DIVISION 3 –18.03.18 – DAY 5
SOUTH CROYDON CRUISE TO TITLE
It was mathematically possible for Bromley Common B to catch South Croydon A as they were only seven points behind, but it would mean South Croydon losing focus for them to do it. Right behind Bromley Common B were Darenth E on 22. So tight were the third, fourth and fifth places with only four points between them, that who was going down with Plumstead Radical was very much in the balance.
There was a bit of a turn up for the book with the Plumstead Radical (Keith Young/Peter Duke) and Bromley Common B (Dave Gabriel/Sylwester Czapinksi) match. A top versus bottom fixture often means a big result in favour of the top team but this was not the case here. The opening singles were shared - Young won a very long set with Gabriel while Czapinski took his set against Duke in straight games. Bromley Common won the doubles in four and Czapinski the first of the return singles for a 3-1 lead. Duke is not an easy man to beat and Gabriel had to give best in four.
Darenth E were struggling for a second player to accompany Mike Tyler, so Dave Field stepped into the breach against the South Croydon B team of Alex Ito-Aramendia and Graham Hansen. South Croydon took the first three sets in four games and they might well have been extended to a fifth game in the doubles as they only just took the fourth 15-13. The reverse singles were shared with Ito-Aramendia beating Field but Tyler pulling one out of the hat by defeating Hansen in straight games for a very valuable point. It did, however, mean that South Croydon could not now be caught on the line by Bromley Common B.
There was also a crucial match between relegation candidates Darenth D (Scott Gabriel/Vander Caceres) and Bromley Common C (Stephen Harmsworth/Piers de Caestecker) where Darenth stood just two points ahead. The opening singles were shared with Gabriel coming back from 1-2 down to Harmsworth to edge home 11-8 in the fifth and De Caestecker cruising past Caceres in straight games. Darenth won the doubles to take the lead but the issue was far from settled, for those reverse singles results could well be decisive. And so it was to prove. They were both keenly contested and went the distance. Gabriel held a 2-1 lead over De Caestecker who stole the fourth 14-12. The fifth was nerve wracking but eventually went to Gabriel 11-9. Harmsworth was likewise 2-1 up against Caceres but missing a couple of simple looking shots in the fourth proved costly as Caceres grabbed it and then went on to take the fifth as well. It was thus a 4-1 victory for Darenth D.
Whilst the top two places were now decided, there was much speculation about the relegation issue. Darenth E’s solitary point from their match meant they moved up to 23 while Darenth D’s success meant they were now one point ahead of Bromley Common C. There was no escape for Plumstead Radical but who was going with them? Darenth D had Plumstead Radical to play so hopefully could glean a big score here but Darenth E and Bromley Common C had to play each other.
The top of the table clash between South Croydon A (Hansen/Ito-Aramendia) and Bromley Common B (Gabriel/Czapinski) was a close run thing. The opening singles were shared – Hansen beating Gabriel but Ito-Aramendia gave Czapinski a real run for his money, extending him to a fifth game after coming back from 1-2 behind. It was close but Czapinski eventually got there 11-8. South Croydon won the doubles at a canter to put them 2-1 in the lead. The reverse singles were shared – Hansen doing well to take a game from Czapinski which meant the match score stood at two sets all. Ito-Aramendia and Gabriel were to decide the outcome and it went in four to Ito-Aramendia.
Darenth D (Caceres/Gabriel) collected the hoped for five points from Plumstead Radical (Young/Duke) but not without a great deal of hard work. It guaranteed safety for them.
The match between Darenth E (Tyler/Field) and Bromley Common C (De Caestecker/Harmsworth) was absolutely crucial to both teams. Three sets went to the distance and the other two required a fourth game. It was very keenly contested throughout. Tyler held the lead in the first game of the opening set against De Caestecker but it slipped through his fingers De Caestecker took advantage and went 2-1 ahead so it was an uphill struggle for penholder Tyler. He is, however, remarkably steady and De Caestecker found it difficult to break him down. Tyler got back on terms 12-10 in the fourth and held on to take it 12-10 in the fifth. Field and Harmsworth played out a very good set which Harmsworth eventually won in the fifth. Darenth then took the doubles very narrowly, 11-6, 6-11, 12-10, 16-14 tells the story and it meant they were now three points ahead of Bromley Common C. Tyler proved to be just as steady against Harmsworth but he needed five games to get past him - it could so easily have gone the other way. De Caestecker did win the last set but it was a great escape for Darenth E.
The final table was thus South Croydon A on 40, Bromley Common B on 31, Darenth D on 27, Darenth E on 26, Bromley Common C on 23 and Plumstead Radical on three.
The standard overall has been very high throughout the season and there have been many fine sets played. South Croydon are worthy winners and with Bromley Common B will compete in Division 2 next year. There has been a lot of sympathy for Plumstead Radical who haven’t been able to get players out when needed and admiration because they have honoured their commitment to the League.