The final Saturday of the Senior County Championships saw the second team host league leaders Lancashire 4 and Durham 2 at the Tyneside Badminton Centre. With a number of players unavailable, and with Aphrodite Christodoulou playing for the first team, they were indebted to Emily Ogden and Newcastle University students Alex Berry and Lexie Howard for filling in. Being 8 points behind leaders Lancashire 4, hopes of winning Division 4 North were not high but a second-place finish would be sufficient for promotion and they were only 2 points behind second placed Cumbria.
Rex Lee soon had North on the scoreboard winning in two sets at top string and Dome Nganpairoj backed that up, just doing enough to win 22-20, 21-19. Jamie Tinnion soon made it 3-0 and that set the tone for the remainder of the match. Lancashire 4 were weakened by their higher teams having to call on some of their players, so much so that they were a lady down which gifted two points to North.
Rex and Yap Yi Xuan just edged their opening set and then took the second comfortably before Ian McGough and Kyle Smith also won in two sets. A straight set win from Rachel Frobisher and Lauren Young clinched the match and overhauling Lancashire was becoming a real possibility.
8-1 up going into the mixed and both needed to bridge the gap! Both pairs duly obliged with Kyle and Rachel, and Ian and Lauren, comfortable winners in two sets. Cumbria 2 meanwhile had also won against Durham 2, but only 8-3 and therefore it was neck and neck for the title with both on 30 points.
The afternoon started well with all 3 men victorious in the singles and, although Holly Robson got Durham on the scoreboard, Emily Ogden’s court coverage proved superior at second string and she triumphed 21-12, 21-19 to make the match lead 4-1. Cumbria meanwhile were 3-2 up against Lancashire after the singles so they were also ahead in the tile race, if only by one!
Ian and Kyle took their men’s in two and, after being pegged back to a set all, Rex and Yap re-established control to take their decider 21-12 to take the lead to 6-1. Cumbria having shared their men’s doubles, were ahead 4-3, the lead in the title race now two!
Alex and Lexie took their ladies in some comfort and meanwhile the top string ladies was proving to be the game of the day. Rachel and Loz took the opening set against Holly and Jessica Moore only to lose the second. The decider was close all the way with neither pair gaining control but, after many changes of lead, it was Durham who led crucially at the end to take it 21-19. The lead now 7-2 but Cumbria had meanwhile shared their ladies’ doubles to lead 5-4 so just one mixed was needed to guarantee the title.
Ian and Loz started well at second mixed taking their opening set 21-13 but Kyle and Rachel were just edged out 22-20. Back they came to take their second set easily to 10 to set up a decider. Ian and Loz had meanwhile put the issue beyond doubt, taking their second set, again by 21-13, which just left the cake to be iced which Kyle and Rachel duly did taking their deciding set 21-18 for a final score of 9-2. Cumbria had meanwhile taken both their mixed to win 7-4 but all to no avail leaving the second team champions of Division 4 North on 39 points and Cumbria 2 second on 37.
So what had seemed unlikely at the start of the day due to the 8 point deficit ended in promotion to Division 3 North. It will be a step up, the last time we made it we came straight back down, so the challenge is clear for next season.