Unbeaten Saints forced to fight in championship clincher

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ST JOHN A’s draw against fourth-placed Lanchester CC saw them crowned Division Three champions to cap an excellent campaign in the Sunderland and District League.

Saints have led the league from the first week, winning 16 games and drawing two of their 18 games to date.

They have a strong squad and have been well represented by Istvan Soos, Craig Burton, Craig Hilton, Lynda Todd and Mike Hampshire.

The race for second place and promotion to Division Two could hardly be tighter.

West CA B, who have been in second place all season, were dealt a huge blow when they were defeated 6-4 by East Boldon Methodists – a defeat which saw their opponents leapfrog them in the table.

The game was played in a very good spirit and saw all players performing to a very high standard. Man of the match Neil Wilkinson beat West’s Alan Whitwham 3-2 in the final match to secure an excellent win, and his third singles success.

Wilkinson was joined by Carlos Caldeira, who won two singles sets, to take the all-important doubles set.

The chase for promotion could not be any closer in Division Two, with three teams all on 41 points.

Redby CA A’s 5-5 draw against Sacriston Bombers was enough to see them move into pole position, albeit only on sets won.

Redby’s Malcolm Deneven finished the night unbeaten with wins over Ian McPherson (3-1), Daniel Nicholson (3-0) and Nigel Coe (3-0). Frank Booth picked up a further two sets for Redby to ensure two hard-earned points.

McPherson recovered from his defeat to Deneven to win his remaining singles sets against Booth and Ken Tweedy before joining team-mate Nicholson to record a fine doubles win over Deneven and Booth.

With Nicholson and Coe picking up a set apiece, Bombers secured a valuable draw.

St Gabriel’s C’s 9-1 win over lowly West CA A kept them in the promotion hunt.

Durham CA B, however, have two and four games in hand over St Gabriel’s and Redby respectively, but need to transfer this advantage into points to help them leapfrog their rivals and keep their promotion hopes alive.

In the remaining fixture, Silksworth IM recorded a fine 6-4 win over St Gabriel’s B.

Man of the match Bob Sanderson grabbed three singles victories, backed by Alan Bickle (2) and Graham Sleep to maintain fourth place.

St Chad’s moved within six points of Division One leaders Thompson Insurance A with their excellent 8-2 win over third-top Durham CA A.

Saints’ strong team of Keith Weatherby, Jimmy Scope and Steve Penman proved too strong for Anthony Ainley, Colin Hunt and John Williamson.

The first game was a cracker as Williamson edged out Weatherby 11-8. Weatherby regrouped to take the next two games 11-7, 11-3, only for Williamson to level it up at 4-4.

Weatherby dominated the final end, using his attacking flair at every opportunity, and he closed out the match 11-7 to claim the first set for Saints.

Penman doubled the lead with a fine 3-0 win over Hunt and Saints stormed into a 5-0 lead after securing the following three sets – Scope beating Ainley, Penman defeating Williamson, and Weatherby and Scope claiming the doubles win over Ainley and Williamson.

St Chad’s needed three sets from the remaining five to ensure a maximum points victory. However, their hopes were dented when Weatherby was surprisingly beaten by Ainley in an entertaining encounter which saw the Durham player close out the match by the tightest of margins, 11-9 in the fifth.

That inflicted only Weatherby’s second defeat of the season – the other being a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Open singles champion Andrew Wilkinson.

Scope helped Saints back into winning ways with a comfortable 3-0 success over Hunt to make the match score 6-1 before Ainley again played exceptionally well to defeat Penman 3-2 to round off a fine performance by the Durham player.

Scope accounted for Williamson before Weatherby defeated Hunt 3-1 to finish the match 8-2 and record four vital league points for their efforts.

In the only other game, St Gabriel’s A’s 6-4 win over Mortimer CA moved them into fifth place.

Two sets apiece from Tony Gelder and Norman Pescod, one from Tom Bainbridge, and the all-important doubles was enough to secure the win.

Man of the match Dave Bannon finished the night unbeaten for Mortimer, including an excellent 3-1 win over Gelder.

Mortimer’s Ian Moore ensured his team picked up a point following his excellent 3-1 win over Bainbridge.

Results, Div One: St Chad’s 8 Durham CA A 2, St Gabriel’s A 6 Mortimer CA 4

Div Two: Redby CA A 5 Sacriston Bombers 5, St Gabriel’s B 4 Silksworth IM 6, West CA A 1 St Gabriel’s C 9

Div Three: East Boldon Methodists 6 West CA B 4, Lanchester CC 5 St John A 5, St John B 7 Sacriston Desperadoes 3