Once again the weather was the talk as Wetherby and Starbeck prepared for battle in Harrogate mixed division 2 this evening. The afternoon had seen showers but with a dry evening and the sun shinning hopes were high for a pleasant night. The visitors arrived sitting proudly at the summit whilst after winning their opening two matches the hosts were looking to avoid a third successive reverse. With absence in the squad, Wetherby drafted in Yvonne Mannall and Rachel Hill whilst Starbeck were also without key ladies so Ellie Page and Chloe Miller made their first starts in the section this term.
Adam Turner teamed up with Yvonne Mannall at seed one and they took on Shaun Holme and Ellie Page. This proved to be an excellent contest with little between the pairs. Adam is a strong left hander and happy to hit hard from deep whilst Yvonne was also hitting well from the baseline for the hosts. Shaun is a big server and dominant net player whilst the athletic Ellie was serving some lovely sliced efforts out wide along with some great interception play. Finally the visitors proved the more consistent and narrowly took the opener 5-7. On court two Steve Plant paired up with Rachel Hill for their competitive debut together. They took on Robin Wormersley and Di Lang. Plant was booming plenty of unreturnable aces down whilst Hill was returning well and proving quick around the court. Lang has just retuned from holiday and was sporting a eye catching tan. A veteran of many years at this level and a great supporter of the Winter League at Wetherby, she was returning well whilst Wormersley used his height to prove difficult to pass at the net. However the Wetherby duo looked sharp and eager to build on a promising start they ran out cosy 9-3 victors. Court three featured captain Helen Robinson, reunited with regular partner Marc Bickers, who had missed the last two defeats.They took on the vastly experienced John Rowe and improving youngster Chloe Miller. Marc is another strong server and his all action style was proving useful here. Deft touches at the net from Helen were been rewarded and Wetherby was always just ahead. Rowe is very consistent and crafty whilst Miller continues to improve . A close affair but an 8-4 success for the hosts meant a 22-14 lead going into round two for Wetherby.
The clouds were darkening and unfortunately drizzle turned to heavy rain meaning round two was interrupted. Puddles gathered on court but after a short break conditions allowed the players to brush the area clear. With the lights on play thankfully resumed after a 30 minute delay. Plant and Hill found themselves trailing 2-4 at the resumption against the impressive Starbeck top seeds. With Ellie looking sharp again she and Shaun were forging a useful partnership. Plant kept the hosts in it with some strong serving and Wetherby were not too disappointed to narrowly lose 5-7. Bickers and Robinson were involved in a battle on court two against Wormersley and Lang and with both pairs producing some memorable winners this was going down to the wire. A 6-6 draw was a good reflection of events and left both pairs happy. Turner and Mannall moved down to court three and once again another tight rubber ensued against Rowe and Miller. Wetherby may have carried more firepower but Starbeck dug in and battled manfully to force another 6-6 tie.
With the weather holding the players quickly began the final round with Wetherby leading 39-33. Holme and Page looked determined to reduce that lead as they once again were in fine form. Both players were ever so consistent and finding the gaps well produced many delightful winners. Marc and Helen battled bravely but could not prevent a 3-9 loss and suddenly it was all square at 42-42. Adam and Yvonne took on Robin and Diana and as had been the majority of the evenings games, another very close encounter followed. Di was getting into stride and using the court well to exploit the space whilst Robin was playing well and proving hard to pass. The hosts turned on the power game again but coundn’t force the win with another 6-6 tie, the second for both couples. So at 48-48 all eyes were on court three where it was becoming a winner takes all battle. A tremendous effort from the quartet with nothing left on the court the action was exhilarating. Each player gave everything and some superb rallies and breathtaking winners were the order of the day. Finally it was the hosts who celebrated as Steve and Rachel took the honours 7-5 against John and Chloe meaning a very narrow 55-53 overall victory.
A big well done to all competitors for ensuring the match concluded and a great fightback from the leaders just failed to bring reward. Starbeck remain joint top with Boroughbridge whilst Wetherby move into fourth position two points behind the top pair and having played a game less than Boro. Wetherby travel to bottom placed Knaresborough next Thursday now looking to maintain a promotion push and put pressure on the sides above them.