Wetherby A continued their promotion push when they travelled north to face Ripon this evening. After a sunny but blustery day, conditions had eased with the wind now calm although with cloud replacing sun, it still meant conditions were good albeit a little chilly.
Wetherby have won five of their opening six games with their only defeat at leaders Harrogate Spa. Ripon were expected to be challenging at the top and after opening with two wins hopes were high. However they have lost their next four games and have already fielded fifteen players this term which has obviously not helped with partnership building.
However Wetherby knew this was a potential banana skin game and with Ripon fielding their top four scoring players this season it was a strong home six that the visitors faced. Wetherby were missing leading lady Fiona Chantrey although it was great to see the welcome return from long term injury of Debbie Vines. Mike Triffitt returned to replace Mike Richards from last week’s winning team line up.
Captain Barry Johnson teamed up with Dawn Steel once more and they opened on the show court facing Ripon top pair Jo Salisbury and Chris Aplin.Salisbury is a very competitive and fully focused individual and battles well with a lovely back hand game which she uses effectivly from deep. Aplin is a big serving and aggressive player with a lovely back hand and this contest had all the ingredients of a very close match up. Steel matched Salisbury for court coverage and resilience whilst Johnson stood firm in the firing line as Aplin used him as target practise. The scoreline was indeed close but the hosts just had the upper hand and ran out narrow 7-5 winners. Mike Triffitt was back on Court Two with regular partner Louise Williams and the pair took on the veterans Carol Tetlow and Colin Bowes. Both the Ripon players proved difficult to pass and were adapt at maintaining long rallies so the Wetherby duo would have to be on top form to pick them off. Triffitt was serving well and producing a number of aces whilst Williams was strong at the net and composed throughout. Coupled with her excellent forehand she produced a number of winners with some acute angles. However the score was close at 4-5 before the Wetherby duo upped the tempo to reel off the last three games to give themselves a crucial 4-8 success. Debbie Vines was making her seasonal reappearance and teamed up with regular social partner Greg Vince. The two are very comfortable in one another’s company and these two consistent baseliners were happy to slug it out with extremely long stroke rallies the order of the evening. They took on home captain Peter Atherley and Alison Reed. Atherley is quite the enigma as his tall frame made him difficult to lob and he produced some wonderful net play. However as is often the case at this level, he made too many unforced errors which meant the Wetherby pair remained very much in the contest. However the hosts still retained a more cutting edge and prevailed 7-5 in another extremely tight rubber.
As round two began the scoreboard was level at 18-18 and Wetherby certainly knew this evening was certainly going to be tough and a real battle. Johnson and Steel faced Tetlow and Bowes and the Ripon seed two were still proving a tough nut to crack. They played some excellent tennis and with a nice mix of baseline and smart net play ensured Johnston and Steel were made to work hard. Steel continued to cover every inch of the court whilst Johnston used his very strong backhand to good effect with some excellent winners. Finally the visitors got their noses in front to secure a 5-7 win. Triffitt and Williams faced Atherley and Reed but with Triffitt suffering back trouble it needed nurse Williams to administer some magic pills to ease the pain and galvanise him back into action. Williams was really in splendid form and arguably produced her most consistent tennis of the season. She served extremely well with a very high first serve percentage and was unfazed even by the big physical presence that Atherley presented. Continuing with some superb forehand winners,many hit with real ferocity , she confidently bossed the court as she and Triffitt began to take charge. Triffitt was enjoying himself at the net with many winners and the pair oozed confidence as they finally ran out cosy 3-9 winners which proved to be the biggest winning margin of the night. Over on Court Three Vines and Vince were digging deep to hold onto the shirt tails of Salisbury and Aplin with Vince matching the powerful hope man shot for shot in a real baseline fest. Vines was defending well and thankfully for Wetherby the rubber was close and extremely competitive. A 7-5 loss was still a fine achievement for the third pair and ensured the visitors nudged ahead 33-39 with a slender but useful six point cushion going into the final round.
Tetlow and Bowes were involved in another epic battle against Vines and Vince with no quarter given by any of the players on view who all knew the stakes were high. With no one committed to the net this became another baseline battle although the crafty Bowes did exploit the gaps well to produce a number of drop shot winners,. This was to prove the difference ultimately as Ripon won yet another narrow rubber 8-4. Johnson and Steel took on Atherley and Reed but with Steel’s mobility hindered with a slight leg pull they were always playing catch up. Atherley produced his most error free tennis of the evening with some wonderful dominant net play and clever disguised backhands and with partner Reed battling manfully the Ripon pair shaded another close one 7-5. Triffitt was looking a little anxious as he and Williams took on Salisbury and Aplin and realised there would be little room for error with the contest so close and the other Wetherby pairs trailing. However with Williams as confident as she has ever been on court he soon settled and the pair built up a nice 1-5 lead on the back of an aggressive attacking game. However despite his inconsistencies Aplin was still producing some thunderous back hand returns with real venom and the hosts closed to 3-5. Again the Wetherby couple regrouped and pushed on and at 3-7 looked home and dry. But a couple of crucial calls went against them that disrupted Triffitt and with Salisbury suddenly reeling off three unbelievable and unreturnable shorts on the bounce the hosts rallied to only lose 5-7. Triffitt and Williams had to nervously wait for other games to finish but ultimately they had done enough and Wetherby recorded a finger nail biting 53-55 success to continue their good early season form.
A good team effort with Triffitt and Williams top scoring with an excellent 24. However for her fantastic play and compose I am more than happy to let my playing partner Louise take the man of the match honours for her excellent contribution all round tonight.
Ripon would certainly be far higher up the table if they were able to play this team of six every week and provided excellent opposition on a fascinating night of tennis.
Wetherby move alongside Spa at the summit on twelve points although the title favourites play their game in hand tomorrow when they face winless Harrogate Racquets so it would be the shock of the season if they fell to defeat there. Wetherby have opened up a four point cushion over third placed Wetherby B with the pair meeting at Castlegarth on Thursday June 22nd in a very intriguing derby fixture.
Tonight’s winning team from left to right was – Captain Barry Johnson, Debbie Vines, Greg Vince, Dawn Steel, Louise Williams and Mike Triffitt.
A lovely tea from the hosts and a chocolate cake to rival Jean Teasdale as well!!!
Debbie Vines certainly enjoyed herself devouring it and seen above with an almost empty plate the evidence was there for all to see!!. Welcome back Debbie and you thoroughly deserved all your cake!