They Came From Another Galaxy...

a writing by Paul Butters

They came from another galaxy. Descending upon Grimsby Table Tennis League Premier Division like a mighty alien invasion. 4-Matic Engineering! Their young scouts smote all before them, including twice-in-a-row champions “The Untouchables”. Then, to ensure their utter Domination they brought down two of the best from the National League Whirlpool Galaxy. Their first of two complete Championships was secured.

Their young bloods were Thomas Armitage, Isaac Gibney, and Luke Nimmo. Luke was indeed from another galaxy: Immingham! They had scores of youth trophies between them. Sadly Thomas went away studying. Isaac got long-term injured falling off a skateboard.

But not to worry: in came the mighty Thor with his Hammer – John Hancock, alongside King of the TT Gods Odin – Sean Ward. (John now has 10 Grimsby Men’s Singles Titles and Sean 6). Sean is still in his twenties I think. They have had great success in The National League etc.

The vanquished Champions – The Untouchables – for the record, included the likes of Rob Sampson, Ian Pooler, Russell Hayes and Ray Simpson. Jack Blyth was with them before he went off to Lincoln Uni. Gary Usher (1 time Men’s Singles Winner) before that.

But now 4Matic had become the Manchester City AFC of Grimsby TT (with all due respect to Liverpool since). World Domination.

I will now go off on a tangent. For while this was all happening my own team Nemesis were winning Division Two by 9 points an improvement of 18 points from the previous season. I of course wrote an entry on here about it (scroll down the blog for that). Even had two readers: Phil Yang and Neil Drewery!!!

Only a few months back Phil remarked that I had stopped writing these entries “since your successes have dried up” (I paraphrase). Well actually, they didn’t dry up. In season 2018-19 we did not disgrace ourselves in Division One, against the likes of Chloe Lingard, Mike Lamberton, Paul Heald, Aaron Dorey (for a while) and other Premiership-Class players.

Through sickness etc. we had to play without key players, especially towards the end of the season. Only at the very end did “Wolds Wanderers” overtake us, by just two points. So we ended with the wooden spoon, but only just. I played most players twice for an Average of 45% but missed a third of the season through a strange Migraine-like illness so didn’t make The Handbook as a “Top Tenner”. Phil got 54%+ to finish 8th in the D2 “Averages”.

And we had a great Cup run. Our first big win was over D1 high flyers Lighthouse FA (as they were then called (they change their name weekly lol): Colin Grey, Simon Burniston and our constant Lady Champ Chloe Lingard. My Big Brag from that match was beating Chloe 21-20 in our first game. But I also took 2 games from Simon and a 21-9 from Colin. Phil took games from Simon and Colin and Brian Lomas one from Simon.

Then we beat Carrera Engineering from The Prem (Mark Gibney, Tom Parrott and Dave Hanks) in the Quarter Finals. That was on the 18th February. Dave was carrying an injury to be fair. Our Phil Sharpe won 5\6 games!!! Actually I was using my Anti-Loop-Both-Sides bat at this time and they didn’t like it much.

So who did we draw in The Semi? Why, 4Matic of course! With a start of 215 so needing 9 per game. Many said the handicap wasn’t enough. The lads were far from confident. I relish taking on the best, but the others do not.

In their quarter finals 4Matic had kept a decent Immingham Club side down to 101 points. That was Dave Hall and the Bellamy brothers I believe. They troubled young Luke with chop for a while until “Mr. X” Master Coach John Bray took the young man to one side… Sean Ward had played all three of his matches at the beginning and then gone to work: blitzing the opposition before he went!

He did the same in The Semi against us. That was on Tuesday 26th March (a long time after our quarter final). First he beat a bewildered Brian 21-1, 21-1 (!). Then he defeated our No 1 Phil 21-2, 21-1. Shocking! No way could Phil play his usually solid chop\lob game against Sean. Phil blocked well and even tried hitting (!) but to no avail.

I was not brimming with confidence as I faced Sean. But I picked up a few early points somehow. The lads remarked I had already just about matched their totals. But Sean was unrelenting. I ceased up in the second game to go down 5-21, 2-21. They say Sean beats good, seasoned Premiership players this way too. Indeed I have seen him do it since.

But could we make a miraculous comeback??? Well…….No! I lost 5-21, 5-21 to John Hancock and 7-21, 7-21 to Luke. This was Luke who had recently lost in the league to Chloe! Brian got a 10 against Luke and even a 12 against John. And Phil took an 11 against Luke. But we were beaten by 73. Kept down to 5, with a total of 90. (Less than Immingham! Evenly distributed amongst us).

I did think about using my Anti-Loop bat against 4Matic. But in the end I opted for mid-speed Sriver, as I had against Chloe in The Cup. Earlier the Anti-Loop had proved useless against Chloe and others in the Division One Individual Tournament (which Chloe won, beating Mike Lamberton in the final). Indeed Chloe and Mike were both in my group on that occasion. Most would say that not using the Anti-Loop in the Semi was the right decision. Whatever, it’s now history.

I went to watch The Cup Final. 4Matic met new Division One Champions Louth B (old sea dog Sam Saywell, with relative youngsters Sam Dean and “Raddy” Radoslaw Bierko – rumoured to be Polish!). They played on Monday 13th May. I cannot imagine a higher quality final. Raddy and Sam Dean play a modern 3 ball attack game, just like 4Matic. Sam Saywell, on the other hand, usually defends doggedly like our Phil. