Division 2 Roundup - Week 16
Published 02/02/2024 at 11:44:27 by Martin Johnson; edited 2 times, last on 03/02/2024 at 18:45:21 by Martin Johnson.Hawks Extend Lead
The group stages of the Handicap Challenge Cup take up much of January, but the League had its second week of scheduled matches of 2024, this week, with some very close matches, as evidenced by two 5-5 draws and one 6-4 result, with just one result being more one-sided.
Leaders, Mursley Hawks, were taking on Milton Keynes Powers, with both teams on a lengthy run of wins, but it was Hawks who got the good start, quickly going 2-0 up, to set up what turned out to be the set of the night. Peter Tillotson, playing in his first match for Powers since early December, looked in good form and went 1-0 and 2-1 up against David Bartlett, with David just sneaking the second leg, but David battled away and his consistent counter-hitting and returns started to induce a few more misses from Peter, and it was David who came through in five legs. Mick O’Mahony and Martin Johnson inevitably won the doubles against Paul Tompkins and Keith Carrington, to make it 16 from 16 for Hawks in doubles, and then Mick just edged past Paul in a tough five legs, to put Hawks 5-0 up, but he was feeling increasingly unwell, and Mick ended up conceding his final singles. Meanwhile, Peter maintained his good form, and got Powers on the board with a four game win over Martin. David won his final two singles, though he was pushed all the way in a close five games by Keith, whilst Martin also won his final singles, to complete an 8-2 win for Hawks, making it ten wins in a row for them. ** This has extended their lead at the top of the D2 table to seven points, and, whilst Powers winning run may be over, they stay fifth.
** By comparison, D3’s Little Horwood Wooden Tops have won 15 matches in a row this season (so far), whilst D4’s Greenleys Crusaders won 11 in a row this season (and 29 in a row over two seasons).
Second-placed Leighton Buzzard Spitfires faced fourth-placed Newport Pagnell Lagondas, who have closed on the top three in recent matches, and it turned out to be a very close match throughout, with five sets going the full distance, with all of these quite close in the decider. The opening two sets both went to five legs, with Andy King edging past Michael Howard 11-8 in the fifth, and then Tony Ardis getting through 11-7 in the fifth against Graham Silversides, to even up the score at 1-1. Spitfires then pulled out to a 4-1 lead, as Barry Hammond beat Chris Horn in four, and then two more five leg sets both went the way of Spitfires by the narrowest of margins, as Barry / Graham somehow beat Tony / Chris 13-11 in the fifth (from 4-10 down!), then Graham beat Michael 11-9 in the fifth. Lagondas hit back and took the next three, to level it up again at 4-4, as Chris won twice and Tony once. The ninth set also went the distance, with Barry edging past Michael 11-7 in the decider, before Andy King took the final set of the night in four, to grab a 6-4 win for Spitfires. The win keeps Spitfires in second place, now seven points behind the leaders, but also seven points ahead of third place, whilst Lagondas stay fourth, five points behind third place.
Third-placed Woburn Sands Mosquitoes were the visitors at equal sixth-placed Milton Keynes Pioneers., but were only able to field two players. Despite giving away a 3-0 lead, Mosquitoes battled to a 5-5 draw, with James Molloy the star of the show with a maximum of three singles wins, plus a doubles win with Glenn Barcham against Andy Frearson and Kareem Omar, to edge him closer to the top of the singles averages. Glenn added one singles win of his own against Terry Lau, but lost out to both Andy and Kareem in singles. The draw for Mosquitoes keeps them in third spot, but seven points adrift of a promotion place, whilst for Pioneers, the five points keeps them in equal sixth-place.
The final match of the week was a Greenleys derby match, with both teams in the bottom three of the table, as Greenleys Valiants took on Greenleys Sultans of Spin. It also featured a match between two brothers! Honours ended up even for the teams, as the final score was 5-5, but Daniel Carter just about maintained bragging rights over brother James, by beating him in singles over five legs, although James had earlier shared in a five game doubles win against his brother! Sultans of Spin’s Ricky Jackson took the individual honours overall, with his three singles wins, although he and Daniel lost the doubles to James and Slava Volokha, whilst Daniel added two singles wins. For Valiants, Lewis Copp picked up two singles wins, just losing out in a five game thriller to Ricky, whilst Slava and James each managed to defeat Tony Edwardson, the third Sultan. The draw maintains both teams in their existing positions, given the third team in the group at the bottom also picked up five points.
Next week is the third and final round of the Challenge Cup groups, with five of the seven D2 teams entered either qualified or in contention for a place in the knockout stages. Pioneers are already through after their group reduced to two teams, but they comfortably won their only match, to head their group. Powers are also already qualified, as they are assured of being in the top two in their group, but their final group match will determine if they are group winners or runners-up. Sultans of Spin and Spitfires have unfortunately both lost twice, despite going very close – Spitfires lost one match by 3 points, whilst Sultans of Spin lost one match by 6 points, and so neither will finish in the top two in their groups. The remaining three D2 teams will not know if they have qualified until their final result is in, with both Lagondas and Valiants needing a win in their final match, whilst Hawks could even afford a small loss and still go through!
The following week it’s back to League play, with Lagondas taking on Hawks, Spitfires visiting Sultans of Spin, Powers entertaining Mosquitoes & Pioneers hosting Valiants.
Player of the Week : David Bartlett.