LAST year’s runners-up Durham were hoping to go one step further this season and gain promotion to Division One of the Table Tennis County Championships.
But, due to circumstances beyond their control, Durham were unable to field a lady player.
That meant conceding three out of the 10 sets up for grabs in each of their four matches, immediately placing them on the back foot.
Despite this early set-back, Durham – represented by Dave Robson, Chris Blake and John Williamson – fought valiantly.
Williamson was particularly impressive, and can count himself unfortunate not to pick up more sets than he did.
After the first weekend matches held in Derbyshire, Durham are bottom of the table having picked up only one point for their efforts.
That came from a draw against Northumberland – a great effort considering they were 3-0 down going into the match.
The remaining matches against Cambridgeshire 1 (2nd), Essex 2 (3rd) and South Yorkshire (4th) were a bridge too far for Durham, who lost 7-3, 7-3 and 8-2 respectively.
However, all were far closer than the scores suggest – with a large proportion of individual sets being decided in the fifth end.
Durham will be back to full strength for the second and final weekend in January with the expected return of Shirley Gelder and they will also be in a position to call upon the services of Keith Weatherby.
There is still everything to play for, with three matches left against leaders Nottinghamshire, Cheshire 2 (5th) and Bedfordshire (7th).
Durham should have sufficient experience to lift them away from danger and be able to mount another title and promotion push next season.
H The Sunderland league has now completed over half of the of the fixture list. In Division One, the title race is between Thompson Insurance A, Silksworth IM A and St Chad’s.
Silksworth IM A look firm favourites following their recent impressive victory over reigning champions Thompson’s – who have been rocked by the news that their Number One player Andrew Wilkinson has a serious knee ligament injury which may see him miss the remainder of the season.
The race for the Division Two title is wide open with any one of four teams in with a shout – current leaders Sacriston St Bede’s A, Mortimer (2nd), Silksworth IM B (3rd) and St Gabriel’s B (4th).
St Gabriel’s chances, though, were dented following this week’s 8-2 defeat to Sacriston St Bede’s B in a very entertaining match which saw Saints’ Duncan Fraser and Ian McAllister undefeated before combining to win the doubles – the final set being won by Mark Walton.
Dave Revell and Steve Young picked up the only sets for St. Gabriel’s.
In Division Three, St John’s A remain firm favourites following this week’s excellent 7-3 victory over close rivals Sacriston St Bede’s C. The defeat saw St Bede’s replaced in second place by St John’s B.
Istvan Soos was once again man of the match for St John’s A – winning his three sets and the doubles with team-mate Craig Burton (who also won two of his three sets – losing narrowly to Lee Maher 11-6 in the fifth).
The remaining set was won by Craig Hilton to ensure a maximum four points for their victory. This was an extremely close match with six out of ten sets being decided in the fourth and fifth ends, four of which were won by St John’s A which helped to secure their win.
Division 1: Redby CA A 3 Durham CA 7, Thompson Ins. B 4 West CA A 6.
Division 2: Mortimer CA 8 Redby CA B 2, Redby CA 6 Silksworth IM B 4, Sacriston St. Bede’s B 8 St. Gabriel’s B 2, West CA B 2 Sacriston St. Bede’s A 8.
Division 3: Sacriston St. Bede’s D 2 St. Gabriel’s C 8, St. John’s A 7 Sacriston St. Bede’s C 3, St. John’s B 10 St. John’s C 0.