The Harrogate One mixed team faced a crucial match at Academy B last night as they try to secure Division Two status this term. It would appear Wetherby and Knaresborough are now effectivly in a two way battle to avoid joining a doomed looking Academy into Division Three next season. Both Wetherby and Boro are on five points and trail Boston Spa by a further five and with games running out it will be an exciting climax to the season. With rain falling all day and causing the cancellation of the York 2 teams home match tonight, luckily the weather had cleared further North and with the outdoor carpet courts suitable for action play was able to commence. Captain Sue Jacklin was one of a number of absentees through injury and other commitments so the side had a very unusual look to it, albeit one that travelled exceedingly strong still.
Lucy Wright stepped in as acting captain and she teamed up with her regular playing partner Marc Bickers. They opened at seed two and faced Marcus Hewlett and Anne McCullough. It’s been a tough season for the hosts who have yet to register a win and also used eighteen players to often plug the gaps. Hewlett has been one of the mainstays of the team however and is the leading scoring male. McCullough was making only her second start but the pair quickly gelled and played some attacking tennis. Taking an early initiative they were able to force the pace and had the Wetherby pair on the back foot. Wright and Bickers struggled to adapt to the courts and although producing some good tennis later were unable to close the gap and went down 8-4. Angela Crossley came in from York 1 and she partnered promising youngster Joe Cawcutt who has seen game time for the same mixed side over the past two seasons. This pair were to prove a more than useful pairing and would certainly enjoy their evening. First round opponents Matt Waters and Sue Bowden would however offer stiff resistance and this duo, who have been regular partners over the years, were playing well and causing problems. However Crossley was dominating the net and with Cawcutt hitting well from the baseline they ran out cosy 4-8 winners. Ladies first team captain and York 1 mixed player Yvonne Mannall came in at seed three and was joined by men’s second team captain Mike Park who was still on a high after guiding his team to a remarkable comeback at the weekend where Park played a very influential role. This duo opened up against Nick Boid and Sonya Morgan and once again it would prove to be a close and intriguing contest. The Wetherby duo adopted a very professional performance with a consistent style allowing them to dictate the pace and ensure they remained relatively error free. Both were returning well and covering the court allowing the hosts little opportunity to exploit. However both home players have been regulars this term and no what the standard is required and were able to compete. The greater experience of the Wetherby two proved key and they ran out 4-8 winners to leave the team ahead 16-20.
Round two began therefore with the visitors leading by four and the hosts were able to close that gap as Boid and Morgan took on Wright and Bickers. This looked a well matched contest on paper and both pairs gave it all during some gruelling rallies. Youngster Morgan was showing some nice touches and proving hard to pass and gradually the Academy pair got on top to claim a 8-4 success. Mannall and Park looked unmoved as they prepared to welcome home top pair Waters and Bowden. Both remained extremely calm and with methodical class began to wear down their opponents. They were involved in a good tussle with Waters attacking powerfully at the net but Park was his equal and hit some lovely wide returns to leave Bowden struggling. Mannall was a wall returning everything and the couple ran out 4-8 winners once again. With the match tight it needed Crossley and Cawcutt to up the tempo and inject some pace to move the scoreboard into Wetherby’s favour. They didn’t disappoint and now fully up to speed with the court conditions flew out the blocks and put beleaguered Hewlett and McCullough firmly to the sword. Cawcutt was growing in confidence and was hitting with real accuracy and venom and with Crossley difficult to pass at the net the two were in irresistible form. They ran out useful 1-11 winners which suddenly turned the match very much in the visitors direction.
Moving into a 29-43 lead Wetherby could now see the finish line and knew a composed final round would secure a vital win. Wright and Bickers saved their best performance of the evening for last as they battled manfully and with success against Waters and Bowden. Bickers was finding good length with his deep forehands and with Wright managing to kill a number of smashes they managed to obtain a very good 6-6 tie. Mannall and Park also moved up a gear or two in the finale as they were always in control against Hewlett and McCullough. They really did play some excellent tennis and were a joy to watch as they strode out impressively to take a 3-9 win and record an excellent 25 points on the evening. With the match almost won Crossley and Cawcutt were left to ice an impressive performance as they finished against Boid and Morgan. Despite some heroics from the home duo they were mostly left clutching at straws as the Wetherby top dogs produced another ruthless rubber showing little mercy. They put on a very professional show to run out 0-12 winners and in obtaining 31 points on the night, ensured the visitors were able to take home the points following a 38-70 success.
Wetherby climb two points above Knaresborough and actually close to within three of Boston Spa now with just three more games left to play.Boro travel to mid table Starbeck Wednesday whilst Spa are at third placed Bedale who are actually on the same season points with the top two already clear. The team host Bedale and leaders Ripon next before a potentially massive clash at Knaresborough on the final day which may even decide the final relegation place!
Well done to all tonight and for those who stepped in . As always Academy were good hosts and we wish them well as they look to rebuild for a promotion push next season.