Comb 2 v's Stocksbridge 2 (H) - 2/11/12

As the season got underway for the Combined 2 team, newly promoted to Division 2, we welcomed Stocksbridge 2 to Tapton School.  It was a new side with Cat and Deepak making their debuts, and Steve reappearing like a bad penny after 2.5 years away from his last combined match.  5 of the 7 different pairs that would play for Ranmoor tonight had never played together before in combat.  Would this tell?

British Fail lived up to its name once again by making the Woolgar Express a late arrival, meaning our captain, "Mr Proper Warm Up" made a late arrival, flustered and dishevelled.  Deepak also ran in late, coughing and spluttering, and started the first game with a minimal warm up. Things were not looking good...

Stocksbridge were likely to have very strong men and weaker ladies due to the men playing for Jaguar in Div 1 and Div 2 and the ladies playing for Oxley ladies who finished bottom of their division last season.  This was how it proved with our ladies excelling and Cat winning both her ladies games with partners Lesley and Jane.  The men had a far harder task given opponent Nigel, the ginger machine, plays in Division 1 for Jaguar and he played in both mens games against Deepak and Steve, and Deepak and Dave H, who were playing some really good stuff but succumbed in straight ends, no match for the mixture of power, precision and almost total lack of errors.  Deepak and Steve were heard muttering that they were looking forward to a Mens Division 3 standard next week when the mens second team pick up their campaign...

The mixed games now approached with the score at 2-2, so whoever won 3 out of 5 would be the victor.  Lesley and Dave got us started with Jane and Steve following on the second court. The former pair played a very traditional mixed pair who had lady front and man back, with lot's of subtletly and strategy, poking the shuttle around the court.  The other pair played an almost unique style of level sides, with the lady happiest at the back with a great smash defence, and the man the reverse, with a great net kill and service return. This initially threw Jane and Steve who lost the first end but they recovered by changing strategy to drop shots, this and Lesley and Dave dropping an end too meant both games went into a tight third end.  Lesley and Dave emerged victorious whereas Jane and Steve were edged out in the third end. Still level at 3-3 and all to play for.

To these pair's surprise, Cat and Deepak had sneaked onto the far court to play their mixed game during a club night lull, and had this finished at the same time.  The pair excelled against Nigel and Charlotte (a previous Ranmoor visitor) and Deepak picked up his first ever win in combined.  An extra point that could prove to be crucial in the end.

The final games saw a switch in opponents for Lesley and Dave, and Steve and Jane.  One more point was needed, Lesley and Dave started first and had hoovered up their first game, with smashing at the man the correct strategy, having to ignore Karen's advice to drop it to the lady, as the drops were too often hitting the net.  As the second end proceeded, Jane and Steve took to the court and make light work of their opponents, Steve's unique mixed strategy of reaching over the 'T' to serve to the lady then dashing back, causing all kinds of chaos.  As their second game started Dave and Lesley finished off their game, and the match, with brilliant play, and an equally brilliant hug at the finish! Victory to Ranmoor! Steve and Jane, blaming distraction, adrenalin drop, and severe cramp for the RBC Player of the Year, were edged in the second end and eased aside in the third, for a 5-4 win to Ranmoor!  They limped off court to join a victory celebration with a robotic Mexican Wave by Richard and Karen followed by a six person "Dave imitation" in fun of his response to a bad shot - see photo.

The Player of the Night has to be Cat on her debut winning three out of three, though Lesley did the same despite jet lag.  Everyone else contributed, including Steve whose main role proved to be serving the biscuits. He then sloped off to the pub muttering about how he didn't concede a single point through service error, or through return of serve all night.  We think he is still there, grumbling to himself...