The Woodham club continued its glory pilgrimage this week as both the A and C teams strengthened their grips on their respective Divisions in the Burnham & District Table Tennis League.

Blackwater D have crept up to within five points of leaders St Lawrence A in Division 3 and will be looking to cause an upset over the course of the final two matches.

Woodham A hosted a strong Mapledene B side hoping to cause a dent in the Woodham title drive to allow their Mapledene A clubmates to close the gap a little. Try as they may the Mapledeners couldn’t trouble the scoreboard on an evening with plenty of drama and close games.

Mapledene stalwart John Monk is in fine form and proved the most difficult opponent all evening. In the opening match Monk took a 2-1 lead over the rarely beaten Chris Penrose but Penrose dug deep to eventually take the last two sets 11-7 – and that set the tone for the evening, a Woodham victory but a battling performance from the Mapledene team.

Penrose found himself 2-1 behind again in his next match against the penhold perfection of Colin Chatfield but again overcame his inner demons to win out 11-8 in the fifth. Even at 8-0 down Mapledene weren’t dejected and Monk thought he had won the battle of the ages against Harry Chivers – what a battle this one was (see photo above).

Monk went 2-1 up but Chivers battled back to square up at 2-2 before a momentous roller-coaster of a final leg that saw the lead and momentum swing from player to player, Monk wearing down his lively opponent with some amazing control and attacking play. At 9-8 everything pointed to a Monk win but Chivers stayed in the next rally and hit a wonderful winner to draw the wind out of the Monk sails. Tense and exciting in equal measures. Chivers served for the match and won out 11-9 – albeit cruelly with a couple of nets and edges that no-one wanted to see given the quality of the battle that preceded the finish.

A final score of 10-0 to Woodham that surely seals the title for them now but as oft is the case the score doesn’t tell the full story. Lee McHugh was the player of the match with a less dramatic hat-trick than his team-mates.

The Woodham B side were playing opposite the A team but couldn’t match their winning ways against a strong Cold Norton B trio. Things got off to a good start for Woodham B as Sanjay Saptarshi beat Dan Anderson in four tight sets breaking his duck against the defensive specialist. Anderson controlled much of the play but missed vital winners at key times in each of the legs he lost.

And that was it for the Woodham side as the Ice Cold Nortonians rattled up a 9-1 victory with the only other wobble coming in the match between Ian Wall and Woodham’s captain Eamonn Hall. Hall troubled Wall throughout and had several game points in the first two legs but lost out 12-10, and then 15-13 before taking the third leg to make a proper game of it. Wall took the 4th leg with some aplomb though as he took out his frustration on the poor ball and smashed his way to victory and then went on without dropping another set all evening. So a hat-trick for Wall, and a nine-dart hat-trick for star player Eric Green.

In the final division 1 match Cold Norton C pulled away from the relegation zone with an Arron Chandler inspired 8-2 win over bottom-placed Stow Maries A. Stow’s Gary Brignall had good wins over Tim Cramphorn and Kim Shead for his team’s points. A hat-trick for Chandler, and a brace each for Shead and Cramphorn.

In Division 2 the dominant Woodham C just missed out on securing the title with two games to go. Second-placed Maldon B had an early tight 6-4 victory over Blackwater A which left Woodham C with a target of seven points or more for the title when they travelled to Maldon C later on in the week. But Maldon C were fresh from the disappointing shock loss to Woodham D and were in no mood to roll over and get tickled by the champions-elect.

In the early skirmishes Maldon’s Colin Barrell took the scalps of Dave Meah and then Graham Briggs in a comeback five-setter. Woodham’s Chris ‘slowhand’ Hancox also won both his matches to set up a player of the match finale with Barrell. In between, Maldon’s top doubles duo of Barrell and Steve Aspland creamed the doubles in a very straightforward straight sets victory against Hancox and Briggs. So 4-3 to Woodham and they needed the final run of singles for the title.

Briggs defeated Garry Eames in three but then Aspland spoiled the party with his own three-set victory over Meah. Would Woodham’s Hancox be able to bring himself to the party for the final showdown given the disappointment of not being able to secure the title this week?

A gut-busting 11-3 in the first leg to the Woodham Whacker but this was no laughing matter for Mr Barrell who would not roll over for anyone and it was he who took the next two tight legs for a slender lead. With pride at stake and his doe-eyed team-mates aghast Ol’ Slowhand hit the gas and blasted his way back to 2-2. But this one was set to go the distance and after the combatants swapped match points it was the Woodham warrior that prevailed 12-10 with the last point of the night for the overall 6-4 victory that leaves Woodham C on the precipice with just a point required for glory.

Secure in the runner-up spot, Maldon B had Colin Napper and Dawn Baldry to thank for their 6-4 win over Blackwater A. Napper continued his fine vein of form with another hard-fought hat-trick that took two five-setters to complete. Baldry added a brace of wins and the dynamic duo coupled up for the doubles point.

It was a good week for the Stow Club as their three teams took the remaining victories over the week. The Stow B boys coming out 6-4 victors over Cold Norton D with braces for Peter Hance and Nicky Reece-Ford.

Stow C welcomed Maldon D to Smythe Hall but then showed no mercy in a 7-3 mauling with Pete Layzell the outstanding player with three singles and the doubles win with Jean Chasmer. A notable victory for Maldon’s Ella Sach with a four-set triumph over the lovable Dave Goody that included a marathon third leg that Sach won 20-18.

That man Tim Pulham was at it again this week as he recorded yet another hat-trick for his Stow D side to help secure a 6-4 win over Blackwater B. Pulham was wingmanned by Ken Sheard who took a brace of singles and the pair partnered up for the crucial doubles victory. 

With leaders St Lawrence experiencing a dip in form, Division 3 has opened up somewhat and the Blackwater Club has an unexpected opportunity to take this one to the wire. The trouble is the three Blackwater teams keep taking points off each other and can’t really decide between them which team should mount the challenge.

However this week, for once, there were no Blackwater derbies to muddy the mathematics and it was Blackwater D that emerged as true contenders with a commanding 8-2 victory over Woodham E. The Blackwater C and E teams seemingly giving up the ghost with two defeats just when they least needed them!

For the phoenix-like D side it was the youthful Norman Hayes that did the most damage with an inspiring hat-trick that included a very hard earned five-set victory over the even more youthful and up-and-coming Peter Harverson. The rest of the points were collected by Jacquie Treacy and Chris Rolison with two singles and the doubles in the credit column with both players losing out to Harverson.

Blackwater C chose the wrong week to play the resurgent Maldon F side who fielded John Leavett and Ross Kirby who have both been in scintillating form of late. The form book doesn’t lie and both Leavett and Kirby took no prisoners as they swept aside the Blackwater triers for a pair of hat-tricks and with that kind of form of course they won the doubles bonus point too for the overall 7-3 scoreline.

Blackwater E travelled to Maldon E for the Friday night special but came away with less than what they hoped for. Maldon E’s Arthur Shadforth has been unplayable of late and he continued this run with another hat-trick on a night when every player won at least one point. For Blackwater David Sage won two and with everyone else swapping a point each the result came down to the doubles which fell to Shadforth and Matthew Copsey for the final 6-4 win of the week for the Maldon Club.