Northumberland Closed Championship – Saturday 11 February 2017

Open singles

Andrew Wilkinson retained the Alan Morpeth Memorial Cup this year as once again he won the Northumberland Closed tournament’s Open Singles event. His opponent in the final was second seed Graeme Barella, a rival from Sunderland who plays for Mount A in the Northumberland league. Recent league results between the pairing gave no real indication as to who the favourite might be with both players winning one apiece this season. Barella started strong, taking an early lead, and even had a game point to win the first end. Wilkinson wasn’t playing his finest table tennis to begin with but saving the game point seemed to give him a significant boost and he took the next two points to win the end and take a 1-0 lead. Wilkinson started off in great form in the second end, taking three consecutive points straight off the bat. Barella battled back in the middle part of the set and eventually had a 9-7 lead. The patterns of play were similar throughout the game with both players’ tactical outlooks shining through. Wilkinson wanted to get into backhand rallies, playing the modern punch shot deep into Barella’s orthodox backhand loop. At times this backfired as Barella’s backhand loop proved to have too much spin, making the timing difficult for Wilkinson’s punch but more often than not he found success. Barella tried to open up first at every possibility and bring his forehand loop to bear, playing it from every angle including deep into his own backhand corner. When he made a quality contact he could bet on winning the point but by trying to force his forehand into the rally he made more mistakes than usual and Wilkinson was often found waiting to block weaker attacks straight back down the opposite side of the court for a direct winner or at least to gain control of the rally. At 9-7 down, Wilkinson found a reserve of strength to take 4 points in a row and claim the second set. The third end started horribly for Barella as he found himself 5-1 down and at this point saw the need to call a timeout. He took himself into the corner of the court in an attempt to refocus his thoughts but upon returning to the game, lost the next point and got himself into even deeper trouble. From here it was relatively plain sailing for Wilkinson as he took the end 11-7 to win the match 3-0, giving a belting cry of triumph as he crossed the finish line.

Andrew Wilkinson receives the Alan Morpeth Memorial Cup from Gareth Pearson, Chairman NTTA

His route to the final however nearly didn’t go to plan.  In the semi-final, Wilkinson played against top veteran and number 4 seed Eddie Smith. An age-old rivalry exists between the two players as Smith himself has won a significant number of titles in the county’s Closed tournaments across the years. Smith played some top quality table tennis to level the game up to 2 sets each and found himself 7-3 ahead in the final end. At this point Wilkinson called a timeout to stop the rot and upon returning to the table found himself winning the next point, and the next, until he levelled the points and then again to go one point into the lead at 8-7. Smith got back to level 8-8 but Wilkinson’s brilliant run of confidence and form took him through to win the end 11-8 and take the match to proceed to the final.

In the other semi-final, Graeme Barella beat university teammate and friend Chun Yin Yu by 3 games to 1. Barella took the first end but Chun looked like he was his equal after he comfortably took the second. Barella proved his quality and held his nerve in the third and fourth ends though, winning with Yu taking 9 points and 7 respectively.

Runner up, Graeme Barella and semi finalists Eddie Smith and Chun Yin Yu


Ladies singles

The resplendent Philomena Clark Cup was this year taken home by Old England Premier division player Lynne Herrington. The Ladies singles was played as a round robin group of 5 from which Herrington came out top. Lynne won the deciding match -9, 6, 6, 8 and it was division 1 player Kit Robinson from NECA B who took the runner-up position.

Lynne Herrington 

Banded events

One of the day’s most impressive wins went to youngster Peter Smallcombe as he beat Jim Stamas in the Band 1 final. The game was free-flowing and great to watch with both players competing at a really high standard. Smallcombe opened up well but Stamas fought for every point, counter-looping the youngster’s forehands and blocking some would-be winners. Unfortunately the youngster was just too good on the day and Smallcombe took the win 3 ends to 1. Last year’s winner Steve Penman was knocked out by Smallcombe in the semi-final which was another brilliant game, going to 5 ends. Smallcombe found his nerve right at the end of the fifth and did just enough to crush Penman’s title aspirations.

