The Ladies and Men’s divisions returned to action after the Christmas break to season-defining fixtures already, despite it only being the halfway point of the season!
In the Ladies division two this could not have been any truer! Bottom of the table Hadleigh Park travelled to second-bottom Southend Lawn who had a six point cushion heading into the match – only a win would do for Hadleigh Park!
Unfortunately Hadleigh caught Southend Lawn’s first ladies team on a good night! Lawn’s first pairing of Jo Day & Anne-Marie Naylor swiftly overcame Amy Nettleship & Margaret Gabe 6-1 6-0 and their second duo of Sandy Bysouth & Anne-Marie Driscoll dispatched Xanthi Crewe & Jan Clements with ease 6-2 6-0. The emphatic win means Southend extend their lead over Hadleigh to twelve points with only four matches remaining. Of course, mathematically it is still very possible for Hadleigh to stage a miraculous escape, however it will take a freakish run of results starting with a home match against Westcliff Hard next week. Meanwhile, Southend Lawn face a trip down the road to Thorpe Bay buoyed by their win over Hadleigh.
Elsewhere in the Ladies, there was a top two clash in division four as leaders David Lloyd 2 hosted Rayleigh 2. Lloyd’s were looking for a repeat of their week one encounter that saw them claim a 4-1 win at their visitors. Home second pairing of Sonia Gibbons & Amanda Jackson got Lloyd’s off to a perfect start as they defeated Gillian Whittington & Janet Cooper 6-2 6-3. However visiting first pair of Jean Catley & Philipa Pearson, rallied to beat Jill Piper & Isabella Smith 7-5 6-3 to give Rayleigh a share of the spoils meaning the gap between the two sides remains at only two and a half points with plenty still to play for! Up next for David Lloyd is a trip to the seaside as they visit Thorpe Bay 4 whereas Rayleigh host Westcliff Hard 4.
In the Men’s there is a new team at the summit as Westcliff Lawn 1 overtook Wickford 1 by just one point in division one. Heading into the week Westcliff Lawn, Wickford and Rayleigh 1 were all tied on twenty points at the halfway mark in what was building up to be the closest title fight for a generation! Westcliff’s 6-0 home win over David Lloyd was enough to see them overtake Wickford who themselves managed an impressive 5-1 home win over Rayleigh.
Westcliff’s first duo of Nick Spillett & Alexander Goldhawk romped to victory over Pete Cannon & Matthew Harvey for the loss of only three games – 6-3 6-0. Westcliff’s other partnership of Neil Attwood & Aaron Hilsum also faced little trouble as they beat Gary McCarthy & Billy Moore 6-2 6-4.
Earlier that week, Wickford’s George brothers, Craig & Neil, strolled to victory against Dave Barham & Oliver Crickmay 6-1 6-0. In contrast, the second rubber was a gripping, closely fought three-setter between Wickford’s Alexis Vancostenobel & Rory Young and Rayleigh’s Stuart Worboys & Steve Lloyd with the former coming out on top 4-6 6-3 7-5. That dropped first set was enough for Westcliff Lawn to snatch top spot for at least a week!
The title race could take a further twist next week as Westcliff Lawn travel to summer champions and currently third-placed Rayleigh whilst Wickford head to middle-of-the-pack Westcliff Hard.
Further down the league pyramid, Crowstone’s draw at neighbours Westcliff Hard 2 was enough to see them move off bottom spot at Kent Elms 2’s expense! A 6-3 6-3 victory for Stone’s Simon Routh & Justin Pugh over Derrick May & Mick Gray coupled with 7-6 6-2 loss for Paul Sissons & Paul Bundock against Russell Tredgett & Stephen Wynn was sufficient for the away side!