Graeme Bell

Newton A clinched an unbearably close Division 1 title this week as they beat Mount B in a head-to-head countback. Both teams finished on 126 points by winning 126 sets and losing just 54 so the winner of the division is worked out by looking at the two teams’ matches against each other. In the end, the division was decided by just a single match as Mount lost 8-2 away to Newton. Newton’s Graeme Bell took Player of the Match as he and John Russell sealed the game and division title with hat-tricks. Craig Fryer chipped in with a single win over Alan Livingstone but lost out to David Cutler and Rodney Roberts. The sting of losing the title by such a small margin probably won’t last too long for Mount as they have certainly achieved their main objective of gaining promotion to the Premier division. The closest competitors to the top two teams were Mount’s third team with 92 sets won, followed closely by Matfen Centurions.

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Iain Wood

In the Northumbria Table Tennis League’s Premier division there are only 6 outstanding games yet to be played. As things stand, the Cramlington Casuals have won the league by an inescapable margin and Byker A have guaranteed their own demotion, but there is a fight on for second place between NESLC Eagles and NECA A. Old England Jacks could reach the 65 points already accumulated by third bottom Cramlington Stingers if they win their outstanding match, away to Riding Mill,  by 10-0. However it would not save them from relegation as Stingers have beaten them twice which, on the count back rules, would put them above Riding Mill.

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The winning team

This weekend saw the second and final weekend of the Veteran County Championships. At the start of the weekend Northumberland were second in Division 1A with 5 points, just 1 point behind leaders Cheshire 1. The line-up for this second weekend saw one change as Jim Stamas stood in for Dave Robson alongside Andrew Wilkinson, Eddie Smith and Christine Burke. Robson, having performed adequately in the first weekend, told the team that he wouldn’t play the second weekend but gave no reason. Fortunately for the county, Stamas is renowned for being a genuine team player who fights for every point and his performances over the weekend were to prove Robson wasn’t irreplaceable.

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Last week no league games were played as the Handicap Cup quarter finals took place. The handicap format allows for a level playing field between teams despite potential differences in their usual local league divisions or even between individuals of different gradings. Players facing higher-graded opponents will be afforded a certain number of points’ head-start and each match takes the format of first to 21 points in the best of 3 games.

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With only two weeks remaining, the top of the table in division two is looking terrifically close. Matfen Senators are currently top, but they also have games in hand over Old England Crocks and Ouston A. The Senators had no scheduled match this week but both Ouston A and Old England Crocks won 8-2. Ouston visited Matfen Tribunes whereby Mike Lyons and Mark Rogers both won their hat-tricks and Neil Rogers chipped in with a single victory. Old England hosted Birtley where Ken Clark took three wins and Player of the Match. Brian Bateman and Colin Robson both won two, Bateman suffering a rare defeat in the division against the equally experienced Bob Dodds. At the other end of the table, Old England Fatts unfortunately lost again as they faced Ouston B. The 9-1 defeat does not mean that all is lost for the Fatts but that relegation is looming increasingly close. The other fixture of the week saw Byker C lose 9-1 at the hands of the Cramlington Trojans, Mike Jones and Paul Fairlamb both winning three matches.

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As things stand in the Northumbria Table Tennis League’s Premier division, Cramlington Casuals are top with 132 points and a game in hand over second place NESLC Eagles who have amassed 123 sets. For a short period of time the Eagles were top and, controversially, the Casuals then decided to use the January transfer window to sign-on “super sub” veteran David Robson. Robson has only played 6 matches since signing on but has won them all, only losing ends to Riding Mill’s Geoff Salter.

Kevin Wilson showed his quality again this week as he beat St Chads’ Keith Weatherby, Jimmy Scope and David Bissett. Unfortunately the other Cramlington Stingers players couldn’t assist him as they lost 5-4, only Rob Reed able to chip in with a win over Bissett. It was a similar story for Mitford A as Dale Aitkenhead returned from injury to earn a hat-trick against Mount A’s Phil Prady, Anthony Ainley and Rod Roberts. Despite this, plus Wraight adding a solitary victory, the home team lost 6-4. NESLC Eagles and NECA A had easier runs out as the Eagles beat Riding Mill A 8-2 and NECA beat bottom place Byker A 10-0. Jim Stamas took Player of the Match for the Eagles as he was the only player to beat Riding Mill’s Geoff Salter. Richard Wilson and Paul Baines both chipped in with 2 wins each though as the Mill’s Peter Stempczyk and John Williamson were unable to pick up a win.

In Division 1, Rob Lawson had a stormer for Newton B as he beat all three Cramlington Reivers players Alistair Colin, Paul Jamieson and Alex Hinchliffe. The Reivers seemed to be in control throughout the game and eventually won 7-3 overall but Lawson proved to be a real thorn in the home team’s side. Andrew Firth, who has returned to table tennis this calendar year after a break, was once again in action this week for Riding Mill B when they beat Mitford B 7-3. Mitford were only able to turn out 2 players but put up a reasonable performance regardless. Mick Bull beat Shirley Gelder and was unlucky to lose 11-9 in the deciding end to Firth, Bob Atwell beat Maurice Cheek and the pair combined to win the doubles. Division leaders Newton A were too good for Mount C as they won 8-2. Graeme Bell won his three matches to seal the Player of the Match award, teammates Craig Fryer and John Russell both losing one game apiece – to David Bannon and Mohinder Rawat respectively.

