close five end battle against Aston before claiming victory 11-8, 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-9. Matt Horrocks won twice but couldn’t get the better of Koltuniuk who also edged out Antonio Jaraices. Aston also saw off Jaraices for his solitary success but Muggleton found the step up from Division One a bit too tough and failed to register as Westfield ran out 7-3 winners. This result potentially reopens the battle for the runners-up position, and with Przybysz possibly being unavailable for a couple of weeks following the arrival of his first child, Corby Town A and Kettering Town A now have an outside chance of catching Aston’s team.
Kettering A boosted their chances of overturning Baptist A’s advantage courtesy of a 10-0 win over Harborough Athletic. Harborough could only field two players and despite some close ends, Nathan Thompson and Kevin Shield found the Kettering trio of Mike Hawes, John Fuller and Nigel Metcalfe too hot to handle. With Harborough involved in a relegation dogfight, they must be hoping that they can field their full compliment of players with the season drawing ever closed to conclusion.
Corby Town A hung on to third spot in the division with a 7-3 win over Westfield B. Westfield were another team who found themselves hampered by selection problems and had to employ the services of Scott Dixon and Paul Malpass to ensure that B team regular Nicole Bird had a full team to play with. Both replacements found the step up a division a challenge too far but Bird was in top form as she recorded a fine hat-trick, her closest call being an 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 9-11, 11-9 win over Henry Arthur.
Arthur, Lee O’Boyle and Chris Haynes all won twice before Arthur/Haynes edged out Bird/Dixon 11-9 in the deciding end of the doubles clash to close out a 7-3 success for the Kingswood based side.
Arthur was to have a busy night as he was also called into action on an adjacent table to play for Corby Town B in their match against league leaders Westfield A. The leaders continued with the form they have shown all season in securing a 9-1 win but Arthur did get some reward for his efforts when, for the second time this season, he defeated Steve Silk.
Kyle Murie led 2-1 against Kevin Bird but the Westfield skipper hit back to claim the spoils. For Murie’s team, just like Harborough, they need to ensure they can field a full team of players to ensure they stay clear of the relegation zone.
Higham have dropped off the pace in recent weeks following two consecutive losses and find themselves in the unusually low position of fifth in the table. However they bounced back to form this week whilst despatching Burton Baptist B 9-1. Burton, just like their relegation rivals Harborough Athletic and Corby B, did themselves no favours by playing a man short with only Jacek Koltuniuk and Gerry Crasto available.
Rcihard Elliott and Mark Nannery both scored trebles for Higham and it was left to Koltuniuk to ensure Burton avoided the whitewash with his win over Andy Harrison.
The only match that involved both teams playing with full strength teams came at Islip Village Hall as Thrapston Eagles hosted Arthingworth. In a match that was much closer than the final scoreline suggests, Arthingworth’s Chris Gibbons took the main honours with an unbeaten display. His match with Mark Stockley was a very close affair though with Gibbons finally prevailing 12-10, 10-12, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9. This was one of four encounters that went all the way to a decider but sadly for Eagles they all ended up in Arthingworth’s safe keeping.
Stockley did record a pair of 3-0 wins over Ray Kingston and Gerald Henson respectively but with Ian Donaldson twice going down in five ends and Chris Warliker also losing out once in the decider, Eagles are fast running out of time to change their fortunes around.
Westfield C 7 (Wildman 3, Horrocks 2, Jaraices, Wildman/Horrocks) Burton Baptist A 3 (Koltuniuk 2, Aston)
Kettering Town A 10 (Hawes 3, Fuller 3, Metcalfe 3, Hawes/Fuller) Harborough Athletic 0
Corby Town A 7 (Arthur 2, O’Boyle 2, Haynes 2, Arthur/Haynes) Westfield B 3 (N Bird 3)
Corby Town B 1 (Arthur) Westfield A 9 (Stefanov 3, K Bird 3, Silk 2, Stefanov/Silk)
Burton Baptist B 1 (Koltuniuk) Higham 9 (Elliott 3, Nannery 3, Harrison 2, Elliott/Harrison)
Thrapston Eagles 2 (Stockley 2) Arthingworth 8 (Gibbons 3, Kingston 2, Henson 2, Kingston/Henson)
Player of the Week: Nicole Bird
The top four team are still fairly close with 17 points separating Harborough Rangers in first and Thrapston Falcons in fourth who have a match in hand. However we have now reached three quarters of the way through the season so with time and matches running out Rangers are looking more and more likely to finish in at least the top two for a promotion place and more than likely the title. They enhanced their prospects further with a stunning 7-3 win over Rothborough Arrows by managing to restrict the usually dependable duo of Helen Watts and Julian Marlow to a single win each and didn't allow Ivor Jones a single end. This was the first time this season that Marlow has lost more than one singles and only the second occasion for Watts. Marlow doubled his season's losses from 2 to 4 while Watts went from 3 to 5. Man of the match was Rangers Liam Burnham who in his treble only lost one end out of ten which was to Marlow and became the first player to do the 'double' over Watts and Marlow. After two wins for Mike Brocklebank over Jones and Marlow and for Steve Crook over Watts and Jones Rangers were leading 6-0 so 7-3 represented somewhat of a comeback for Arrows. Watts and Marlow beat Brocklebank and Crook respectively 3-0 before Burnham added point 7 beating Jones. One consolation for Watts and Marlow was that they maintained their 100% doubles record with a consistent 11-9, 11-9, 11-9 win. An interesting statistic in this match is that Watts and Marlow had 16 ends out of 25 that were decided by 2 points. The first 10 of these all went to Rangers resulting in their 6-0 lead and then the next 6 were all won by Arrows resulting in them winning their last two singles and the doubles showing that 1 or 2 crucial points can make all the difference.
