This Halloween week was all about the Woodham teams in the Burnham & District Table Tennis League as unbeaten Woodham A took over the top spot in Division 1, Woodham B climbed off the bottom of Division 1 and Woodham C continued their winning streak to remain firmly in control of Division 2. What curses have the Woodham witches put on all the other teams?
Unbeaten Woodham A conquered the challenge of a strong Cold Norton C squad with an emphatic 8-2 victory. As with previous champions it is often down to the number of deciding sets you can get through unscathed, and in this match Woodham managed to win all 3 matches that went the distance. Good form indeed. Kaung Htet Paing led the way with his singles hat-trick and paired up with Dan Piglet for the doubles, and Piglet and Chris Hancox each took a brace of wins. For the Cold Nortonians Tim Cramphorn blasted his way passed Piglet for his point and Kim Shead was able to take a comfortable win over Hancox. It took Woodham B until March last season to get their first win so they are way ahead of schedule this season with a 7-3 turnover of Maldon A. For Woodham it was Dan Patynski who led the charge especially in his battle with Derek Balding, coming back from 0-2 down and deuce in the third set to finally win out 11-9 in the 5th – a great battle of styles. Patynski’s stablemates couldn’t cope with Balding’s mixed style of play that proved so effective and this led to a Dusty Bin set of results for Woodham B as Patynski won 3, Sanjay Saptarshi took 2 points, and Eamonn Hall chipped in with 1 win over Steve Whiteley. Due to the inclement weather and a fear of puddles the fixture betwixt Stow Maries A and Cold Norton A was abandoned before it could get underway, and in the only other Ist division encounter Fambridge recorded a solid 8-2 scoreline against Mapledene B with hat-tricks for both Bruce Kettle and John Poysden. Mapledene’s John Monk came out on top in the most contested match as he took the notable scalp of Mark Stones in a rollercoaster 5-setter. That result pushes Fambridge back into contention just a point behind the leading two teams.
A full programme of fixtures in Division 2 facilitated a top two showdown at the Maldon Arena. The wizards of Woodham C arrived in great form and Halloween spirit only to meet a steely eyed and determined Maldon trio. After the traditional greetings and hakas it was down to the action and Maldon got a flier as Dawn Baldry took the opening game against Alex Wilson. For Woodham Graham Briggs won both his openers and this helped to square things up at 3-3 going into the doubles. The statistical gods were on Woodham’s side as their 100% doubles win rate pairing of Hancox and Briggs continued their fine form and shimmied their team into a 4-3 lead going into the final singles. Briggs just about beat Colin Napper going deep into the deciding set. Hamish Innes then repaid that fate on Alex Wilson as the night got longer and longer. So Woodham were 5-4 up going into the final countdown which featured Baldry versus Hancox – a hittingfest in the making. Well the rallies were short as was the match as Hancox won through in straight sets to maintain the 100% win rate for the leaders Woodham C, but they knew they had been in a battle. Third placed Mapledene C took great advantage of the top two clash by putting down a whitewash 10-0 result against Cold Norton D – hat-tricks all round for Barrie Delf, Dave Woolmer, and Richard Gill. That result pushes Mapledene into second place between our earlier protagonists. Looks like this one will go all the way. Elsewhere in the division Blackwater A excelled with a surprising 10-0 clear-out against Maldon D. It was largely plain sailing for a very strong Blackwater team of Denis Balic, Merv Perriman and Neil Freeman, although Maldon’s Marty Englander did take Perriman for a little stroll into a fifth set tie-break but couldn’t quite get through the resolve of the seasoned campaigner. Blackwater B also registered a healthy scoreline with an 8-2 win over 2-man Stow Maries B with Simon Quelch managing the only hat-trick of the shorter-than-usual evening. Woodham D got themselves back to winning ways this week and remain in contention with the peloton. Woodham’s Gus Heath was untroubled throughout his singles campaign with a 9 dart finish for his perfect hat-trick. Heath was very ably supported by wingman Trevor Collin who continues to impress on his journey to full recovery on this occasion matching his talisman with 3 wins of his own. Steve ‘hat-trick’ Aspland was up to his usual Tuesday evening trick or treats for his Maldon C side against Stow Maries D with, yes you’ve guessed it, another fine faultless evening of exhibition singles. The man is a machine. For Maldon Tim Pulham put up the most resistance with good wins over Colin Barrell and Garry Eames.
The third division is proving very tight this season. St Lawrence have a healthy lead and are the bookies favourite for the championship but under them there is not much to separate all of the other competitors. So any decent wins can really make a difference in league standings and always provide a confidence boost. A perfect illustration being Blackwater D’s most welcome 7-3 triumph over nearest rivals Woodham E. A result that propels the Blackwaterites into the runner-up slot just ahead of the slain Woodham E. Blackwater’s Dave Benstead was in fine fettle with 3 wins to maintain his 100% win rate for the D team. Benstead’s team-mates Jacqui Treacy and the legend that is Norman Hayes both won 2 of their matches to ramp up the score. For Woodham it was the up and coming Peter Harverson who kept the score somewhat respectable with great wins over Treacy and Hayes, plus combining with Reece Arundell for a very important doubles point that went to deuce and beyond in the fifth leg of an almighty battle. The final match of the week was a typical encounter in this years third tier as the E teams from Maldon and Blackwater went toe-to-toe until the Blackwater trio emerged triumphant in a tight 6-4 awayday victory. Peter Davenport of Blackwater fame was the main reason for the victory with 3 solid singles points that were the bedrock of the winning margin.
Headline picture – Stow-in-the-Slow – the journey to Stow was too much for the Cold Norton tractors