Northumberland have entered what could be considered their strongest team in years for this season’s Veterans County Championships. Playing in Division 1A, the league’s top division, Northumberland’s lineup of Andrew Wilkinson, Eddie Smith, David Robson and Christine Burke will face tough opposition. The format sees the team travelling to Draycott near Derby to play seven matches across two weekends, the first of which was 25th February.

In their first match, Northumberland faced a South Yorkshire team comprised of Stephen Horsfield, Andrew Horsfield, Bill Grant and Pat Thorley. The Horsfield brothers and Grant regularly compete in the Sunderland Masters VETTS tournament and are therefore well known by players in the Northumberland team, but this makes them no less stern an opposition. The Northumberland team got off to an outrageous start as Wilkinson won 2, Smith and Robson won 1 each and Smith and Burke combined to win the first doubles, leading to a 6-0 start. The Horsfield brothers, an experienced doubles pairing, combined to get South Yorkshire’s first victory as they beat Robson and Wilkinson. In the clash of the position 1 players, Dave Robson lost a close-fought five-end game against Stephen Horsfield, losing 12-10 in the final set. The match finished 8-2 to Northumberland and the team were off to a good start.

Last season in the Veterans County Championships, a similar Northumberland team – only Wilkinson is new to the lineup – lost to Lancashire. Their team this season promises to be one of the best in the league with top veteran title winner Keith Williams supported by Steve Scowcroft, defender Paul Cicchelli and the highly-rated Denise McEvoy. Wilkinson’s inclusion – his first year as a veteran – seems to have had significant ramifications on the team though as they found themselves cruising to yet another 8-2 win. Paul Cicchelli did well to beat Eddie Smith in 4 ends and Christine Burke was incredibly unlucky to lose a tight game in the deciding end to Denise McEvoy.

In the final game of the first weekend, Northumberland got off to another good start against Yorkshire II. The opposition’s lineup of Richard Smith, Ivan Lewis, Mark Land and Helen Shields are all high calibre players well known in the UK’s veteran scene. Robson opened up the scoring as he beat Yorkshire’s number two Ivan Lewis, followed in quick succession by tight 5 end wins from Smith and Wilkinson against Mark Land and Richard Smith respectively. Another fifth end decider gave Northumberland their first loss as Burke and Smith lost in the doubles and this sparked a comeback for Yorkshire as Ivan Lewis beat Eddie Smith and Helen Shields beat Christine Burke. Smith and Wilkinson combined to give Northumberland the edge once more, then Wilkinson paved the way for victory with a comfortable win over Mark Land. Unfortunately Robson couldn’t capitalise on this as he lost to Richard Smith and then he and Christine Burke just lost out in the final match to give Yorkshire a hard-earned draw.

As things stand, Northumberland are sitting in second place just one point behind Cheshire who they will play on the next weekend when all of the teams meet again.

The doubles pair – Smith and Robson

Adam Webster was once again the standout performer of the evening successfully defending both his Junior and Cadet titles, and retaining the Norman Moore Memorial Cup and the Harry Dignan Cup.

After winning his semi-final against Matthew Mastaglio Adam defeated regular opponent Lee Tinkler with a very assured performance in the final. Lee’s semi-final had been against Daniel McManus. Adam was presented with the Norman Moore Memorial Cup by County President & Referee Aubrey Drapkin.

The Cadet semis pitted Adam Webster against Archie Stokes while Matthew Mastaglio played Alfie Stokes, with the final between Adam and Matthew. Adam’s superior power and shot range saw him win 11-6, 11-6. County Chairman Gareth Pearson presented Adam with the Harry Dignan Cup and both the winner and runner up were sent gifts by Mrs Dorothy Dignan, a tradition she has maintained for many years.

Twins Archie and Alfie Stokes met in the final of the Under 13 event with Alfie winning through 11-7, 11-2 so not quite the close battle we had anticipated. Archie had seen off Oliver Ho in his semi-final, while Archie had the better of his encounter with Ethan Brown.

In what was undoubtedly the match of the evening Oliver Ho came out top against Taylor Rippington in the Under 12 final. After a slow start Oliver lost the first game 3-11, bounced back to take the second 11-8 and finally triumphed 12-10 in the third. A match much enjoyed by the audience of players, parents and helpers. Oliver’s semi-final opponent was Thomas Tsatlidis, while Taylor had played Joseph Connolly.

Although slightly down on entries those who took part all appeared to enjoy the evening which ran very smoothly thanks to the efforts of Referee Aubrey Drapkin and his team of volunteer umpires.

The trophies won on the evening will be awarded at the Northumberland Table Tennis Association Presentation Evening to be held at Goals Newcastle, Gosforth Racecourse on Friday May 12th.

Adam Webster Junior boys winner                 Lee Tinkler  Runner up Junior boys

   

Adam Webster Winner Cadet boys    Matthew Mastaglio Runner up Cadet boys

       

Alfie Stokes Under 13 winner        Archie Stokes Under 13 Runner up

       

Oliver Ho  Under 12 winner                Taylor Rippington Uunder12 Runner up