Woodham A firmly and formally entered the battle for the Burnham & District Table Tennis League Division 1 title this week as they welcomed leaders Mapledene A to their patch and sent them home with defeat ringing in their ears.

Woodham A remain the only Division 1 side with a 100% record but having played fewer games than the top teams have only been on the periphery of championship discussions so far this season. So this was a key week for the Woodham squad to see if they could rise to the challenge against a truly talented side from current leaders Mapledene A.

As always at this level it comes down to selection and availability as the big boys battle it out across a range of leagues – would Woodham be able to sustain their incredible start? Woodham came out strong for this one, fielding Chris Penrose, Lee McHugh and Kaung Htet Paing, against a Mapledene trio of Reece Seddon, Babul McLeod and Steve Muth.

Seddon kicked things off in style with an excellent four-set victory against Penrose, and after four matches Mapledene had a 3-1 lead and were looking comfortable – this included an amazing ‘Battle of the Mc’s’ turnaround victory for McLeod coming from 2-0 down against McHugh to beast his way through the final two legs for a legendary triumph.

By the break Woodham had clawed it back to 3-3 and then came another phenomenal swing in momentum. Mapledene’s doubles pairing of Seddon and Muth seemed to have the bonus point wrapped up in the doubles as they led 2-0 and 10-6 up with four straight match points to close out the game. But the Woodham dynamic duo of McHugh and Paing dug deep, then went a little deeper still, and somehow pulled a rabbit out of the hat for a truly incredible point especially given the calibre of their opponents – sometimes matches, leagues and championships turn on a single event, could this be the moment for Woodham this year?

Seddon followed up this disappointment with a battle weary five-set victory over McHugh for a fine hat-trick, but Paing and Penrose won their final matches with McLeod and Muth respectively for an overall 6-4 win that maintains their 100% win rate but bolsters their belief by a huge multiple.

In a slightly different part of the league table, the Woodham and Mapledene B sides fought out a marathon of a battle at the Mapledene Arena. Mapledene B came out on top with a 7-3 scoreline as Woodham had match points in two of the legs that they ultimately conceded.

Mapledene’s slimline Kieran Skeggs won all his singles comfortably only dropping one set across all thre games – Skeggs may have dropped some timber but his power remains immense as he blasted his way through his opponents.

 For Woodham, Adi Kamma was the surprise package with victories over Paul Brown and Andy Seaman – intelligent play, determination and some fierce hitting served him well. Woodham debutant Dave Colwill had a great start with a testing five-set opening victory over Seaman – but then suffered a very frustrating remainder of the long evening.

In the doubles Kamma and Colwill took a deserved but surprising lead at 2-1 against the Mapledene pairing of Brown and Skeggs. Colwill was solid and controlled throughout but it was Kamma making all the difference with some fine attacking play. In the fourth leg the Woodham twosome got to 10-8 and two match points but just failed to get that winning shot as the Mapledene duo played some brave shots given the scoreline. Mapledene capitalised on their survival bounce and went on to take the final leg 11-7.

The final match of the evening saw Brown take on Colwill in what was billed as a chess match with both players able to push and hit to suit the moment. Brown took the first leg comfortably with the aid of a few nets and this pattern continued throughout the match as the nets and edges count gathered pace!

Colwill somehow kept himself in the second leg and eventually won out 14-12 and took a feisty third leg to take the lead. After a pep talk from Mr Skeggs, Brown came out replenished for the fourth leg and devoured everything that came his way to tie things up at 2-2.

So, at an ungodly hour we approached the final leg. The balance of luck did not change but the game remained tight, and at 10-9 to Brown the whole crowd were undecided as to whether a net or edge winner would sum up the match. Luckily the point was a good one and Colwill evened up at deuce. We then swapped match points until at 15-14 up Brown got his winner. A match that had everything – some amazing play and intelligent blocking from Colwill, the drama of luck in sport, tension galore, and the coolness and determination of eventual winner Mr Paul Brown.

It wasn’t all about Mapledene and Woodham this week in the top division as the top Cold Norton sides had a very good time of it too. Cold Norton B kicked off the week with a comprehensive 9-1 demolition of two-man Stow Maries A.

Hat-tricks for Eric Green and Dave Richardson, with Stow’s Gary Brignall securing his team’s single point. Great result for Cold Norton which closes the gap considerably on leaders Mapledene A.

Next came the battle of Latchingdon as Cold Norton C hosted Cold Norton A at the Gandy Arena. A seemingly straightforward 7-3 win for the A team but actually it was a bit harder than it sounds as the A team’s Matt Stringer needed the full 10 legs to dispatch the C team’s Chris Buer and Arron Chandler – both of whom are in great form at present. So a sweaty hat-trick for Stringer whereas Duncan Taylor was a bit more relaxed for his three wins.

Woodham C were the only one of the top three teams to win in Division 2 this week and have therefore extended their seemingly unassailable lead. Woodham’s 8-2 victory came against their own D team with regular hat-tricks for the impressive Graham Briggs and Gus Heath.

The D team’s up and coming Alex Wilson did his utmost to make the C team work for their victory as he took both the hat-trick merchants to long 5 setters. His evening did not go unrewarded as in yet another five-set marathon he was able to just pip Dave Meah for one of his team’s points.

Mapledene C came a cropper at the hands and paddles of the experienced Stow Maries B trio. Mapledene’s Barrie Delf was unvexed though as he hit a ferocious ‘nine-dart hat-trick’ to maintain his personal 100% win rate this season with 18 wins on the bounce. Despite Delf’s dominance the Stow team were not overawed as they rallied to win the majority of the other matches for a healthy 6-4 margin in their favour. Nicky Reece-Ford held on for a 12-10 victory in his deciding leg with Mike Johnston, and then exactly the same thing happened again to Johnston in the doubles having been 2-0 up with partner Delf.

Maldon B were held to a 5-5 draw at Stow Maries D and they had Hamish Innes to thank for that as he went unbeaten in his singles. For Stow, both Ken Sheard and Tim Pulham were able to take a brace of wins apiece and then paired up for a 17-15 final leg doubles bonus point to ensure the match was halved.

The remaining matches were all quite tight as Blackwater A and Cold Norton D drew their encounter with Denis Balic starring for Blackwater with a decent hat-trick. Blackwater B went one better and sneaked a 6-4 turnover against Stow Maries C with the excellent Simon Quelch finally getting his hands on a Div 2 hat-trick and player of the match award.

Maldon C – Garry Eames, Colin Barrell & Steve Aspland

In the Maldon derby, the Maldon D side were shown little mercy from their own C team as they capitulated for a 7-3 loss. Maldon C opted for the Dusty Bin 3-2-1 approach with Steve Aspland taking the 3 wins, Garry Eames twice a winner, and Colin Barrell scraping through with one victory – and no surprise that Aspland and Barrell combined for the extra doubles point.

Minimal action in Division 3 this week but nonetheless a great week for the Blackwater Club as both their C and D teams recorded strong wins to keep them firmly embedded in the race for the silver medals. Phil West led his Blackwater C team to a powerful 8-2 win over Maldon E with his first hat-trick since the opening day of the season. West was ably supported by his rarely spotted wingman Andy Simmonds who was also able to go unbeaten over the evening and even combined with Kath Little for an extra doubles point.

Blackwater D travelled across town to face Maldon F and left with their bags full with a 7-3 victory. Blackwater’s David Benstead was back to his early season form with a very straightforward nine-leg hat-trick and this was the bedrock for his team as both his team-mates Jacquie Treacy and Norman Hayes contributed in the singles and doubles to amass the points for a comfortable victory.