The battle for honours in Division Three of & Clacton and District League couldn’t be tighter with Windsor Merlins making a late charge to snatch the title from long-time leaders Windsor Penguins.

This week the two teams faced each other and, in a stirring contest, the Merlins came out on top for a second time this season, winning 8-2. Joe Plummer was the best player on the night, staying unbeaten, whilst there were two each for Sam Plummer and John Harvey.

The encounter started and ended with a bang in the form of three matches which ended in the same 12-10 in the fifth scoreline.

In the opening match, Sam Plummer edged out Neil Chegwidden 3-2 (9-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-4, 12-10) to set the Merlins on their way – which they did by taking the next seven matches.

But the Penguins hit back with what could be two vital points. In match nine, Annabelle Stallwood pipped Sam Plummer 3-2 (6-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-6, 12-10) to inflict a first defeat of the season on the Merlins’ No 1. And then, in match 10, Chegwidden fought back from being 7-1 down in the final set against Harvey to take an important 3-2 (11-7, 10-12, 8-11, 11-7, 12-10) victory.

The Merlins followed this up with a second win of the week, 10-0 over Nomads Leopards. The two Plummers and Harvey all stayed unbeaten, although Harvey struggled against Bob Jillins before taking their individual match 13-11 in the fifth.

And what a crucial point it might prove for the Merlins – with just two matches to play, they now lead the Penguins by a single point. It could hardly be closer!

Nomads Leopards enjoyed better fortune in their second match, picking up a 6-4 win against Windsor Magpies, with a couple each for Bob Jillins, Stuart Wilkinson and Dominic Joannou. Dave Sweetland remained unbeaten for the Magpies but it was a close-run thing against Wilkinson, Sweetland winning 12-10 in the decider. The Magpies also took a close doubles, Sweetland and Alan Rutledge edging out Wilkinson and Jillins 11-7 in the decider.

Three for Lynette Sparks, two for Maggie Earle, plus their combined efforts in the doubles, saw Walton E to a 6-4 win over Brotherhood E. But it was a hard-fought match, the Walton pair taking the doubles 11-9 in the decider against Andrey Pavlov and Yulian Yaramenko. Pavlov picked up a couple for Brotherhood.

This result also means there’s going to be a fight to the finish to secure third place, with the Leopards and Walton E now linked together on 103 points with just two matches to play – and the two teams due to meet in the final week of the season.

Every player picked up a point in the Brotherhood F v Nomads Ocelots encounter, Joe Sherwin starring with a hat-trick in Brotherhood’s 7-3 success, a repeat of the early season score. Brotherhood won three of the four matches which went the distance, Sherwin beating Chris Wilmotte 11-7 in the fifth and Hazel Blanche 11-8 in the fifth. Sherwin and Tom Bryden took the closest match of the evening in the doubles, 12-10 in the fifth against Wilmotte and Blanche.

Trebles for Pam Cousins and Dave Wright were sufficient to give Nomads Lynx an 8-2 victory over Nomads Bobcats, with Ann Kigang adding a debut League win for her side. Norman Jacobs and James Horsler took a consolation point each for the Bobcats.

In Division One, Nomads Panthers fielded a reserve but were still good enough to defeat Windsor Hawks 6-4, James Denyer unbeaten and Gill Locke winning two. Andy Vincent won a couple for the Hawks, and Ian Fielder and John Barton one each, Barton edging past Panther’s reserve Colin Webber 11-7 in the fifth.

There were hat-tricks for Kevin Gowlett and Martin Edwards as Brotherhood A defeated bottom team Walton C 7-3. Paul Meikle and Mark Gale took a point each for the losers, the pair also enjoying their side’s third doubles win of the season, an excellent 3-0 (12-10, 11-9, 11-7) victory over Gowlett and Edwards.

Nomads Lions were 7-3 victors against Walton B, Adam Wilkin, Adam Cuthbert and Ethan Lloyd all winning twice. But none of them could get the better of Gavin Price who recorded a hat-trick, somewhat surprisingly his first of the season.

In a top-three encounter in Division Two, Walton D and Windsor Buzzards shared the spoils. There were two each for Walton’s Andy Foster and Clive Allenby but neither could quite match Windsor’s Dave Martin who remained undefeated on the night, thanks to a 3-2 (6-11, 11-8, 11-13, 11-5, 11-6) win against Foster and an even-closer 3-2 (13-15, 11-8, 13-11, 8-11, 12-10) win against Allenby.

Brotherhood B kept up the pressure at the top with a 7-3 win over Windsor Harriers, Paul Alden and Barry Allen taking maximum points. The Brotherhood side are now just nine points behind the Buzzards, with a match in hand but, crucially, the two teams will lock horns in the last week of the season for what could be a title decider.

This result also leaves the Harriers isolated at the bottom, especially after the two teams immediately above them, Brotherhood D and Windsor Kestrels, earned five points each when they fought out an honourable draw. Graham Bunce continued his excellent post-Christmas form with a treble which included an 11-9 in the decider victory over Kevin Pryor.

There were a couple each for Brotherhood’s Pryor and James Smith-Daye, and one for Tony Edmonds. But Brotherhood were unable to take the doubles, Bunce and Debra Found edging past Pryor and Smith-Daye 3-2 (11-8, 7-11, 13-11, 11-13, 11-9).

Brotherhood C and Nomads Jaguars are separated by just three points in the middle of the table and therefore it was little surprise the match ended all-square. Mark Boyland won his usual three for Brotherhood, with Mark Beckham and Paul Metcalf each taking one, Metcalf needing the full five sets before beating Kevin Hume 11-8 in the decider.

Metcalf was also involved in two other close five-setters, losing 11-9 in the fifth to John Hockley and 11-6 in the fifth to Chris Petrou. Petrou and Hockley both won twice for the Jaguars.

* Entries have closed for the League’s Closed Championships, sponsored this season by The Survey Initiative and Gary Cattermole. The Championships will be held over the weekend of 1st and 2nd April at the Clacton Coastal Academy. Players will receive further information, including details of checking-in times, by 28th March at the latest.

Division 1
Walton C 3 Brotherhood A 7
Nomads Panthers 6 Windsor Hawks 4
Nomads Lions 7 Walton B 3
Division 2
Windsor Harriers 3 Brotherhood B 7
Walton D 5 Windsor Buzzards 5
Brotherhood D 5 Windsor Kestrels 5
Brotherhood C 5 Nomads Jaguars 5
Division 3
Windsor Magpies 4 Nomads Leopards 6
Brotherhood F 7 Nomads Ocelots 3
Brotherhood E 4 Walton E 6
Windsor Penguins 2 Windsor Merlins 8
Nomads Leopards 0 Windsor Merlins 10
Nomads Lynx 8 Nomads Bobcats 2