Peter Smallcombe

The Band 2 final between Dave Cutler and Steve Dickinson was a brilliantly close encounter. Dickinson’s long pimples looked like they were the perfect counter to Cutler’s fast, snappy backhand drives but Cutler changed his game plan somewhat by starting to choose the right ball to attack and in doing so came from 2-1 behind to eventually win 13-11 in the fifth and final end.

Dave Cutler

Jamie Lupton who has had an unblemished run in division 3 for Brandon this season proved without question that he should be playing in a higher division when he beat division 1 player Kit Robinson 3-0. The up-and-coming youngster had a number of good games in the tournament including the notable scalp of league Chairman and Premier division player Gareth Pearson.

Jamie Lupton

Lynsey Storey won a hard-fought battle against John Cook in the final of Band 4, coming back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat the experienced player from Backspin who has barely dropped a game in division 4 of the Northumberland league.

Lynsey Storey

In Band 5, newcomer Anna Sowerby overcame another topsy-turvy 5-end match against Jamie Hall. Sowerby lost the first set but won the next two only for Hall to level it up at 2 apiece. In the end, Sowerby’s fast attacking left-handed style was too strong for Hall’s retrieving game.

Anna Sowerby

Veteran singles

This year’s Closed tournament offered Andrew Wilkinson his first turn at competing in the Veteran singles event. Having beaten Dave Cutler in the semi-final, he found himself facing Eddie Smith for the second time that day. Smith beat close friend and former teammate Steve Penman 3-1 in his semi-final but having already lost to Wilkinson in a draining 5-end blinder in the Open singles, Smith just couldn’t get going in the final. Wilkinson took the first two ends but despite Smith clawing an end back, proved to be the stronger of the pairing, finally winning the match 3-1.

Andrew Wilkinson

Other events

Northumberland league division 2 player Jamie Dent gave Anna Sowerby an eight point start in the Handicap singles final. Based on players’ performance in local league, the handicap event enables lower division players to compete equally with more experienced players. In this instance however Jamie Dent showed how well he’s playing at the moment, beating Anna despite her head start.

The other event played on the day was Scratch Doubles where players, again based on their gradings which are a reflection of local league performance, are split into an upper and lower band and then paired together at random. This format always produces some close games and this year’s event was no different. In the final, Lee Eadington (upper) and Paul Lupton (lower) beat Sam Bailey (upper) and Alan Hedley (lower).

Finishing note

A huge number of players and supporters turned up for the tournament despite horrendous weather conditions. Thank you to everyone who played, watched and umpired, special thanks to those who stayed at the end to clear up afterwards and ensure we finished on time. Special mention to the tournament Referee Aubrey Drapkin and Organiser  Nigel Coe.

The annual Northumberland Closed tournament will take place on 11th February 2017 at Cramlington Sporting Club. With nearly 50 entries already confirmed, this year’s tournament promises to seriously entertain. In the Open Singles, last year’s winner Andrew Wilkinson is again the top seed. This year he’ll have to see off a raft of talented opponents as Eddie Smith takes the second seeding followed shortly after by Chun Yin Yu and Graeme Barella. Wilkinson recently lost to Barella in the league but otherwise finds himself in potent form. Last year Smith knocked Chun Yin Yu out of the competition so there is no doubt that the top 4 seeds’ routes through the competition will prove hugely important.

Wilkinson also enters the Veterans category this year for the first time which may prove an obstacle to Eddie Smith who has won it repeatedly for the past 8 years. Smith hasn’t been able to play much in the league for the past few years but his inclusion despite an injury scare ensures the Veterans Singles will be a high quality affair.

In the Ladies Singles, last year’s winner Kit Robinson will be challenged by Premier division and previous winner Lynne Herrington as well as Northumberland County player Lynsey Storey who finds herself in strong form.

