With the snow now vanished the Winter League resumed this evening with Knaresborough concluding their fixtures this term playing Wetherby 2. A cool crisp but crucially dry evening greeted the players with conditions ideal for this time of the year. With York team trials also taking place tonight the courts were busy and the club buzzing.
Due to absence there were a number of players unavailable but Wetherby captain Janine Smith was still able to select a nice looking four. Boro captain Paul Whitey was also a non runner but his replacement David Hewson was the leading man for Knaresborough in their team who competed in Harrogate Division Two and would prove a more than useful deputy.
Smith teamed up with Barry Johnson with the pair racking up many hours on court together both socially and in competition. They entertained Hewson, who was accompanied by Jan Blogg, who is a regular on the Winter League circuit as well as playing many matches in the summer for the visitors in both Division 2 and 4 last term. Both couples made strong starts and honours were even at 2-2 after the opening serves. Johnson was enjoying himself as usual on his favoured back hand and producing some lovely winners whilst Smith, wearing her eye catching pink attire, was leaping like a salmon and dominating at the net. Blogg is an extremely hard working and competitive player and was returning well whilst it was easy to see why Hewson plays at a higher level as he combined accuracy and power to punish the hosts. Wetherby put up a fine effort here and despite an 4-8 reverse this was a good rubber played in an excellent spirit.
Over on Court Five Wetherby 1 captain Mike Triffitt was in action and he was joined by the debutant Louise Beasley. Beasley is a new member who has played previously for other clubs in the area . She has been showing up well at coaching but this was her first league action for three years but she looked happy and confident tonight. With no previous game time together the Wetherby pair certainly didn’t let that fact detour them and with good teamwork and court awareness they started brightly. They faced Tony Graham and Sheree Ashman. Graham has been one of the more consistent men on the Winter League circuit this season and had enjoyed his summer stint representing Boro in both Division two and Four whilst Ashman was a regular for the Knaresborough team that just failed to gain promotion from Division 6. Once again it was 2-2 after the opening service games in a rubber that was proving difficult to call and promising to go right down to the wire. Graham was the standout player for power and serving well and hitting hard from deep he would take some stopping. Ashman was covering well and returning nicely and her enthusiastic approach was reaping dividends. Triffitt and Beasley were proving consistent and returning well with Beasley particularly eye catching at the net with some powerful smashes and delicate angled volleys. Triffitt used his unorthodox game to produce many winners that curled away nicely and the contest reached 6-5 with Beasley trying to serve out for a maiden win. She duly did with great composure and the Wetherby couple were delighted with a narrow 7-5 success.
So as round two commenced the visitors led 11-13 with all to play for. Smith and Beasley teamed up in the ladies rubber on Court Four and faced Blogg and Ashman. There was some impressive rallying from the teams and the contest was nicely poised at 4-4. However the Boro ladies looked determined and the experienced duo began to turn the screw. They reeled off four games on the bounce to run out 4-8 winners.
On Court Five Johnson and Triffitt knew they would have to produce their best to lower the colours of an impressive visiting pair but they looked determined and confident. The game proved enthralling with the power of the Boro men against the guile of Wetherby making for an intriguing rubber. Ultimately Knaresborough carried too much firepower with the class of Hewson all too evident. They ran out 4-8 winners but the hosts lost nothing in defeat.
The final round got under way and it would need a hugh effort for Wetherby to overcome what was now a 19-29 deficit. However Beasley and Triffitt were quickly out of the blocks against the Boro top seeds of Hewson and Blogg and were threatening an upset. Both Wetherby players looked very comfortable and maintaining an efficient and simple game plan had the favourites on the ropes. Hewson who had served very well in the men’s rubber was struggling now and the pace of the game was not to his liking. Blogg too was not finding her line and length and surprisingly the Wetherby couple led 7-1. Over on Court Five with the lead down to just four points it was Graham and Ashman who were steadying the ship. They were always ahead and were making life difficult for Smith and Johnson. Both did produce moments of brilliance but again Graham had too much power and with some lovely disguised cross court winners Boro ran out 4-8 winners in another close encounter. With the realisation that the match was lost and fatigue setting in Beasley and Triffitt were also been pegged back with Hewson in particularly now motoring through the gears. He and Blogg took the final four games but it was still victory for Wetherby who celebrated an impressive 7-5 success.
So after another competitive and exciting Winter League encounter it was Knaresborough who celebrated a 30-42 success to move them above Collingham into a final position of sixth this season. Knaresborough have been a real credit to the competition with captain Whitey a pleasure to arrange games with and his squad always playing with a smile.
Well done to the Wetherby quartet this evening too with a very commendable performance to run their higher ranked opponents very close. A big thanks to debutant Louise Beasley for answering a late SOS call and on tonight’s showing she looks a player of real quality and will be a very useful member of the club both on and off court.
Wetherby 2 play Wetherby 1 in their final game on Friday March 16th with Wetherby 1 hosting champions elect Rufforth this Thursday hoping to be the first side to defeat the North Yorkshire outfit in two seasons.
Tonights Winning Knaresborough team from left to right was Sheree Ashman, Jan Blogg, David Hewson and Tony Graham.
Runners up Wetherby lined up from left to right with Mike Triffitt, Louise Beasley, Janine Smith and Barry Johnson.