October 22nd/23rd marked the start of the Junior British League season for 2016/17, with Lillington Free Church Table Tennis Club sending a team of junior boys to the Derby Arena to compete in Division 2B.
Last season the club came away with a silver medal in Division 2B, but with two of the medal-winning side no longer able to compete in the junior events it was time to blood some new talent from the within the club ranks. Timmy Cooper, last year’s number one, has been joined by club-mates Adam Cofler, Jack Green and Lewis Singleton.
In another notable change from previous years, this season also marks the first sponsorship deal the club has managed to secure for the Junior British League competition. Locally based IT solutions provider, NS Optimum, have generously covered the cost of the team kit this season and the club is extremely grateful for their assistance.
NS Optimum are a Total IT Solutions Provider to schools and colleges throughout the UK. Since the early 1990s they have supplied thousands of schools and colleges from their wide range of products and services. They have developed long-term partnerships with schools in both the state and independent sector.
NS Optimum provides complete IT solutions to small nursery and infant schools right through to colleges, including primary, junior, middle, secondary and independent schools. They are responsible for some of the UK’s largest campus wide school networks providing in many cases a complete managed service. You can find out more about NS Optimum and the services they provide by visiting their website at www.nsoptimum.co.uk
The Lillington boys started their campaign with a match against a strong Halton side and if they were under any illusions as to the quality of opposition in the division, things were quickly cleared up and Timmy Cooper, Adam Cofler and Lewis Singleton were whitewashed 6-0. Cooper put up a good fight against Halton’s number one, Keir Morton, going the distance before the deciding fifth leg just got away from him.
Next up were Kingfisher who boasted the prodigious young talent, Jamie Liu, amongst their ranks. Cooper was first up for Lillington and failed to cope with Liu’s speed and spin in the first leg before adjusting and becoming more competitive in the ensuing legs. Liu, who represents England in the younger age groups, was just too sharp, though, and ran out a 3-1 winner.
Jack Green was brought into the side for the second match and produced some excellent play in his opener against Sam Liu, showing good touch combined with attacking intent. Green lost two close legs before taking the third, but the fourth ran away from him.
Adam Cofler also fell to Sam in four legs, and did extremely well to take the Kingfisher number one, Josh Gallen to four legs. Cooper extended Gallen to a fifth leg, which he came through to win 11-9 and pick up Lillington’s first win of the day, salvaging some pride in a 5-1 defeat.
The last match on the first day was against top-seeded Market Rasen. Rasen’s number 1, Sam Chesterman, was in imperious form as he blew away Cooper and Green 3-0. Lewis Singleton produced a fine effort against Nick Keast, taking him to a fifth leg before succumbing. Green was unfortunate not to take Rasen’s Tom McIntosh the distance, as a strong finish at the end of a competitive fourth leg gave McIntosh a 3-1 win. Cooper lost the first leg to Keast, but knuckled down to reel off the next three. Lillington leaving the match with a second 5-1 defeat.
Day two of the weekend started with a match against Ulster and Cooper got things off to a positive start with a comfortable 3-0 win against Conor Nugent, using a combination of controlled blocking and offensive top-spin from both wings.
Adam Cofler followed this up with an outstanding win against Ulster’s number 1, James Magrath. In a see-saw match, Cofler found himself 7-8 down in the deciding leg when a time-out was called from the corner. Composing himself and cutting out the cheap errors that were costing him, Cofler reeled off the next four points to put Lillington 2-0 up in the match.
Jack Green was next to step up and faced Connor Smith. Green found himself 2-1 down and squeezed home in a tight leg to go to the decider. Green’s touch play was superb and he used it to great effect, denying his opponent opportunities early in the rally and attacking first to take control of the points. Green opened up a big lead, before Smith started to narrow the gap. Another effective time-out was called to stem the come-back tide and Green went back to the table, served intelligently and finished the job 11-6.
Lillington were guaranteed at least a draw, but the win looked far from certain as Cooper couldn’t find a way past Magrath and Green found himself on the wrong end of an 11-6 fifth leg this time against Nugent. This left Cofler to play the final game of the match against Smith. After winning a tight first leg, Cofler was ominously blown away in the second. Cofler, though, stayed calm and found his attacking range to take the final two legs and give Lillington their first win of the weekend 4-2.
The final match of the weekend was against Irish Boys. It was another hard match for the Lillington boys and they found themselves 3-0 down as Green, Cooper and Singleton were defeated by Thomas Joyce, Dillon Byrne and Art Mclaughlin respectively.
Cooper stemmed the tide with a win over Joyce – four 11-9 legs being shared, before Cooper came through a tense decider 17-15 to notch one on the board for Lillington.
A draw was still possible, but it wasn’t to be as Green and Lewis fell to Mclaughlin and Byrne in straight sets, leaving the final result as another 5-1 defeat.
At the end of the weekend, Lillington sit in 5th place in the table on two points; two above Ulster and two below Irish Boys. Halton lead the way with nine points, followed by Market Rasen (eight) and Kingfisher (7).
The Lillington boys fought hard all weekend and they will doubtless learn from the experience, looking to come back stronger for the second weekend, taking place in January.
Photo – Lillington FC JBL squad members (L-R) Adam Cofler, Lewis Singleton and Jack Green, with Director of Coaching, Chris Mulligan, presenting a team shirt, signed by England No.1, Kelly Sibley, to Rob Smith, Sales Manager, of NS Optimum, Lillington FC TTC JBL 2016/17 Team Sponsors.