Just three points separated the first four teams after Day 3.   Darenth A led on 20 points with Tandridge A and Tandridge B in equal second place on 18 with Cleeve Park A handily placed, just one point behind on 17.   South Croydon A on nine and Amherst A on eight were a little adrift but perfectly capable of throwing a spanner in the works.   Day 4 was to bring a lot of surprises.

Round 7

The derby match between Darenth A and Amherst H (Oscar Owen/Yiannis Papadopoulos) therefore took on a great significance as Tommy Cowling had to be called up from Division 2 to partner Henry Morrell.   He proved himself equal to the task, taking both of his singles though he needed a fourth game to get past Owen.   Morrell took both singles as well but was given a hard time by Owen who stretched him to five games.  The doubles was strange.   Amherst could have won it in straight games but didn’t and then paid the price in the fourth and five games as Cowling and Morrell, a left-right handed pair, began to work better together.

Tandridge A (Jack Coyne/Matthew Woodgate) were looking to garner some points from South Croydon A (Dominic Faulkner/Nicolas Ito-Aramendia) and duly secured the first two sets.   South Croydon A’s pocket rockets, a right-left pair, got it all together in the doubles and pulled one out of the hat, winning in four games.   Coyne was then extended to a fourth game by the leftie Ito-Aramendia and Faulkner upped his game considerably against Woodgate which was one of the best sets of the day.   Faulkner was trailing 1-2 but fought hard to level at two games all.   He got his nose in front in the fifth and nipped home 11-9 much to his team mate’s delight.   It had been a well fought match, much appreciated by the spectators and put the brakes on Tandridge A’s sights on winning the Division.

Tandridge B were lying in equal second so their match with Cleeve Park A was an important one for them.   Both teams had to summon a substitute – Edward Blake to accompany Izaac Duncan-King for Tandridge B and Mark Yin to partner Devan Vadukul for Cleeve Park.   Cleeve Park shot out of the blocks and soon had three on the board though Vadukul had to go to a fourth game to beat Duncan-King and the doubles went to a fourth game as well.   They then reeled off both the reverse singles to record a totally unpredicted 5-0 victory.   It was hard on the Tandridge boys but chapeau to the Cleeve Park lads for their unbounded enthusiasm.

These results had a dramatic effect on the table.   Darenth A were still sitting comfortably at the top on 25 but Cleeve Park A had zoomed up to second spot on 22.   Tandridge A had slipped to third on 21 and Tandridge B were down to fourth on 18.   South Croydon A now had 11 and Amherst A remained on eight.

Round 8

Darenth A had their customary change in line up with Konrad Johnson replacing Cowling against Tandridge B (Duncan-King/Blake).   They rattled off the opening sets in short order but the doubles was a very different story and they were fully extended to win it in five games.   It was back on track in the reverse singles which were comfortably won for a maximum haul.

Amherst A (Owen/Papadopoulos) needed to get their act together against South Croydon A (Faulkner/Ito-Aramendia) and, given the spirited performance turned in earlier by South Croydon A, that was not going to be an easy task, nor was it.   Three sets needed a fourth game and one went the distance.   Owen places the ball well and Faulkner, no mean tactician himself, wasn’t able to cope.   Ito-Aramendia might be one of the smallest players in this Division but he is nobody’s fool.   He had Papadopoulos on the ropes at 2-0 up but Papadopoulos wriggled off the hook 11-9 and then held him off to take it in five games.   Amherst wobbled a bit in the doubles but just about made it 10-12 in the fourth.   Amherst took both the reverse singles but not without some difficulty and were taken to a fourth game in both.   A 5-0 was welcome for Amherst but they had to work exceptionally hard to get past the South Croydon A boys.

Probably the best match of the day was that between Tandridge A (Coyne/Woodgate) and Cleeve Park A (Vadukul/Yin).   It was played to a very high standard and there were many fine rallies played out.   Four sets required a fourth game and one went the distance.   The opening sets were shared, Coyne having to regroup after dropping the third to Vadukul and Woodgate so nearly stretching Yin to a fifth game, only losing the fourth 11-13.   The doubles went to Tandridge A, giving them the lead.   Then came a tremendous tussle between Coyne and the left hander, Yin.   Coyne got the first and Yin the second.   Coyne took the third 14-12 and Yin the fourth 12-10.   Yin got a flyer in the fifth and Coyne wasn’t able to contain him.   It was Coyne’s first loss of the season.   The contest between Woodgate and Vadukul was no less exciting as the score line shows – 11-13, 18-16, 15-13, 15-13 to Woodgate says it all.   What no scoresheet can ever show was the terrific defence Woodgate put up to achieve that result.   He was here, there and everywhere while, for his part, Vadukul never gave ground.   It was a set which justifiably earnt prolonged applause and was a fitting climax to a most exciting day.

Darenth A have therefore increased their lead to six points and are now on 30.   Tandridge A and Cleeve Park A are in joint second place on 24.   Tandridge B remain on 18, Amherst A are on 13 and have overtaken South Croydon A on 11.   There is still so much to play for and given Day 4’s surprises, a lot to look forward to on the final day.

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