The final round of Junior Division 1B County Championship matches were played at Cippenham Table Tennis Club on Saturday 29 March where the eight teams in the Division gathered together to complete the matches. With such vast distances between the teams the Division had been split into two more local halves for the first rounds of matches to reduce travelling. Plymouth for Cornwall 1, Devon 1, Dorset 1 and Sussex 2 and Ashford, Middlesex, for Middlesex 2, Surrey 2 and Essex 1 and 2, each team playing three matches. After this first round of matches Middlesex 2 and Devon 1 led the Table with six points each whilst Sussex 2 and Essex 2 were yet to score a point. Cornwall 1 were on the verge of pulling out on the Friday evening when their match Secretary and team driver went down with a serious viral infection but a very late evening offer from a player parent saved that (he managed to get out of working on the Saturday) and the team arrived just as the first round of matches were starting after their very early morning wake up.
On the Essex front Jared and Ella Patel had informed me of their non- availability a month beforehand as had Annabelle Gibson who is currently in South Africa and Ryan Williams who had been banned from playing in all Tournament matches for a period as he had picked up too many yellow cards at recent Tournaments.
Thus the selected teams became Charlie Bates, Jermaine Fearon, Patrick Gilbert (a later replacement), Emily Godfrey and Jane Li for Essex 1 and Josh Sidki, Livingstone Nadarajah, Sam Lowman, Ryan Gooday Tiana Dennison and Stephanie Cross for Essex 2, it being my preference to take four boys for the second team. On the Wednesday teatime I was notified of the withdrawal of Jermaine and Josh and on Thursday teatime came the withdrawal of Livingstone. From frantic phone calls to the other players on the Essex Ranking and Registration Form Luke Jones signified his availability and was promptly selected (thanks Luke) but none of the others could play due to other commitments, including school work for exams, at this late stage. Thus the Essex players who played (and especially me) feel very badly let down about the very late withdrawals (not through illness or injury I am led to believe) and the fact that the Essex 2 team only had 2 boy players will lead to Essex County being fined by the ETTA for being a player short in their four matches.
To get on to the report on the matches played it was always going to be a difficult day for both teams and they would both rely heavily on the girls winning a lot of their matches. This was not to be easy when later analysis showed that that ten of the sixteen girls playing were ranked in the England top 50.
For Essex 1 their first match was against Dorset 1 and Luke, Patrick and Charlie all lost their opening matches 3-1. Luke was closest to chalking up a win in the boys remaining matches when losing 11-8 in the decider with Jacob Elliott. Emily and Jane won all four of their matches against Hannah McErlane and Lily Cherry, although for Emily it was a nail biting 13-11 decider against Hannah. Thus a 6-4 defeat.
Essex 2 had to play the long distance early morning travellers Cornwall 1. Ryan had an excellent five game win over Alex Wright and Alex was to lose only one other match during the day. Sam lost both his matches 3-0. Tiana won both her matches 3-0 but Stephanie lost to the lower ranked Dominique Williams in three 8’s. Match result a 6-4 loss.
In the next round of matches Essex 1 had to play the new leaders of the Division and title favourites Devon 1. Charlie beat both his opponents, Jordon Bone and Nathanael Sheehan 3-0 and 3-1 respectively while Patrick lost to Jordan, ranked 147, in the decider. Both Jane and Emily put up credible performances against England No. 10 Jazmin Johns, Jane losing 9, 9, 10 and Emily 13, -4, 6, 6. Jane went on to beat England No. 30 Beth Wilson 3, 7, 7 whilst Emily lost to her 4, 8, 3. A 7-3 defeat.
Essex 2 played Sussex 2 who had just beaten the previous leaders Middlesex 2. Tiana and Stephanie won both their matches and both will be pleased with their wins over the higher ranked Holly Holder. Ryan came closest to a win when he lost 12-10 in the fourth to William Goodstone.
For the third round of matches both teams had to play the opponents their colleagues had just played. Both Luke and Patrick lost to William in the decider and Luke was unlucky not to get something more from his match with Daniel Pound (England No. 88) when losing 4, 10, 13. When Charlie played him it was nip and tuck before Charlie got home 10, -11, 11, -4, 11. Both Emily and Jane found the Sussex girls harder to beat than Tiana and Stephanie had. Jane and Emily were both taken to a decider by Holly, Jane winning to 7 and Emily to 9. Charlie’s win gave the team the one point they needed to avoid any chance of relegation and Luke just failed to get the team a win when losing that last match to William.
When top, Devon, meet bottom, Essex 2, one would expect a straightforward win. Although the final scoreline was 10-0 it wasn’t quite that way. Samuel Lowman had lost one of his games 16-14 in his 3-0 defeat by Jordan Bone, Stephanie Cross had also lost 16-14 to Jazmin Johns when trying to take that match to a decider and Tiana Dennison, after losing the first two games to 9 to Beth Wilson took the third 16-14 and the fourth to 4 to set up the day’s longest game. 10-4 down Tiana clawed the next six points back and with an attacking game from both players, Tiana saving the majority of match points, the score reached 20-20 before two mistakes gave the match to Beth.
In the final round of matches Essex 1 played Cornwall 1. Jane beat Dominique 3-1 after losing the first game 12-10 and winning the second game to love. She also won 33 of the 38 points played in the match with Paige Baker. Emily also beat Paige but lost to Dominique 11-7 in the decider. Charlie beat James Wright 3-1 and in a very close match with Carl Baldry (ranked 83) just managed to win 7, -11, 12, -7, 10 to get Essex 1 a draw. This was Carl’s only defeat of the day.
Essex 2 played Dorset 1 and lost 7-3. Tiana won both her matches 3-0 one of which was against the slightly higher ranked Hannah McErlane whilst Stephanie, after coming back from 2-0 down lost to her 11-9 in the decider. Both Sam and Ryan had chances to win one of their matches. Sam was 2-0 up against Zac Dowling, then losing the third to 10 and the decider to 8 whilst Ryan, 2-0 down to Jacob Elliott won the next two games 7 and 14 only to lose the last five points in the decider after leading 9-6.
Charlie 5 wins out of 8, sadly Luke and Patrick no wins out of 8, Emily 5 wins out of 8 and Jane 7 wins out of 8. For Luke, who has another year as a junior, I hope he has gained experience from the day’s play and he will still be in line for selection next season.
Sam 0 wins out of 8, Ryan 1 win out of 8, Stephanie 4 wins out of 8 and Tiana 6 wins out of 8.
Over the two rounds of matches Jane won 12 out of 14, only surpassed by the unbeaten England No. 10 Jazmin Johns.
So Essex 1 retain their position in Division 1 but Essex 2 are relegated. We also say goodbye to Emily and Charlie as juniors and thank them for their loyalty and success in the Essex teams over the last few years and wish them success in their adult careers. Thanks also to Simon Lowman for coaching advice to some of the players in the absence of Stuart Gibbs.
Arthur C. Clark
Essex Junior Match Secretary.