Mapledene A fielded possibly the strongest team of the whole season to date for their resounding win over Fambridge this week to storm back to the top of the Burnham & District Table Tennis League.

What a showdown this season is becoming with the potential for a winner-takes-all finale as the top two sides are scheduled to meet in the final week of the season.

Fambridge welcomed Mapledene A to their manor this week and were fielding a strong and experienced side of Mark Stones, Keith Adams, and Bruce Kettle. Mapledene A, desperate to close the gap on Woodham A, played a blinder in the younger, but still experienced, trio of Daniel Young, Reece Seddon and Liam Squirrell.

Adams had a great start to the night where in match 2 he took a surprisingly comfortable straight sets win over Young to even up the match at 1-1. Unfortunately that was the end of the scoring for Adams, and Fambridge, as the younger holy trinity of Mapledene brushed aside all further attempts to halt their progress.

So, hat-tricks for Squirrell and Seddon with the only real scare coming from Adams when he took Seddon all the way to a fifth and deciding set.

Cold Norton B look to have secured third spot this season and were just far too good for Maldon A this week. The Nortonites ran out 10-0 winners on the night although Maldon’s superb lefty Jon Stokes made them work for it with five-setters against Ian Wall and Eric Green, and then doing the same again with partner Lloyd Bennett-Smith in the doubles. No cigar for Stokes though but hat-tricks all round for Wall, Green and Sam Lowman.

Woodham B were delighted to be told that their opponents had a player drop out very late on – an extra 3 points but more importantly some extra post-match valuable team bonding time at a local hostelry beckoned. Imagine their bewilderment on arrival when told Cold Norton A had a) sorted out a replacement, and b) it was Duncan Taylor.

Taylor (pictured above) secured a ‘nine-dart finish’ across his 3 matches (he didn’t drop a set), although he was at least troubled by Woodham’s hard-hitting Chris Hancox who probably should have nicked at least one leg. Matching Taylor was Matt Stringer who also recorded a hat-trick including a comeback five-leg win over Sanjay Saptarshi. So, an 8-2 victory for 3 man Cold Norton A and no extra-curricular fun time for Woodham B.

In the final top division match this week there was no repeat performance from last week’s Stow Maries hero Gary Brignall. Mapledene B took down Brignall and his Stowmate Matthew Brown for a 9-1 inflated victory despite all the games going to 4 or 5 legs. Hat-tricks for Mapledene’s rarely seen Keith Willett, and Kieran Skeggs, with Matthew Brown taking his team’s sole point with a five-leg triumph over Basildon’s finest Mr Paul Brown.

Division 2 had a full fixture list this week with the vast majority of the games being very tight. Stow D and Cold Norton D saw out a 5-5 draw with Tim Pulham notching another hat-trick in his amazing season to date. Team-mate Tim Huxtable took 2 excellent wins, and for Cold Norton Terry Hylands had 2 wins of his own.

Then came three 6-4 home wins for Mapledene C, Maldon C, and Stow Maries B. Mapledene C defeated closest rivals Maldon B but probably needed a bigger scoreline if they wanted to trouble leaders Woodham C. Barrie Delf was once again the top player of the evening with 4 wins including the doubles.

Maldon C came out on top against Stow Maries C. Not surprisingly Steve Aspland was yet again the main man for Maldon with 4 wins over the course of the evening. Maldon’s Garry Eames took a good 5 set victory over the lovable Dave Goody, and Peters Chastin and Layzell took 2 wins a piece for their Stow team.

Stow B had to work harder than expected against Maldon D for their 6-4 win this week. No problems for the very in-form Peter Hance as he rattled off his sixth hat-trick of the season. The Maldon trio all took a win home with them and the doubles, but the pick of the victories goes to Marty Englander who somehow got passed the ferocious hitting of Nicky Reece-Ford for a noteworthy five-set triumph.

In a tense and noisy encounter leaders Woodham C held on for a decent 7-3 win over the very tricky Blackwater A. The match was not without its drama as the Blackwater trio seemed to get under the skin of the leaders – especially when the away side won an edgy doubles match to bring the match score back to 4-3. Woodham regrouped and managed to focus to bring home the final 3 singles to maintain their 100% record. Another hat-trick for Graham Briggs despite being taken to late in the decider by Alan Scammell, and 2 wins each for Chris Hancox and David Meah.

Despite being very short of match-fit or available players Woodham D put out a strong team and duly recorded the biggest win of the week. 8-2 against Blackwater B, and this could have been worse for Blackwater but for some amazing play by Noah Sage and then Gary Smith at crucial times.

For Woodham Eamonn Hall was unbeaten with 3 straight set wins, and Gus Heath matched this hat-trick. Woodham’s third player Peter Mortensen was also on for a hat-trick and despite a tricky encounter with Sage he seemed to have wrapped up the deciding set when 10-7 up with 3 match points to play – but Sage was far from done as he won the next 5 points to pluck victory from the jaws of defeat, or did Mortensen pluck defeat from the wide open jaws of victory?

Then in the doubles a new and rejuvenated Gary Smith emerged – fearless and attacking. Hitting winner after winner he guided his duo to a very unlikely doubles bonus point and very well deserved it was too.

After this week’s defeat Division 3 leaders St Lawrence now have no wins in their last 3 matches and the gap back to the peloton is narrowing. However it remains unlikely that any of the Blackwater teams will catch the leaders as yet again they continue to take crucial points off each other.

It was Blackwater D that rocked St Lawrence this week with a 6-4 turnover. All the damage was done by the very reliable Dave Benstead and Jacquie Treacy. Benstead won all his singles including a notable five-setter over the legend that is Mike Pratley, and Treacy, despite losing to Pratley, won her other 2 singles and then combined with Benstead for the doubles.

Blackwaters C and E teams fought out a 5-5 draw. The C team’s Andy Simmonds was in fine fettle with a personal hat-trick, and he was well supported by Deb Ginn with 2 wins – although Ginn did fall to Jo Hart in 4 legs for Hart’s best win of the season by far, and her first brace of wins to boot.

In the final match of the week Woodham E hosted Maldon F. The match ended in a draw, but only just as Woodham’s Chris Crooks almost took off his hat when he was faced with deuce in the fifth leg against John Leavett in the final match of the evening – but the stoic Crooks held firm for the match-saving win. Before that moment Maldon’s Ross Kirby had been the main talking point as he rattled his way through the very different playing styles of the Woodham trio for an outstanding hat-trick.