While the gaps at the top of divisions one and three in the Braintree Table Tennis League are relatively small – six points in the first division and two in the third – Sudbury Nomads are soaring away at the top of division two.
As they enter the second phase of the season they lead Black Notley D by 15 points with a match in hand.
Nomads have been in the league for a number of years now but before this season had run only one team. With a large squad that led to inconsistencies depending on which team they turned out.
Two factors have led to their dominance this season. Adding a second team has meant that only their strongest players are in division two. And secretary Peter Abbott has been able to make use of his contacts in the Colchester League to give them a full squad of class players.
Jack Cansdale and George Berry, from the now defunct Dedham club, joined Sudbury this year to produce, with Ken Lewis, Karl Baldwin and Richard Kemp, a formidable squad.
Despite losing an unbeaten record that had stood since April 2019, Lewis remains a class act in this division. He has received excellent backing from Baldwin, who has won 90 per cent of his sets, and Cansdale (73 per cent) while Kemp (83 per cent) has been willing to turn out four times although he now lives in Bishop’s Stortford.
Notley D have been the revelation of the season. With no change of personnel – apart from two appearances by Richard Upson and one by Gary Copsey – they have risen from second from bottom last season to second from the top.
The Clift brothers have been their anchor as before but both have improved their percentages markedly this season. Sean, the player who took away Lewis’s unbeaten record, is up from 71.4 to 86.7 while Adam has improved from 55 to 72.2.
Liberal C, runners-up for the last four completed seasons, have been hit by the injury to Dave Razzell but are still in the hunt for another set of medals, just seven points behind Notley D with a match in hand.
The Sudbury club could taste double success as their second team, Wanderers, are still very much in the hunt for the title in division three where they trail Rayne E by two points.
The contrast between the top two is intriguing. Rayne’s Oliver Hicks has been imperious throughout, 27 wins out of 27, and only once stretched to four games.
He has received backing from Martin Brunker, Alex Morgan and Scott Whiteside, but all three of them are below Wanderers’ four main players, Ian Shrubsole, Abbott, Louise Hartshorn and Geoff Barrett in the individual averages.
A close-run second half of the season beckons.