In Band 1, Steve Penman who has won 8 such titles since 2002/3 including the past 2 years, will look to defend his title once more. Band 1 will be tricky this year however as he comes up against young superstar and teammate Peter Smallcombe. The pair train together regularly and know each other’s games inside out so the contest will invariably be close, the victor probably determined by the player who can show more steel and grit on the day.

In the Banded events, last year’s winners Rodney Roberts (2), Kit Robinson (3) and Mike Jones (4) are all defending their titles but Band 5 will have a new champion as last year’s winner hasn’t entered this year’s tournament.

Andrew Wilkinson receiving the Alan Morpeth Memorial Cup in February 2016

Andrew Wilkinson, 2016 open winner receives the Alan Morpeth Memorial Cup

Monday night saw a thrilling and fiery Premier division fixture between Cramlington Casuals and Mount A. In the reverse fixture, both Andrew Wilkinson and Peter Smallcombe beat Graeme Barella, but this time it wasn’t to be. Wilkinson and Barella, who have had a rivalry as two of Northumberland’s best players for many years now, put on a top show. Barella showed his intent by taking the first 2 ends but nearly lost his way as Wilkinson found focus to take the next 2. The fifth and final end was a real contest, each point being battled for, until Mount’s star player held his nerve to edge the game out 11-8 and take the match. In doing so, Barella also won Player of the Match having seen off Steve Penman 3-0 and getting a 3-1 revenge on Smallcombe. The Casuals still won the overall match 7-3 however as Mount’s Anthony Ainley and Phil Prady were unable to pick up any wins despite two few five-enders.

Although the Casuals have a game in hand, NESLC Eagles took the lead at the top of the division this week when they beat Cramlington Tigers 9-1. Richard Wilson only dropped 1 end for the away team, earning him the Player of the Match award but Rob Reed deserves a mention too for a stoic victory against Paul Baines, picking up the Tigers’ only win. Elsewhere in the Premier division, St Chads travelled to Old England and beat the Jacks 8-2 whilst NECA A hosted Riding Mill A and beat them 10-0 even without star player Chun Yin Yu.

In Division 1, Robert Renton may have taken part in his last game of table tennis as Mount B travelled to Matfen to play against the Centurions. Renton, a youngster who has been a part of the Northumberland, Sunderland and Bishop Auckland table tennis communities for a number of years, announced his departure from the sport on social media just a couple of days after this game. Mount won 8-2, Rodney Roberts and David Cutler both winning hat-tricks for the away side. Conversely, Mohinder Rawat who has recently come back to the sport after some time out, won his three for Mount C as they beat Newton B 6-4. Newton B played twice this week and proved to be more successful at home to NECA B which they won 6-4. Robert Lawson, Chas Robertson and David Lucas all won 2 matches but NECA’s Steve Robinson was too strong for the three and went on to win his hat-trick and Player of the Match.

Graham Barella

Graeme Barella    


John Carr played well for Byker C this week in division 2 as they hosted Matfen Tribunes. Carr took the Player of the Match award in style when he dropped only one end from his three matches and took part in winning the doubles with Jim Robertson. Byker ended up with a 6-4 victory, Keith Hodges taking two wins for the away team. Matfen’s other team, the Senators, were more successful at home as they beat Cramlington Trojans 8-2. Alexander Holliday continued to prove his worth as he his three and Player of the Match, David Swan and Stephen Oxley both chipping in with two wins apiece. Mike Jones did well for the Trojans when he won his team’s only two games but in the end it wasn’t anywhere near enough. A similar picture was painted when Birtley visited Cramlington Swifts as Bob Dodds picked up two good wins for the away team, but that was their lot. Alastair Johnson won his second Player of the Match award for the home team in their 8-2 victory.

Only two matches were played in division 3 and three of the four teams involved belonged to Cramlington TTC. Cramlington Lions were first up and they were unlucky not to get anything from a close-fought match against Cramlington Corinthians. Corinthians won 6-4 which is in no small part thanks to a top performance from Philip Smith who overcame a tough first match against Joe Hastings which went to a deciding fifth end, but then went on to win his other two games more comfortably. Saints were the odd team out as they played at Cramlington against the Spartans, putting on an impressive performance. Steve Dawson won Player of the Match for the away team but Vince Killen won his three games too as Saints won 8-2.

