A cold but thankfully dry evening ensured another Winter League match would take place this evening with Collingham and Knaresborough doing battle at Castlegarth. Boro had lost their only previous game against Wetherby 1 whilst Collingham had defeated Wetherby 2 but lost to Boston Spa. Collingham arrived with captain Tony Cutler once more leading his troops into battle. He was joined by fellow Wetherby member Barry Johnson and regular Collingham ladies Sally Johnson and Liz Douthwaite.
For Knaresborough Tony Graham, who has played in Harrogate Mixed Division Two last summer, would captain and he was joined by father and daughter Dan and Ellie Wilson along with Sheree Ashman who were leading players for the B team who just missed out on promotion from Division Six.
With the team news and line-ups revealed this had the look of a close encounter with Boro slight favourites thanks to Graham been present.
The opening round saw Cutler and Douthwaite take on Graham and Ashman and it was quickly evident that Graham was going to have a very influential role on the nights proceedings. Serving well, hitting hard from deep and dominating the net he was quickly out of the blocks to ensure Boro would keep the points ticking over. Ashman proved a good partner with consistent tennis and some crafty play and they had their opponents on the run. Cutler was chasing plenty of lost causes down however and with Douthwaite also showing a never surrender attitude they certainly didn’t go down without a fight. But the class of Graham was impressive and he and Ashman proved a strong duo running out cosy 3-9 winners.
Barry and Sally Johnson, no relation, were making their Winter League debut together and faced Dan And Ellie Wilson. This pair had enjoyed a good summer where they topped the player stats for the club in Division Six and looked very comfortable together. Dan is a strong no nonsense player and was quick to take any chance that came his way. Barry Johnson who had led Wetherby A to promotion from Division Five was his equal however and was enjoying the dual between these two big hitters. Sally was adopting a safe but secure approach and keeping to a simple game plan took the sting out of many rallies with some clever play. This rubber proved close and with little to separate the quartet it eventually was the better teamwork of the Wilsons that saw them home to a narrow 5-7 win.
Round Two began with work to do for Collingham therefore with Boro ahead 8-16. Liz and Sally are regulars together on the ladies circuit and they would use this to ensure they had the upper hand in their ladies clash with Ellie and Sheree. However it was certainly a very entertaining and close contest throughout as the pairs battled for supremacy. Eventually it would be Collingham who ran out narrow 7-5 winners to close the overall gap to just six points.
Barry Johnson and Tony Cutler can often be seen together on court and needed no introduction as they prepared to face the big challenge of lowering the colours of Tony Graham and Dan Wilson. Graham was moving up the gears nicely and proving very difficult to contain. The hard hitting Knaresborough pair looked confident and despite Johnson unleashing many backhand winners and Cutler carefully surprising his opponents with unorthodox play, it was Boro who began to dictate matters. Another impressive performance from the Boro pair saw them restore parity running out 3-9 winners which increased their overall lead to 12 points.
As the final round began it was going to take a massive effort to produce a turnaround but Collingham still were looking sharp and confident they could make things interesting. Cutler and Douthwaite were finding time and space to enjoy themselves against the Wilsons and as confidence increased they produced their best tennis of the evening. Dan and Ellie responded well and this rubber was always destined to go down to the wire. Finally it was Collingham who clinched a 7-5 success in another thrilling match.
However with the deficit still at 10 hopes were rapidly fading of a great escape but Barry and Sally Johnson were now finding their form and starting to gell well together. Barry was enjoying the hard hitting of Graham and matched his aggression shot for shot. Sheree and Sally were determined to get the better of each other and this rubber was developing nicely. With some tremendous winning shots on show it was perhaps fitting that honours were eventually shared following a 6-6 tie. This meant Knaresborough ran out winners 31-41 which on the balance of play was indeed a fair reflection of events.
Well done again to everyone in another well contested Winter League affair and good luck with your remaining games.
Well done to Knaresborough on tonights success. From left to right captain Tony Graham, Ellie Wilson, Dan Wilson and Sheree Ashman.
A good effort from Collingham who lined up from left to right with Sally Johnson, Barry Johnson, captain Tony Cutler and Liz Douthwaite.