As we pass the halfway mark of the season the title likelies are becoming ever more apparent in the Burnham & District Table Tennis League.

St Lawrence are firm favourites in Division 3 as the Blackwater teams continuing to scupper each other. Woodham C have a stranglehold in Division 2, and it’s now looking like a two-horse race to the finish in Division 1 betwixt the Galacticos of Mapledene A and the surprise package that is Woodham A.

Leaders Woodham A continued their amazing streak of form with a convincing 10-0 whitewash victory over the usually competitive Cold Norton A. Hat-tricks for the recent steady trio of Chris Penrose, Harry Chivers and Lee McHugh in a result that solidifies Woodham’s title credentials and condemns Cold Norton to a mid-table finish.

Fambridge bounced back after their recent unexpected losses with a 2-man 7-3 win over the resurgent Woodham B. Fambridge’s John Poysden and Mark Stones went through the card without dropping a set, a much-needed fillip for the team.

Mapledene A hosted the bottom team Stow A and were looking to keep in touch with Woodham A. However, they hadn’t allowed for the Stow pocket rocket that is Gary Brignall. Brignall was on literally on fire – he saw off Peter Barrett 12-10 in the fifth set, then did the same to Babul McLeod, and finished off with a four-set victory over Steve Muth. That is right up there with the performance of the season!

Unfortunately, Brignall was dropped for the doubles so that was the end of the scoring for Stow as Mapledene cleaned up the rest of the matches for a 7-3 victory. This would normally be seen as a good points tally but with Woodham racing away the gap is widening each game.

The wily John Monk was the star turn in the final Division 1 match this week. His hat-trick helped Mapledene B secure an away draw against Cold Norton C. For Cold Norton both Arron Chandler and Kim Shead picked up a couple of wins.

A full schedule of matches this week in Division 2 with the leading teams all picking up big wins. Runaway leaders and the still unbeaten Woodham C took a straightforward 10-0 win over the bottom placed team Maldon D. The singles were all straightforward as Woodham’s trio of Malcolm Henstock, Dave Meah and Graham Briggs all recorded hat-tricks.

However, the doubles was far from straightforward as Maldon’s Ella Sach and Chris Ravenhill put up a proper fight and took Meah and Henstock all the way to a deciding leg.

In a freezing cold venue Mapledene C almost matched the leaders but just fell short of the whitewash against Blackwater B as Neil Thompson managed to beat Richard Gill to register a point for his Blackwater team. For Mapledene Barrie Delf and Lin Roff went unbeaten in singles and doubles. Blackwater’s Noah Sage put in a good shift losing out to Gill and Roff in 5 sets, and then going all the way in doubles with partner Thompson.

In the Maldon derby this week the podium hopefuls Maldon B faced their own C team. In a very competitive match the B side emerged victorious but the C team boasted the player of the match as C team stalwart Steve Aspland won all his singles including two long five-setters against Colin Napper and Hamish Innes. That completes Aspland’s ninth player of the match award for the season so far, but for once the dynamic duo of Aspland and partner Colin Barrell fell short in the doubles in another tight 5-setter as Napper and Dawn Baldry won out 11-8 in the deciding set.

Elsewhere in the Division, Blackwater A picked up a fine 7-3 victory over Woodham D with the loopy Neil Freeman unbeaten all evening and ably supported by the tricky Alan Scammell with 2 wins of his own. Peter Mortensen put up the most resistance from the Woodham trio with 2 wins on the night including a topsy turvy five-setter with Scammell.

Stow C had the busy Peter Chastin to thank for securing their 6-4 win over Cold Norton D. Chastin won all his singles and combined with his mother Jean Chasmer for the all-important doubles bonus point.

The stow B and D teams fought out an honourable draw in the final match of the week. With their top player Peter Hance unavailable Stow B brought in Tony Forster and what a great replacement he turned out to be. Forster won all 3 of his matches and even came from behind against the tricky Graham Naggs for a five-set victory. For the D team Tim Pulham and Ken Sheard won 2 matches each and then combined for the match-saving doubles win.

St Lawrence remain comfortable leaders at the top of Division 3 despite being held to a draw this week at Maldon E. However, some might say the Blackwater Club is doing itself a misjustice as their teams keep taking points off each other so that the 3 Blackwater teams in the Division continue to fight it out for the runner-up slot.

This week Blackwater D faced Blackwater E and despite the artic conditions inside the venue managed to run out 7-3 winners. Davids Smith and Benstead racked up all their points as they went unbeaten in singles and combined for the doubles with the only real hiccup being the E team’s Ron Tam’s resistance in his encounter with Smith, forcing him to go all the way to 5 long sets. For St Lawrence Mike Pratley was back to his usual winning ways registering another hat-trick. For Maldon E Arthur Shadforth and James Raymond both won their other singles and then combined to get one back on Pratley as they won out in the doubles after 5 long sets.