In division 4, Cramlington teams were involved in every match this week. Cramlington Ravens visited Newton and came away with a 8-2 victory, Adam Hardiman picking up 3 wins and Player of the Match. Alfie and Archie Stokes continued to show their capabilities as they, accompanied by Ojas Aggarwal, put up a dominating 10-0 win over Cramlington Magpies. Cramlington Dynamos faced off against Cramlington Knights in a very tight encounter as young Israel Shodeinde picked up Player of the Match for the Dynamos, winning a hat-trick. Matthew Mastaglio and John Hogg did well to win two games each for the Knights but it was the doubles that scraped the draw for them. In the final match, Cramlington Jaguars beat Cramlington Dragons 7-3 with Richard Williamson taking three wins and Player of the Match, Steve Round and John Murrells chipping in with two apiece.


Last weekend the Northumberland County table tennis team of Andrew Wilkinson, Dave Robson, Chun Yin Yu, Christine Burke and Lyndsey Storey came incredibly close to being promoted from Division 2A. Having won both of their matches on the Saturday, Northumberland were top of the table, 1 place above Lancashire on difference of games won. Unfortunately on the Sunday, with only 1 match left to play, Lancashire won their game and Northumberland were only able to tie. Chun Yin Yu, stalwart of the campaign, was unable to find his usual form and lost both of his matches. The draw put Northumberland 1 point behind Lancashire, just missing out on promotion. A considerable highlight for the area however was Andrew Wilkinson’s untouchable performances as he won 14 matches out of 14 playing in the top slot and therefore repeatedly playing against the other teams’ best 2 players.

The winter league recommenced after its Christmas break and was host to a great set of games in the Premier division. Cramlington Stingers kicked off with a 5-5 draw against Mitford A. Mitford’s Lee Eadington took Player of the Match when he beat Iain Wood and Alistair Colin in 3 straight ends but was also unfortunate to miss out on a win against Kevin Wilson as he lost 11-9 in the fifth and final end. Cramlington Tigers took an important 6-4 win over Riding Mill A who were without their star players John Williamson and Geoff Salter. Michael Boyce won a hat-trick for the home team and Peter Stempcyzk did well to win 2 matches for the Mill. Mount A beat Old England Jacks comfortably 8-2 but Lynne Herrington deserves a mention as she picked up 2 wins for the Jacks against veterans David Pringle and Anthony Ainley.

In division 1, the two Mount teams faced off against each other but Mount B were too powerful in the end as they beat Mount C 7-3. Mohinder Rawat took his hat-trick for the losing team and Player of the Match with it. Newton A did well to scrape a draw away to Mitford B as they were only able to field 2 players. John Russell continued his recent run of form when he won his hat-trick and combined with Graeme Bell to win the doubles. Matfen Centurions won 6-4 at home to Byker B with Chris Kilsby and Malcolm Aitchison winning 2 each. Mark Kimberley won 3 for Byker but only teammate Mark Patterson was able to chip in with a win to help out.

Northumberland County team

County team January 2017

Only four catch-up matches were played last week as the league enters its Christmas break. In the Premier division, Old England Jacks accomplished an excellent 8-2 win against Riding Mill A. Lynne Herrington took Player of the Match as she won her hat-trick alongside Alan Atkinson whilst Mark O’Connor was the only player to win a singles match for Riding Mill as he beat Jake Helm. Riding Mill’s usual stalwart John Williamson wasn’t able to help the team out in singles but did combine with O’Connor to win the doubles in the deciding end. Bottom team Byker A faced league leaders Cramlington Casuals but there was no David and Goliath story this time as the Casuals’ Marc Cotton, Steven Penman and Peter Smallcombe dropped only 3 ends in a comprehensive 10-0 victory.

