The Harrogate One mixed team faced a crucial derby clash with Boston Spa tonight as they looked to move out of the relegation zone in Division Two. The side have suffered a number of gut wrenching close defeats this term and lost the first game at Stables Lane 56-52 back in early May.
They were able to pick from strength tonight knowing they realistically had to win with games starting to run out.
Regular top seeds Paul Archer and Rachel Hill once again teamed up and they faced Spa top dogs Jordan Gregory and Lorraine Pearey who have hardly missed a game together. With the rain finally clearing after a grim week, play got underway and even the dark clouds were starting to lift.
Hill looked in confident form and was backing up after a brilliant performance on Tuesday had helped the York one mixed outfit to yet another victory. Archer returned after a back injury has seen him struggling but this couple are developing a good relationship on court and are a match for most at this level. They had to dig deep however against the useful Spa duo who made things difficult and battled well throughout this intriguing contest. Archer was hitting some screamers from deep and with Hill dominant at the net they had a little too much class and ran out 8-4 winners.
Mike Butterworth has been playing well in the men’s first team and has helped them reach the top so he too had the look of confidence stepping out on court two with captain Sue Jacklin. They faced Peter Smith and Lesley Haley who have also seem plenty of game time this campaign. Smith is a wily old character with a decent serve and strong hands but Butterworth had his measure. Jacklin was happy to play error free tennis and keep the rallies ticking over and the Wetherby pair kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely. They too ran out 8-4 winners for a nice opening success.
Marc Bickers and Lucy Wright made up the team and formed an excellent and strong looking seed three duo. Bickers has been the star man for the men’s third team and has been instrumental in helping them remain unbeaten after five straight wins. He also brought confidence into this hugh clash and continued were he left off at the weekend. Wright was also coming off an impressive performance for the ladies first team and there seemed to be an extra edge to the team tonight after success elsewhere for the majority of them.
Sheila Stuart and Gordon Milne stood in their way and this looked a well balanced tie on paper. The quartet produced some lovely tennis and the rubber was indeed finely poised. However Wright was gaining success at the net and with Bickers attacking from deep and hitting some fast serves the hosts took the honours 7-5 to complete a good opening round.
Leading 23-13 and taking a 10 point lead into round two the hosts were determined to keep pressing, mindful of too many close encounters this season already. Archer and Hill began brightly and looked particularly determined to win big. They played a very aggressive game and put the visitors third pair under severe pressure. Using the width of the court, Archer had his beleaguered opponents on the run and with Hill once again unplayable at the net they secured a very important 9-3 victory .
Butterworth and Jacklin took on the lively Spa top seeds and found them a tough proposition. Gregory was serving well and his back hand returns with slice carried great menace. The hosts could never get a foothold and were beaten 4-8.
Bickers and Wright were enjoying themselves still however and entertained Smith and Haley. Bickers was producing a series of fantastic forehands from the baseline, many of which he ran around to attack with power and pace. This caught the visitors by surprise and with Wright emulating Hill and producing some fantastic net play of her own, the Wetherby couple produced a superb performance to take the rubber 8-4
Hopes were now high and the taste of victory was in the air as round three began with Wetherby now ahead 44-28. Archer and Hill took on Haley and Smith and it was the visitors who shaded the early exchanges. They didn’t allow the Wetherby couple to dominate and mixing things up nicely managed to play some disguised shots with great effect. However the hosts top couple, although not at their best in this rubber, still salvaged a 6-6 draw to finish the night on 23 most welcome points.
Butterworth and Jacklin saved their best till last though and they really started to up the tempo and carve open their opponents. Butterworth was hardly missing with a string of forehands and his ability to put away some difficult smashes meant the home team were in control. Jacklin was assisting superbly and never looking off the bridle ensured the home pair were good value for a cosy 9-3 win that took them to an excellent 21 points on the evening.
With victory ensured Bickers and Wright were also turning on the style and the intensity they brought was helping them in their hard and well fought battle with Pearey and Gregory. According to one watching spectator, Bickers was moving so fast around court he could get a part in Footloose, and he oozed confidence as he took on the impressive Gregory in a great battle of the men. There was no let up from Wright either and she arguably produced her most consistent showing of the season to help the home couple to a well deserved 7-5 victory and three consecutive wins produced a wonderful return of 22 points.
So finally all the hard effort and toil had reaped a just reward with Wetherby taking the contest with a rather impressive looking 66-42 victory. This lifts the team above Knaresborough and out of the bottom two and they close to within three points of tonight’s opponents. They face a very tough away fixture at promotion chasing Boroughbridge next Wednesday before a crucial fixture at bottom side Academy B the week after .
Well done to all the team tonight and although the phase ‘a great team effort’ is a well worn one, a glance at tonight’s scoreboard shows nothing separating the three pairs so this truly was a fabulous team performance indeed. Thanks to our close friends and rivals Boston Spa and good luck with your quest to retain Division Two status this season too.