Harry Chivers and his Woodham A side are finally catching up on their postponed matches and following this week’s result are now joint favourites for the Burnham & District Table Tennis League Division 1 title alongside the ‘Galacticos’ of Mapledene A.

The majority of the league action this week took place on a cold and very wet evening at Champions Manor Hall in South Woodham – it’s on days like these that you really appreciate playing an indoor winter sport.

The two top division encounters saw two of the top contenders fight it out and the two bottom placed teams doing battle for that wooden spoon. It’s fair to say there was a lot more tension in the top of the table clash and a lot more frivolity at the other end of the hall.

Woodham A have been the surprise package this year and continue to recruit well. They remain the only top side with a 100% win rate and are looking like real contenders. This week they welcomed current champions Fambridge into their manor – with both sides introducing their latest signings.

Woodham welcomed back Harry Chivers and Fambridge revealed Reuben Okai as their latest marquee signing. The two debutants met in game 3 with the match even at 1-1, and Chivers clearly won the battle of nerves as he came out all guns-a-blazing for a quick fire 3-0 victory.

4-2 at the break and Okai had notched his first point in a comeback 5-setter against Lee McHugh. He went on to take another good scalp in the form of the unbeaten Chris Penrose but his team-mates could not cope with the continued pressure from the Woodham trio eventually losing out 7-3 with McHugh beating Mark Stones in the final match of the evening, and Chivers (pictured above against John Poysden) delivering the goods with a season debut hat-trick.

So Woodham maintain their unbeaten run and are now just 6 points behind leaders Mapledene A with a game in hand – let’s see how Fambridge react to this defeat in the return fixture next week.

Woodham B took on bottom placed Stow Maries A in the Wooden Spoon Cup and got off to a flier as they took an early 3-0 lead before Stow’s Richard Storey came from behind to take the final two legs 12-10 against the hard-hitting Chris Hancox to finally trouble the scoreboard.

It was 4-2 at the break as Sanjay Saptarshi won his second match against Peter Chastin, and Gary Brignall scored Stow’s second point in an excellent straight sets victory over Dan Patynski – although one leg did go to 17-15. Brignall and Storey absolutely stormed through the doubles to close the gap even further and then in the first of the run-in matches Chastin outlasted Hancox in a 5 set clash of styles thriller to even things up at 4-4.

All to play for in the last two matches and Storey soon found himself 2-1 up against Patynski and looking for his team to sneak into an overall lead. To his credit Patynski persevered with his rolling technique and it all finally clicked into gear and he was able to dominate the final 2 legs to put Woodham back in the ascendency.

In the final match Brignall got off to a great start and took a surprise first leg lead before Saptarshi tweaked his concentration and got his block working correctly – once this was under control Brignall had lost his first set advantage and Saptarshi finished out the match for his hat-trick and to secure the overall victory for Woodham.

In Division 2 the Stow B side also travelled to Woodham and left with a decent 6-4 victory with Peter Hance unbeaten. The opening game for Hance was the toughest of the night as he and Trevor Collin went toe-to-toe for the first 4 legs before finding themselves at deuce in the deciding fifth leg. Hance had 6 match points on the trot – and if you believe Collin all of these resulted from nets and edges, whereas in truth it was only 5. Eventually Hance had enough of the games and won out 18-16.

Collin showed great fitness levels playing a full 15 legs in the singles with 2 victories in his remaining games and then teaming up with Alex Wilson for a 4 set doubles. The only other point for Woodham came from Alan Dadswell’s triumph over Dave Marsh. With Hance picking up a hat-trick he needed the support of Nicky Reece-Ford with 2 wins and Marsh picking up a point against Wilson for the overall victory.

The only other league match over Xmas saw Maldon B victorious in the Maldon derby with their D side. Comfortable hat-tricks for B team regulars Dawn Baldry and Colin Napper and they wrapped up the points with a doubles bonus point for the overall 7-3 result.

In the toughest match of the evening the D team’s Ella Sach looked like she had thrown away a 2-0 lead against James Raymond only to shake off the cobwebs and take the decider with a comfortable margin.

On a sadder note, the Burnham & District Table Tennis League would like to share their condolences with the Knights family for the recent loss of long-term Treasurer and Committee member Martin Knights. He was a great friend to many, and a great servant to our league – he will be sorely missed.