The second weekend for National Division C-3 of the Senior British League was held at Draycott and Long Eaton Table Tennis Club on the 12th/13th November and the Lillington Free Church side, sponsored by engineering company, Fulcro, were looking to put pressure on the top of the table.
Sitting in fourth after the first weekend in September, the Lillington side opened their weekend with a match against Bromley who were a point behind them in fifth. Lee Dorning met Bromley number one, Thomas Savary, and the first three legs were tight affairs, Savary going 2-0 up before Dorning pulled one back. The match was all about the forehands and whilst Dorning’s was mis-firing, Savary’s was getting more accurate as the match progressed and he won a more comfortable fourth to take the game 3-1 and get Bromley off to a winning start.
Timmy Cooper was next up for Lillington, taking on the more defensive Peter Canavan. Again, the first three legs were shared as Cooper tried to work out a way past Canavan’s excellent retrieving combined with opportunistic attacking. It was Cooper who took the third leg, before running away with the fourth to level the match score at 1-1.
The two matches before the doubles were shared. Tom Brocklehurst couldn’t impose his attacking game on the defensive Jarendra Patel and Bromley inched ahead. Sam Wiggins then immediately restored parity with a convincing win over Mark Nicholls and the match was poised at 2-2.
Both doubles were four-leg affairs, both going the way of the Lillington pairs. Dorning and Cooper beat Savary and Patel, which was followed by a win over Canavan and Nicholls by Wiggins and Brocklehurst.
Savary pulled Bromley back within a point at 4-3 with his second win of the match, this time against Cooper, but Dorning, Wiggins and Brocklehurst reeled off the next three games to secure a 7-3 win in the opening match for Lillington.
Sam Weaving was restored to the line-up for the second match of the weekend, Lee Dorning making way against Wood Green II. After Timmy Cooper had beaten Anil Patel, Weaving found himself 2-0 down against Luke Gittins, who’s forehand block was out-positioning him to good effect. Weaving dug deep and started to implement some tactical changes which saw him sneak a 14-12 leg and stay in contention. Becoming more comfortable with the new tactics, Weaving grew in stature and never looked back as he convincingly won the final two legs to put Lillington 2-0 up in the match.
Wins followed for Sam Wiggins and Tom Brocklehurst in the singles, which were added to by Cooper/Weaving and Wiggins/Brocklehurst in the doubles. The rest of the match was relatively plain sailing as Cooper, Wiggins and Weaving won their second singles without dropping a leg. Brocklehurst surrendered a 2-1 lead in the final game of the match against Harpal Juttla, but won the fifth convincingly and completed a 10-0 whitewashing of the division’s bottom side.
Sunday’s first match was a vital one for Lillington. They faced third placed Ormesby who, after also winning their Saturday fixtures, remained a point ahead in the table. A close match was expected and that was exactly how it turned out to be.
Lee Dorning got Lillington off to a perfect start with an efficient straight sets win over Ormesby IV number one, David Ashwell, before Ormesby replied with a 19-17 deciding leg victory over Timmy Cooper by Jevon Chan. Chan’s last British League appearance was 30 years ago against England legend, Des Douglas!
Sam Wiggins restored Lillington’s lead with a win over Peter Wilkinson. Wiggins won the first two legs, with a notably impressive 11-6 in the second, but Wilkinson came back into the match showing exceptional fight to save match points in the fourth and force a decider. Wiggins, though, held his nerve and took the fifth 11-9 with consistently strong, well-directed forehands.
Sam Weaving faced Michael Young, Young in possession of a powerful backhand, made harder to return by virtue of his short pimples, and a spinny, well-angled, forehand. The first leg was a close affair, with Weaving staying strong at the end to edge it 11-9. Buoyed by the first leg, he then sailed through the second before Young rallied and took the third leg to the wire. Weaving, though, kept his cool and completed a 3-0 win.
Dorning and Cooper had a hard fought doubles win against Chan and Ashwell, being extended to the fifth leg before finally putting them to bed and putting Lillington 4-1 up and in a commanding position. Wiggins and Weaving were unable to find a solution to the Ormesby pair of Wilkinson and Young and when Ashwell beat Cooper in 4, Lillington’s lead was cut to 4-3.
