After slowly catching up their rivals at the top of divisions two and three of the Braintree Table Tennis League, the challenges of Sudbury Wanderers and Great Yeldham have both run into the sand.

Wanderers first struggled to beat bottom team Rayne F 6-4 and then found Rev Matthews in irresistible form at Black Notley C, where they lost 7-3, and their run was completed when they were held to a draw by Notley D, where Sean Clift was the stumbling block.

Leaders Netts B had their own difficulties, being held up by a top-form Peter Pond in their match against Notley E before emerging with a 6-4 win.

In division three, Yeldham fell four points behind Netts D after encountering John Barrett – beaten only once this season – in their match at Finchingfield.  His three singles held his team to a draw. Netts D had a 9-1 win over Rayne H.

The handicap cup semi-finals will feature two teams from Netts and one each from Rayne and Notley.

Netts’ C and D teams had 7-2 wins over Sudbury Strollers and Netts E respectively. Rayne G beat Notley I 6-3 while Notley G beat their own H team by the same score.

Paul Davison will be aiming to record his eighth win in the men’s singles when the league’s individual tournament gets under way this weekend.

Having notched up a record seventh win last season, he is top seed to carry on where he left off, but will face stiff competition from newcomer Harry Chivers as well as former champions Lee McHugh and Brandon Crouchman and last year’s runner-up Paul Lucas.

Seventeen-year-old Chivers is new to the league this season but has had a meteoric rise in Chelmsford where he matched Davison in reaching this season’s men’s singles semi-finals.

The men’s doubles has a very open look with the leading players all paired with someone outside the top four.

Crouchman and Scott Dowsett are seeded at No 1 with Chivers and Kuang Htet Paing at two, followed by Davison and Ashley Skeggs and McHugh with Adam Buxton.

Unusually, and encouragingly, only two of the top eight in the men’s singles – actually restyled the open singles this season to encourage female entries – are veterans.

Davison and Lucas are seeded to repeat last season’s veterans’ singles final, with Buxton and James Hicks next in line.

The ladies’ singles will have a new winner this year as none of the previous champions are still playing in the league.

Louise Hartshorn, in her second season in Braintree, is seeded to face Lorraine Burgess, who returned to the game this season after a few years’ lay-off.