In division 2, Brian Bateman won all 3 of his singles matches as Old England Crocks salvaged a 5-5 draw away to Matfen Senators. Alex Holliday won 2 matches for the home team with David Swan and Stephen Oxley chipping in with 1 win each. Holliday and Swan combined to beat Colin Robson and Kenneth Clark in the doubles too.

Another draw was to be found this week as Cramlington Dragons faced Cramlington Falcons in division 4. Sreeraag Kanakala continued his recent run of form as he took a hat-trick, teammates Mick Sursham and Paul Athey chipping in with a win each too. The Falcons’ Alfie and Archie Stokes both took 2 wins and combined to win a close-fought doubles.

A few players from the Northumbria Table Tennis League also took part in the national league recently. Under the guise of Mount TTC, Northumbria Premier division players Chun Yin Yu, Duncan Wraight, Peter Smallcombe and Dean Eadington came together to battle it out in British League division C-3. This weekend they faced the division’s two top teams, Drumchapel Glasgow III and Halton III, and performed very well to snatch two 5-5 draws. Chun Yin Yu, the highest rated player in the division, had little difficulty winning all 4 of his matches – though he did have a small scare against Zaid Khalid from Drumchapel as he found significant fortune in the form of nets and edges to take the match to a fifth and deciding end. Peter Smallcombe also did well to win 3 out of his 4 matches playing at number 3, including an excellent game against Halton’s highly-rated number 2 player Bethany Farnworth who he lost to in straight sets earlier in the season. The doubles proved important for Mount as Wraight combined first with Yu then with Smallcombe to win important matches against Drumchapel and Halton to salvage an overall draw and 2 important points.

In National A-1, top Northumbria league players Andrew Wilkinson and Graeme Barella faced each other for the second time this season. Wilkinson, playing number 1 for Barrow Tornadoes beat Barella, playing number 2 for Scarborough Premier in three straight sets, only the second going to deuce. This win helped Barrow take the overall game 8-2 with only Barella winning any singles matches for the home team.


Two of the North Easts unsung heroes picked up awards this week at the Table Tennis England Conference at Durham County cricket ground this weekend. Alan Hedley from Cramlington TTC was winner of the contribution to North East Table Tennis award and Steve Dickinson won Club Volunteer of the year for his work at Byker TTC.

It was the last full week of the first half of the season in the Northumbria League this week and the two top teams in the Premier Division both had away matches and came away victorious. Last year’s champions the Cramlington Casuals won 10-0 at Old England who could only field two players and the team hot on their heels NESLC Eagles won 7-3 at Mitford A. Gary Sangster making a rare appearance for Mitford winning two. The two other teams in the division with title aspirations The Mount A won away at Cramlington Tigers 9-1 and The North East Chinese association team also won 9-1 away at Cramlington Stingers. Its still all to play for in the second half which starts on the 9th of January.

In Division 1 its very much looking like a two-horse race with Newton A top on 61 points who had played all their first half matches and The Mount B with 58 who this week played The North East Chinese Associations B team winning 8-2 with Rod Roberts getting the man of the match award winning all of his games. There’s quite a gap back to third placed Mitford B.

Division 2 is headed by Ouston A at the half way stage with Byker C in second spot. They played each other this week and Ouston ran out 9-1 winners although Byker lost Bob Sanderson to injury whilst he was playing his first match of the night and this may have affected the overall result. The only blemish on the night was Ouston losing the doubles in five close fought ends.

Division 3 sees Brandon Anacondas lead at halfway by a good margin and in Division 4 Cramlington Ravens are flying high in 1st position

On a sad note, we learned that Ian Moore from the Unionist club lost his fight with Illness this week and passed away. His funeral will be at South Shields Crematorium, John Reid road on Friday 16th of December at 11-30am

Alan and Steve


Northumberland’s Senior County team of Andrew Wilkinson, Dave Robson, Chun Yin Yu, Christine Burke and Lyndsey Storey ventured to Draycott this weekend to compete in Division 2A of the County Championships. On Saturday their first opponents, Lancashire, proved to be the toughest of the weekend as the team played well to draw 5-5. Wilkinson opened the scoring for Northumberland as he beat top junior Amir Hussain in the 5th end. Wilkinson and Chun Yin Yu both won their 2 games but Dave Robson, playing in the number 2 position, lost in the 5th end to Joel Webb.

