As players take a break from league action for the first cup week, the Braintree Table Tennis League division one table shows how tight things are at the top.
Champions Netts A have yet to stamp their mark on the season and were held to another draw in the most recent set of matches.
Perennial runners-up Rayne A – second for the last five seasons – occupy that place again, just two points adrift but they too are yet to fire on all cylinders. That has allowed Netts’ B team, still undefeated, to join them on 22 points.
And in last place? In very unfamiliar territory, it’s Liberal A, champions five times from 2016 to 2020.
Netts A’s most recent draw came against Black Notley B, where they were grateful to Andy Holmes’s three singles.
Gary Copsey took him the closest, missing out 3-2 (10-12, 8-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-6).
Three sets were decided by two points in the final game, including Dan Anderson’s win at 13-11 that denied James Hicks his hat-trick.
It was Rayne A’s recent signing Paul Lucas who held them together in their draw with Netts B. He won his three singles comfortably in straight games and partnered Adam Buxton to a similar win in the doubles.
Liberal A have their own B team to blame for stranding them at the bottom of the table.
With Peter Hayden, Brandon Crouchman and Scott Dowsett unavailable, the A team called on Gareth Davies from their C team and were grateful for his presence. It was he who took the two sets in their 8-2 defeat.
He beat Mike Johnston in four games and Ashley Skeggs at 11-7 in the final game, but Robin Armstrong was at his most steadfast and beat him in straight games.
It means only eight points separate first from seventh, and the team in seventh place has a match in hand, an unusually tight position for this time of the season.
The current first division table looks like this: