Comb 2 v Stocksbridge 2 (H) - 25/11/13

A tight match was in store at Ecclesfield on Monday night as the two top ranked second teams in the Sheffield Combined Plastics league came head to head.  Stocksbridge 2 were the visitors, and Ranmoor 2 were the hosts, supplying copious quantities of water, cordial, Kit Kats and absolutely no deep heat!

Stocksbridge 2 came with two out of the three guys from their mens first team in division 1, whereas Ranmoor line-up featured all three men from the second team in division 3, so it was likely to be tough, but we were optimistic of having the edge in the ladies rubbers despite one powerful lady in their side.

According to mens captain Steve, the guys are often slow out of the blocks in Mens 2 this year, only winning 1 of the 12 opening rubbers, but taking 50% of the 2nd and 3rd rubbers for each pair.  Things looked like continuing when Steve turned up having not eaten much all day with a bug, Ben with someone else’s racquet having misplaced his own, and Ravi having been slightly delayed at work. Regular Mens 2 pair Steve and Ben played like strangers in losing to 16 and 18, with more off the frame than the strings, then Ben and Ravi had a similar experience in the second mens game, losing to 12 and 11.  Luckily the ladies made up for it with two wins, though Jane and Cat decided to get value for money by letting Stocksbridge win an end before storming back in the 3rd.  2-2 after the level doubles.

Steve and Lesley, then Jane and Ravi continued their partnerships that had done so well in the last match.  Steve and Lesley took on the most unusual pair in Sheffield mixed doubles, though highly effective, with the man most comfortable at the front with an incredible net game Dave H would be proud of, and the lady happiest at the back, serving almost from the rear tram lines.  The first two ends were tight and shared, then a total change of strategy from Stocksbridge won the day with the man going completely to the front to serve and the lady behind, clearing everything to the back, easing them to a win in the final end with kudos to the Stocksbridge lady for getting back and forth from the net to the back about 100 times in the match!  Jane and Ravi took on their respective third pair, losing in straight ends against probably one of the top few male mixed players in the division.

We now needed to win all three final ends and it looked on when Jane and Ravi dispatched their opponents in straight ends, and Ben and Cat losing the first end in their mixed game before coming back and winning a tight decider 21-19 with great guts and clever shot placement.  Steve and Lesley then had to play a decider, against captain Nigel and his partner, in a real battle of the gingers. Watching squad captain Dave H had advised Steve to “go for the jugular” and he took it too literally with a hard return of serve straight into the ladies windpipe, causing a brief delay and profuse apologies.  The match had to be won by playing it to the lady due to the man’s skill and power, and it was 15-15 in both ends before Nigel covering 90% of the court proved a successful strategy (and even standing on the back trams to advise  the lady on Steve’s flick serves), winning the game and the match, but credit to his partner too for sticking at it after her injury and hitting some great winners.

So a tight 5-4 loss, with the strength of the two top division Stocksbridge men probably edging it on the night, with identical points to both teams on the night at about 350 each, but losing it on the score that mattered!  Ranmoor are about to enter December with still the Combined 1 team the only one of the five to register a win, 11 straight defeats for the other four teams proving how tough these upper divisions are!  Maybe some warm weather winter training will do the trick!