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Fightback against the odds almost succeeds

Monday 31st January 2022

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BATTS hosted North Ayrshire Table Tennis Club at the Norman Booth Recreation Centre on Saturday with every expectation of toppling the fourth-placed team and consolidating their bid to finish in the top four themselves.

Alas, it was not to be. North Ayrshire was at a seeming disadvantage – their long journey down to Essex threatened by Storm Malik whose powerful gusts all but prevented their take off from Glasgow airport. They had injury problems too. Martin Johnson was ruled out and a decision as to whether captain Chris Main could play was only taken after the warm-up at the venue. Sixteen-year-old Jamie Johnson was on standby as a travelling reserve and came within a midge’s whisker of making his Premiership debut.

The Scots laid down a marker from the start with Player of the Match, Colin Dalgleish doggedly seeing off Joshua Bennett in five ends on table 1. Meanwhile on table 2, Sean Doherty was doing much the same to Ethan Walsh, ending his comeback also in the fifth game.

Then umpires Lyndon Griffiths and Mary Nicholls got the Doubles underway with Shayan Siraj coming in to partner Josh Bennett, while Chris Main remained behind the barriers, so Sean Doherty and Colin Dalgleish formed the Scots pair. BATTS were soon two sets down but shook off the setback to win the next two, only to fall short in the fifth set.

So, BATTS faced a seemingly impossible task – three down at the end of the first period. Not impossible, but a daunting task. BATTS coach Cliff Carder quietly reminded the team of some basic arithmetic: win the next four and you’ve won the match! You can do it!

The magic started to work. Shayan Siraj shrugged off the disappointment of the Doubles and found a way through Chris Main’s stalwart defence, while Josh Bennett saw off Sean Doherty in three straight games.

2 – 3 and two games to play! Chris Main fought bravely against his injury and almost pulled off an epic victory, but Ethan Walsh was just too much for him and won the last two tight sets. It was truly a captain’s knock but already Colin Dalgleish had gathered himself and reversed Siraj’s two-game lead by winning the last three sets by increasing margins; and that was the match breaker!

Cliff Carder summed it all up for all of us at BATTS: “Despite the loss, a great effort from all three players, who came so close to turning a 0-3 deficit into a win, I’m proud of you all”

And so, at the end of Burns Week and an exceptionally long afternoon of close five-game matches, it was the Scots who had won the Battle of the Blues and returned home in triumph top of the table. BATTS meanwhile prepare to host bottom team Urban on March 19th. That promises to be yet another bruising encounter!

Andrew Webb