Mens 2 v Drone (H) - 18/03/13

Our 4th game in quick succession saw a side ravaged by absentees take on the Drone, who had won just over half their games and were likely to have a mid-table finish. Our visitors were friendly and with the usual captain in Japan we had timed the fixture well.

Unfortunately for Ranmoor, Alistair, Clive, Arun and Jethron were all unavailable. That left us to the bare bones with many of the big hitters missing, so it was a case of adjusting the pairs in a way that would get the 5 points needed. Ben and Nathan were separated to play with Ian and Rob respectively. The latter was also separated from Rich, who was paired with Captain Steve in a return to the partnership that worked so well in the first half of last season.

With the enemy likely to play their pairs in the traditional order of strength, the plan was to match fire with fire and sneak 2 of the first 3 rubbers, taking them by surprise before they could suss us out. Sadly, the reverse proved to be true and all three of our pairs made a slow start that ultimately proved to be decisive.
Several heads are better than one for Mens 2
Steve and Rich were into bat as the top pair, and got off to a slow start against the Drone regular top pairing, making loads of errors in the first 10 points. They nearly matched their opponents from there but were outclassed and lost to 11 and 16, their first ever home defeat in straight ends together. Ben and Ian were close against the 2nd pair, who normally play one in each of the last 2 pairs, but lost to 16 and 18. Nathan and Rob battled hard against the stand in 3rd pair, but lost to 19 and 13. The plan looked like backfiring. As Ben and Ian went down to 10 and 21 against the strong first pair things were bleak with Ranmoor 4-0 down.
Then things began to change. Steve and Rich took on the third pair and dispatched them comfortably to 17 and 17, with Rich's smashes finding their range. He must have had 40 in 2 games. Nathan and Rob took on the second pair, this was a pair who does not usually play together but given the chance had the most incredible drops we have seen in this division. Our boys style of charging around a lot, staying sides, getting a lot back and covering the net worked wonders. they beat the pair to 14 and 18 and must have been rueing their first game against the weaker pair. 4-2 to Drone.
Nathan and Rob then went back on against the top pair whilst Steve and Rich took on the clever 2nd pair. This pair had the initiative in the first game with some fantastic drops killing the point every time we played it short or middle. They won the end to 14 and our 2 young team mates were also dispatched to 16. The end was nigh.
At this point Steve decided a change in strategy was needed and started to play serves to all 4 corners of the service box in a last desperate attempt to save the match. This strategy finally exposed the opposition and there were long runs of points on serve and we won the end to 10. At this point though, the bad news came through by carrier pidgeon from the other court that Nathan and Rob had lost the 2nd end to 13 and Drone had won the match. As the adrenaline dropped, Steve and Rich got off to a slow start in the third end and the opposition ended up 11-3 ahead, then 20-10 ahead. Steve then recovered the service shuttle and some amazing back court play from Rich saw us assert ourselves again and win 8 successive points but sadly an error then appeared and we lost to 18 in this 3rd end.
As the rest of us joined in club night to be polite to the club night attendees (Sam, Andy and 4 of the girls) Ben and Ian lost to 10 in the final game against the third pair but then came back to win the last 2 ends to 15 and 13 to get their first point of the night.
So a close 6-3 defeat it could have been a 5-4 win on another day. Yet another game when all 3 Ranmoor pairs get the same points. Well done to our friendly and polite opponents. Man of the Match always goes to the statistically strongest pair because the captain is an accountant, on this day it was Steve and Rich with nearly as many points won as lost, and a narrow defeat in a third end that prevented a winning record. Rich gets his second MOM of the week. We will miss him when he moves to Leeds. Talk about a team in flux! It is looking like third bottom is now certain, and four games to go, next up Phoenix next month!