With a poor forecast and heavy afternoon rain it seemed unlikely that the Wetherby first team would be able to play their opening Harrogate league Division Two clash at home to Almscliffe this evening. However despite drizzle at the start the rain ceased to allow this season opener to go ahead. Adam Turner and Steve Plant were making debuts after showing up well, both in the Winter League and pre season, and certainly add strength to an already useful looking squad.
The visitors arrived with their usual main players and this would prove a tough test for the hosts.
Steve Plant began at seed one and teamed up with former captain Sue Jacklin. The pair had looked impressive in team training and were excited to finally see some league action. They faced the Almscliffe big guns of Hayley and Owain Rowatt who had topped the visitors player stats last season. The drizzle made for tricky conditions and both pairs began cautiously. The hosts led 4-3 before the Rowatts clicked into top gear to reel off four games on the bounce. Thankfully Wetherby took the final game and a 5-7 opener was a good reflection on events.
Lucy Wright teamed up with Adam Turner at seed two and they took on Anne Blaikley and Paul Moore. This proved a very tight contest with some excellent tennis on show. Wright was electric at the net and often benefiting from the giant serves Turner was booming down. The left hander has a lovely forehand and with speedy court coverage the hosts were enjoying a nice debut. Moore and Blaikley had been the second highest rated Almscliffe pair last tern and were certainly making a good fight and producing plenty of eye catching tennis themselves. Finally Wetherby prevailed 7-5 after a thriller.
New captain Helen Robinson began at seed three and teamed up with the reliable Marc Bickers. This pair are no strangers and quickly moved into stride. Good serving and baseline play from Bickers combined with the craftiness and guile of Robinson proved a useful combination although Kirsty and Richard were competitive and proving tough opponents. Wetherby ran out narrow 7-5 winners and so led 19-17 going into round two.
It was Wright and Turners chance to take on the visiting top seeds and once more this was a very enjoyable watch. The standard was high and neither couple were throwing in the towel as a number of superb winners were played. Hayley was one of the sections leading ladies last season and it was easy to see why but Wright was her equal in this contest. With Tuner showing his class and matching Owain the rubber finished all square at 6-6. Steve Plant and Sue Jacklin looked confident as they headed down to court three to face Bryant and Springle and with a good performance in the opener behind them were soon into stride here. Plant was serving superbly and with Jacklin dominating the net the pair looked impressive. Plant combined a powerful game with plenty of deft drop shots and his ability to mix things up nicely proved crucial. A 10-2 win was just reward for a great effort. Robinson and Bickers were also impressing on court two against Anne and Paul and were always in control. This had the look of a very close game but the Wetherby duo proved more consistent and ran out useful 8-4 winners after a tremendous performance.
As round three began the hosts had stretched their lead to 43-29 and were closing in on victory. Helen and Marc continued their good form against the Rowatts and knew they would need to be at their very best to lower their colours. This was another great advert for Division Two with little between the quartet. With Bickers running for every lost cause the hosts were well in the clash and some deft touches from Helen ensured a tight finish. Finally the visitors just prevailed 5-7 but knew they had been in a titanic struggle.
Jacklin and Plant were also turning up the heat and began brightly against Anne and Paul on court two. This blossoming partnership really was looking eye catching and the pair complemented each other very well. The consistency of both players proved crucial and they wore down their opponents to take a 9-3 success to accumulate an excellent 24 points on the evening. It was left to Lucy and Adam to add the icing on a splendid evening as they turned on the style to defeat the Almscliffe third pair 10-2. The beleaguered visitors had no answer to the dominate home duo who really were on song.
A 67-41 success was a very promising start for a Wetherby side who confirmed they will most definitely be in the promotion hunt this season. Well played to all on show for braving the poor conditions to provide a feast of entertainment. Wetherby now play the two clubs promoted from Division Three last season starting with a trip to Knaresborough next Thursday then hosting West Tanfield two weeks today. Judging by those clubs opening scores Wetherby will be favourites and hopefully can maintain their winning ways. Good luck to both teams tonight for the remainder of the season and I look forward to bringing more good news as we follow the Wetherby first team this campaign in the Harrogate league.
Steve Plant, Lucy Wright, Helen Robinson and Adam Turner were instrumental in helping Wetherby to the Winter League title this season and were once again in sparkling form this evening.