Dorning stepped up and proved too strong for Wilkinson, winning 3-0 and putting Lillington on the brink of victory, needing one of the next two. The first chance came as Weaving took on Chan, Weaving taking a 2-1 lead that included two deuce legs. Weaving managed to get to 10-7 up in the fourth but Chan pulled out the next five points to force a decider, which he breezed through 11-5.
Wiggins was left to try and overcome Young for the match and despite nicking the first leg, found himself 2-1 down. The fourth leg was hard fought and went the distance, but it was Young who held firm at the end and took it 12-10 to snatch what had looked an unlikely draw for Ormesby. An excellent match and a terrific fightback from the Middlesbrough based side meant they kept their one-point lead over Lillington in the table.
Sunday’s last match marked the start of the second half of the season’s fixtures, so Lillington were looking to repeat their 7-3 victory over Mount from the first weekend. Mount had strengthened their side from the first weekend with the addition of Chun Yin Yu, a youngster with an extremely aggressive forehand and the footwork to get it in from all angles, so it was expected to be a tougher test this time round.
It certainly proved to be that way with Chun flying past Lee Dorning in the first match to give Mount an early lead. Mount’s number two, Duncan Wraight, looked like he would be little trouble for Timmy Cooper as Cooper raced into an early lead with some clever positional play which left the defender seemingly without any answers. However, Wraight adjusted and clawed his way back and was unlucky to lose the leg 12-10. Wraight did win the next leg though, 16-14, before Cooper took the final two, both 12-10, in a very close match.
Tom Brocklehurst met Peter Smallcombe, but was unable to put Lillington into the lead. Smallcombe went 2-1 up, with a convincing third leg and then looked set to seal it in the fourth before Brocklehurst pegged him back and forced a decider by winning 13-11. In the fifth, it was Brocklehurst who pulled away first, but it was Smallcombe’s turn to overhaul a deficit and he put Mount back into the lead.
The pattern continued. Weaving levelled the match at 2-2 with a win over Dean Eadington, before Dorning and Cooper lost the final two legs of their five-leg doubles 12-10 against Chun and Wraight. Weaving and Brocklehurst also saw their doubles go the distance, but won the decider 11-7 against Smallcombe and Eadington. Cooper managed to take the second leg off Chun, but was unable to consistently apply the necessary pressure to prevent Chun winning 3-1 and putting Mount 4-3 up.
Having only drawn against Ormesby IV, for Lillington to keep the pressure on a draw would not be good enough and a loss disastrous. Dorning stepped up against Smallcombe and simply had too much power for his opponent with a largely trouble-free 3-0 win which levelled the match at 4-4.
Weaving then faced the second pressure game and looked in fine form, hurrying into a 2-0 lead against Wraight. As he’d earlier done against Cooper, though, Wraight adjusted and as Weaving started to miss he capitalised on the situation by taking the next two legs. Moving into the fifth, the momentum was with Wraight and Weaving had it all to do. To his great credit, Weaving composed himself and took fewer risks, showing greater patience to construct the point. It was by no means easy and the decider was a close run affair, but Weaving raised his game at exactly the right time to win it 11-8 and put Lillington ahead for the first time in the match.
The final pressure game, required to take two precious points rather than a mere single, fell to Brocklehurst. The first leg against Eadington was nip and tuck at the start, before Brocklehurst pulled away to take it 11-7. With the first leg in the bank, the remaining two were free of drama with Eadington struggling to control Brocklehurst’s serve which helped Brocklehurst to a 3-0 win and snatch a 6-4 win for Lillington.
In their final Sunday match Ormesby IV suffered a heavy defeat to second placed Halton III, a result which saw them drop to fourth with Lillington moving into third by a point. Lillington sit third on 11 points from 8 matches, with Halton III on 14 from 8 and league leaders Drumchapel Glasgow III a further point ahead on 14.
The next fixtures are due to be played on Sunday 11th December 2016, with each side playing two matches. Lillington will open against XLNT Draycott V before facing off in a huge clash against Halton III which will determine whether they are going to be able to challenge for the top two spots.
The Lillington SBL side for 2016/17 is sponsored by Bidford-on-Avon based engineering company, Fulcro, an innovative, creative engineering team who provide Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Virtual Design and Construction services. Further information is available on their website: http://www.fulcro.co.uk/
Photo – Sam Weaving (R) receiving advice in the corner during the match against Ormesby IV from team-mate, Timmy Cooper.