The Wetherby mixed one team who play in Harrogate League Two were in action last night when they hosted Academy B in their quest to secure vital points in their relegation fight. The team have been competitive this term but with the close nature of most of this section it has meant a number of clubs are still looking over their shoulders at the relegation trap door. Wetherby presently find themselves third from the bottom so only a place and a point keep them out of the dreaded red zone.
Academy have two sides in the division with the B team two places and two points better off than Wetherby so this clash was, like many, extremely crucial.
Wetherby had a strong looking team out with regular number one pair Josh Bayliss and Rachel Hill once again on show. However even they had their work cut out to compete with Academy top duo Richard Bancroft and Sonya Morgan. This couple are highly respected at this level with Bancroft a coach at the Harrogate based club, almost unbeatable this season. The visitors made the better start and despite a close first set ran out cosy winners 4-6,1-6. This was to set the tone of the night as they completed their rubbers with victories in each to accumulate maximum points and already put 3 points on the board.
Bayliss and Hill were not downhearted however and realising they would need to win their remaining fixtures duly did so. They beat third seeds John Topping and Sue Bowden 6-3,6-4 and a 6-3 victory over Marcus Hewlett and Anthea Davies ensured a more than useful 2 points to keep Wetherby well in the hunt.
Marc Bickers teamed up with the returning Helen Robinson who, my spies tell me, had looked very impressive during a practise match earlier in the week after a holiday in Portugal. They won their opening rubber with Hewlett and Davies 6-4,6-2 and despite inevitable defeat against Bancroft and Morgan managed a half with Topping and Bowden 1-6,6-3. A 1.5 haul from the third pair was excellent and suddenly this match was becoming extremely interesting.
Captain Sue Jacklin partnered Mike Butterworth with both making a welcome return to action. This is just the pair needed in close battles with both drawing on many years of experience. They too felt the full force of Bancroft and Morgan during a 1-6,4-6 defeat but fought back well to record a 6-3,6-1 success over Hewlett and Davies. So this left the match on a knife edge as they were left last on court playing Topping and Bowden. The visitors were in the ascendancy early on and leading 2-4 the match was seemingly heading for a draw. But the home duo realised this was a great opportunity to bag the two points and with a late renewed effort turned on the style to run out 6-4 winners and secure a massive victory for the club.
This was typical of the team this year who have been involved in some really close encounters which have gone down to the wire on so many occasion. This win may well prove to be the most significant however as they now move onto nine points alongside Academy and hopefully,pending other midweek scores,have opened a slight gap between themselves and the bottom two.
The fight continues and no doubt will more than likely go down to the final round of fixtures. However with another home game next Thursday against bottom side Northallerton, they do have a winnable opportunity to extend the gap and play the remaining games in a more comfortable state of mind!
Well done to all concerned tonight and good luck with the last few fixtures.
Wetherby A were also in action as they made the short trip north to Knaresborough in Division Five. Boro sit proudly at the summit with maximum points from eleven games and knew victory tonight would mathematically confirm promotion. Wetherby travelled full of confidence after 6.5 v 2.5 victory over Burton Leonard last week but knew it was their last chance saloon as far as their own promotion hopes were concerned. On a warm and muggy evening regular number one pair Kevin Duckenfield and Fiona Chantrey set about the task in hand and an impressive 2-6 win over Matt Walton and Roz Emslie gave hope of a shock result but the home pair regrouped and levelled the rubber with a 6-4 success in the second. Duckenfield and Chantrey have formed a useful partnership this term and are always very difficult to beat. However on this occasion and despite remaining unbeaten once more ,they just couldn’t quite get into the winners enclosure and ended the evening with 1.5 points from three drawn matches.
Neil Ripley and Katie Barrett renewed acquaintances at seed two but soon found they would have to play above themselves to fend off Paddy Lund and Natasha Quigley. Lund was playing some tremendous tennis. A strong server and relentless baseliner he also had a lovely touch at the net and the Boro couple proved too strong in running out 6-2,6-1 winners. Ripley and Barrett managed to secure their only points of the evening from a half with Boro captain Paul White and his playing partner Paddy Macjannette during a 6-3,1-6 tie. They fell 6-2 against Walton and Emslie. Walton, like our very own Josh Bayliss,has improved out of all recognition this term and is now one of the most feared men at this level . A strong serve and unbelievable court coverage, he is relentless in his approach and is very difficult to beat.
Mike Triffitt and Louise Williams continued their first season partnership at seed three. They were involved in their usual high number and time consuming games and true to form just lost their opener on a tie break for a 6-5 loss. They were unable to avoid defeat against While and Macjannette losing the second set 6-2 for a 2-0 loss. They improved significantly in their next match however against Walton and Emslie and seemed to enjoy the harder hitting and high intensity on show. Williams was superb with some fantastic baseline play and dominant net strokes whilst Triffitt was scrambling around keeping the pair in many a rally. However it was tiebreak heartache once again and in a close match they narrowly lost 6-5,6-4.
With the match now lost they met Lund and Quigley in the finale and this turned out to be a cracker. In an end to end sea saw encounter the scores were 5-5 as the evening was turning slowly black. Lund stepped up to ease the hosts ahead 6-5 but Williams and Triffitt were determined to secure something on the scoreboard for their endeavour. With the peel of the 10pm bells beginning to chime they summed one last effort to level the game at 6-6 for a deserved share of the spoils.
Ultimately Wetherby, despite been competitive, have just come up short in defeats against Boro and second placed Harlow this season. Those big guns meet on Monday with Boro crowned champions with victory. Wetherby will battle it out with Academy for third which realistically is a fair reflection of their campaign. Well done to Knaresborough as any side unbeaten at this late stage are clearly above average.
A good effort all round tonight despite the loss for Wetherby and good luck with that battle to secure third place which will be known once they meet Harlow soon at Castlegarth.