A dry and sunny evening at Castlegarth lay witness to a crucial Harrogate mixed division 2 clash between Wetherby first team and Bedale first team. Both clubs are vying for promotion with the visitors just a single point clear with 4 games to play. The stricken Marc Bickers was a late withdrawal for the hosts due to illness so Mike Abel stepped up from York 2 to partner Lucy Wright. With captain Helen Robinson away, Sue Perkins took the captains armband and paired at seed 2 with returning Wimbledon official Steve Plant whilst with James Landau and Adam Turner also absent, Roger Fawcus came in to partner Rachel Hill in a strong looking seed one duo.
Bedale were able to call on their regular squad members with ever presents Mark Scarlett and Helen Otter at Seed one. Likewise Mark Woodward and Ann Hatch maintained their 100% attendance record at seed 2 whilst Stuart Bentley at seed 3 has only missed one match although partner Sheila Curran was making only her third appearance in this section this term.
This looked a tough game to call with plenty of quality on court. Roger and Rachel are regular partners on the mixed circuit and a solid pair. Roger is a hard hitter and big server and loves approaching the net. He was to the fore here against Mark and Helen and was making his presence felt. Rachel is a consistent player and quick around court. They enjoyed a good battle with the Bedale top seeds but ran out 8-4 victors. On court two Steve Plant was relishing his return to action and quickly developed a good understanding with Sue Perkins. Plant was able to hit big when required but using the width of the court was happy to prolong the rally waiting to strike. Sue was strong throughout and they frustrated Mark and Ann who couldn’t get into a rhythm. Wetherby proved too clever and ran out worthy 10-2 winners. Mike Abel is enjoying good seasons in York mixed 2 and the men’s second team but was stepping up in class tonight. He and Lucy Wright are no strangers however and both great battlers on court .They faced the canny Bedale third pair of Stuart Bentley and Sheila Curran who proved difficult opponents. Stuart is quick around court and with Sheila hitting some vicious returns from deep they were 3-9 winners.
Round two commenced with Wetherby ahead 21-15 and pleased with their start. Plant and Perkins moved down to the show court where a good sized ground were cheering the hosts on. They found themselves 1-3 down against Scarlett and Otter but remaining calm battled back into the rubber. Steve was coolness personified as he often prolonged many a rally before either hitting a winner or forcing an error whilst Sue was happy to remain consistent throughout. Helen Otter is a very impressive lady for Bedale and one of the most eye catching to have played at Wetherby this season. She hits ground strokes with power and placement from deep and was able to find the gap on numerous occasions. With partner Mark crafty at the net this went down to the wire before Wetherby ran out narrow 7-5 victors. Mike and Lucy were on the end of a backlash against Mark Woodward and Ann Hatch who looked determined to atone for a poor first round. Mark is very athletic and with pace, power and great agility was forcing the issue. Ann is a solid partner and with some excellent tennis the pair were proving extremely hard to combat. Try as they may Mike and Lucy couldn’t convert crucial points and were unable to prevent a 1-11 defeat. Roger and Rachel however were in good form on court three as they had too much class for the visitors third pair. Showing good composure the pair were in excellent form and recorded a splendid 9-3 victory.
The last round would therefore be crucial with Wetherby leading 38-34 and all to play for. Mike and Lucy looked galvanized on the show court and produced their best tennis of the evening to delight the galleries. Lucy and Helen produced some scintillating cross court rallies with neither lady prepared to backdown whilst the chaps were left looking for the right moment to step in. This was an end to end affair and with little between the pairs a narrow 5-7 defeat left the Wetherby duo the happier. Roger and Rachel on court two were moving nicely through the gears and really turning on the style against Mark and Ann. They really impressed in running out 10-2 winners which left Wetherby on the verge of victory overall. It was left to captain Sue Perkins and Steve Plant to confirm the massive 2 points as they looked comfortable during a 8-4 victory over Stuart and Sheila. Playing the percentages the duo were always in control and happy to keep the score flowing.
So this indeed may very well prove a pivotol night in the race for Division one with Wetherby leapfrogging Bedale into second place after a 61-47 success and now holding a narrow one point advantage. The team know promotion remains in their hands with three games to play. They host Boroughbridge at home next week with the visitors falling away now and destined for mid table before a visit to Starbeck to face the leaders and champions elect. They finish with a return game at Starbeck A who should have secured safety by then in what may prove a win for promotion encounter.
Thanks to both teams for providing good entertainment on court this evening and we look forward to bringing more good news for Wetherby in the closing weeks of their campaign.
Roger Fawcus, Mike Abel, Lucy Wright, Sue Perkins, Steve Plant and Rachel Hill looked delighted in bar 3 celebrating a vital victory this evening. Well done everyone on a great win.