Thrapston Kites and Corby C were both fielding less than full strength teams. Kites were missing fifth in the averages Stewart Williams being replaced by Bob Hickson and Corby C had only two players. For Kites Peter Briggs won both of his sets 3-0 whereas Hickson's both went the full distance losing 9-11 in the fifth to Stephen Woolston before beating Keith McLaren by the same score. Geoff Judd was unlucky losing in four close ends to Woolston and then losing 14-16 in the fifth end to McLaren. A good doubles win by Corby restricted Kites win to 6-4 which keeps Kites in second place.
Thrapston Falcons are in fourth place though with a match in hand over third placed Arrows and only one point behind and being only 5 points behind Kites with the same number of matches played and kept in contention with a solid 8-2 over a Harborough Diamonds team containing Liam Burnham. Burnham became a contender for player of the week with his treble over Arrows on the previous day but as Ian Baldock beat him on the way to a treble himself he takes the accolade. Burnham won the only two points for Diamonds with 3-0 wins over Nigel Payne and Alan Tyler.
Derek Muggleton played in two matches at Westfield playing for Burton Baptist's A and D against Westfield's C and D. He predictable found the match in division one a lot easier going than the one in the premier with two good wins over Nitin Patal and Chris Alder both in five ends making for a lot of playing time in the evening. Brett Owen added a third point for Burton over Malpass but the Westfield trio won two each before Malpass and Alder won three close ends in the doubles and a 7-3 win keeps them in fifth place.
Harborough Rangers 7 (Burnham 3, Brocklebank 2, Crook 2) Rothborough Arrows 3 (Marlow, Watts, Marlow/Watts)
Thrapston Kites 6 (Briggs 3,Hickson 2, Judd) Corby C (Woolston 2, McLaren, McLaren/Woolston)
Thrapston Falcons 8 ( Baldock 3, Payne 2, Tyler 2, Baldock/Tyler) Harborough Rovers 2(Burnham 2)
Westfield D 7 (Malpass 2, Patal 2, Alder 2, Malpass/Alder) Burton Baptist D 3 (Muggleton 2, Owen)
Player of the week: Ian Baldock
It was a close result when third from top played second from bottom and it was largely thanks to that man Harry Lade again. He scored all of Burton Baptist’s 4 points against higher ranked and more experienced Dakotas opponents, was behind in all the games and in the game of the night against Pete Rowbotham was match point down twice in the fourth end before clinching it in the fifth, in the process depriving Rowbotham of his sixth win in six over two nights. A measure of Lade’s improvement is that in the two corresponding earlier matches he’d only won one out of six. He then doubled up with dad Bryan – who had earlier nearly recovered from two down to Cathy Fleming – to defeat the Dakota dames of Fleming and Ainsworth.
A similar score-line at Kingswood saw Corby take the spoils against Kettering Town B and move level with them in the table. With 7-3 wins apiece this season it was the decider and Dan Bottrill and Tom Cardwell ensured it was the North Northants team who prevailed with a hat-trick each. Cardwell nearly lost out to Jim Chatburn in his last singles but did succumb in the doubles when partnered by Nathan Brown, when to win that would have allowed them to leapfrog their opponents in the league. Cardwell has now won 9 straight games and he ever-present Bottrill has won half of his matches with maximums.
It wasn’t quite as close on an adjacent table when Exocets took on Comets. Helmut Salander was the closest to preventing the clean sweep when he took Alan Brisley the full distance including a second end 17-15 victory to go two up but couldn’t see it through to win as he did in their first meeting of the season. Although all of the Exocets got footholds in games they couldn’t see it through and see Burton snapping at their heels in the table. Alan Brisley’s maximum means he has still only lost 3 all season, Sturges’s treble was his 9th and his 3rd consecutive, and Linnett’s three was his 5th of the season.
There wasn’t a “bagel” for basement team Imps when they took on top of the shop Buccaneers thanks to an unlikely win for David Patmore in straight sets over Gareth Lewis, 21 places higher and victorious in three over Patmore in the last contest. Otherwise Ben Baker’s 17-15 end win over Lewis was the high spot for the Harborough outfit who, with 5 weeks left of the season and 16 points adrift, will have to improve significantly if they are not to be rooted to the bottom at the end of the season. Pete Rowbotham played up and secured another triple and Ray Harrison continued his excellent record with another 4-point haul.
Corby D 6 (Bottrill 3, Cardwell 3) Kettering Town B 4 (Chatburn, Scrivener, An Woolston, Chatburn/Scrivener)
Harborough Imps 1 (Patmore)Rothborough Buccaneers 9 (Harrison 3, Rowbotham 3, Lewis 2, Harrison/Lewis)
Rothborough Dakotas 6 (L Ainsworth 2, Fleming 2, Rowbotham 2) Burton Baptist E 4 (H Lade 3, B Lade/H Lade)
Rothborough Exocets 0 Rothborough Comets 10 (Brisley 3, Linnett 3, Sturges 3, Brisley/Sturges)
Player of the week: Harry Lade
Kettering and District Table Tennis League team of the week: Harborough Rangers