It was a slightly disappointing set of results for Northumberland Table Tennis League players at last weekend’s VETTS Northern Masters. Thirteen players travelled to Preston to enjoy a mix of top quality table tennis and top quality social interaction.
The region’s best hopes lay on the shoulders of Andrew Wilkinson in the men’s O40s category, and Jeff Salter in the men’s O60s. Both players have, in recent times, won these events at other tournaments and would go into the events as number 3 seed and number 8 seed respectively.
Wilkinson cruised through the group stages, beating Brian Allison, Anthony Dixon and Tony Bartram in three comfortable sets apiece. He’ll be the first to admit he finds himself in a slump of form lately and undoubtedly the losses in both local leagues’ Closed Tournaments will have knocked his usually-untouchable confidence. Either way, he will be disappointed to fall at the first knock-out stage hurdle on the second day of the event as he succumbed 11-6 in the deciding end to unseeded Malcolm Mcevoy. The O40s was a slightly strange event at Preston however as the eventual winner, Thomas Haddley, was unseeded – and found himself in the final against the number 7 seed, Ritchie Venner. Mark Short and Andy Trott, number 1 and 2 seeds respectively, both found themselves knocked out in the quarter finals; the number 4 and 5 seeds Simon Pugh and Chris Clinton not even able to get that far.
Salter fared slightly better as he won his group in the O60s and qualified for the knock-out rounds by placing second in the O50s. He decided to concentrate on the O60s however and in doing so, gave himself a good run as he progressed fairly easily to the semi-finals. Unfortunately, there he met companion left-hander Phil Cawser, the eventual winner of the O60s, losing 3-1.
The only player to come home with any silverware was classic defender Jimmy “Chopfloat” Scope, who narrowly missed out on qualifying into the main O60s event to end up in the Consolidation tournament. There he did well to beat fellow league and long pimple player John Williamson in the first round, albeit in a very close-fought encounter which Scope scraped 12-10 in the deciding end. Scope then enjoyed a comparatively straightforward run to the title, never dropping an end before beating Lionel Royle 3-0 in the final.
Shirley Gelder was also in form, reaching the quarter-finals of the women’s O50s and the semi-finals of the O60s. In the 50s she was knocked out by semi-finalist Denise Mcevoy and in the 60s she lost to the event’s winner Diane St Ledger. Husband Tony was less successful, winning just one match in both his O40s and O50s groups. He did however have a close-fought deciding-end game with Mark Evans, a player who progressed very well in the main O40s event before losing out to finalist Ritchie Venner.
Evans was the player responsible for knocking another highly-rated Northumberland player out of the O40s event as he took down number 12 seed Eddie Smith 11-7 in the fifth end. Smith, like Evans, also lost out to Venner – this time in the quarter-finals of the O50s event in which he was seeded tenth.
Two players who will likely be disappointed with their performances are Steven Penman and David Craddock. Penman, a high-averaging player in the league’s Premier division and regular title winner, was expecting to perform well at the national level but ended up losing all three of his O40s group matches against Brian Oldfield, Chris Maiden and classical defender and off-the-table long pimple retriever “Super” Steve Horton. David Craddock was unable to win an end in any of the six matches he played.
Jim Stamas reached round 3 of both the O50s and O60s, losing to Mark Romano 3-1 in the former and aforementioned Jeff Salter 3-1 in the latter. Paul Stead reached round 3 of the O60s, losing to Phil Bowen three straight, but was unable to make it out of his group in the O50s event.
Phil Prady and Robert Reed both ended up in the Consolidation side of the O40s event with Prady losing 3-1 in the quarter-finals to Semi Idowu and Reed getting knocked out in the first round. Prady also made it through his group in the O50s event but was unceremoniously removed from the competition by Raymond Hurst, losing in three straight ends.