The Northumberland team then went on to record solid wins against South Yorkshire, North Wales and Leicester with Andrew Wilkinson and Chun Yin Yu both winning 8 matches out of 8. As things stand, these results put the team joint-top of Division 2A at the half-way mark meaning they’re in with a strong chance of promotion.

In Round 2 of the Handicap Cup, Byker B beat Old England Fatts 6-3 with Byker’s Donnelly, Patterson and Manuel each winning 2. Cramlington Cobras narrowly beat club rivals Cramlington Spartans 5-4 thanks in no small part to young player John Hogg’s 2 wins against the experienced team of Barnes, Long and Nair. Cramlington Dragons suffered a similar fate as they lost 5-4 at home to NECA A despite Sree Kanakala running the show as he won his 3 matches including a strong win against friend and County Cadet teammate Adam Webster. Byker A won comfortably against Cramlington Dynamos, as did Cramlington Reivers against Cramlington Falcons. Mount beat Byker C 7-2 and Old England Jacks beat Ouston C by the same score.


Old England Crocs lost to NECA B 6-3 but Brian Bateman will be happy to record a massive 21-6, 21-6 victory over the aforementioned top league player Chun Yin Yu. Bateman was also unlucky to lose 28-30 in the third and final end against former Premier player Steve Robinson. Ouston B beat Matfen Senators 7-2 and Riding Mill lost in the same way to Ouston A. Cramlington Trojans beat Cramlington Ravens 7-2 with Blair Carmichael, who is usually a very good player in handicap events, losing 2 of his 3 matches to the Ravens.



In division 2 this week, the only result to be found was 6-4. Firstly, Ouston B beat Matfen Senators by that score thanks to hat-tricks from Neil Wilkinson and Thomas Fowle. The Senators took 1 win each plus the doubles. Cramlington Swifts lost 6-4 against Ouston A as Neil Rodgers did particularly well for the away team to win his hat-trick, even against experienced division 1 and Premier player Ron Scott who won 2 for the Swifts. Brian Bateman, hardbat chopper extraordinaire, won his 3 for Old England Crocks as they visited and beat Matfen Tribunes. Nigel Tree and Keith Hodges took 2 wins each for the home team. Finally, to round off our 6-4 theme, Old England FATTS beat Birtley with Barry Matthews and Nigel Coe picking up 2 wins each plus the doubles.

Brandon Anacondas yet again proved that they should be playing a couple of divisions higher as they stomped a 10-0 win over the Matfen Cohorts in division 3 this week. A strong side of Jamie Lupton, Lee Tinkler and Paul Dale won every single one of their sets but Lupton took yet another Player of the Match award by conceding the fewest points. At the opposite end of the competitive spectrum, Matfen Whitley Chapel drew 5-5 with Cramlington Corinthians. Peter Seago took Player of the Match as he won 2 of his matches for the home side, along with Stefan Sobell. Philip Smith won 2 for the away team, backed up by 1 win each from Jamie Hall and Steve Ralph, but the Corinthians won a tightly-fought doubles to eke out a draw. The other Cramlington teams in this division both managed 7-3 wins as the Lions beat Ouston C, Sowerby and Hastings with their hat-tricks, and the Spartans beat Byker D, Rob Lee taking Player of the Match in that one.

In division 4, only two games were played. Brandon Bravehearts lost at home to Cramlington Ravens despite Stephen Pattinson taking 3 wins and Player of the Match for the home side. Backspin’s Debbie Irwin won the same accolade as they beat Cramlington Magpies 7-3, Bob Cook chipping in with a hat-trick plus the doubles to support his teammate.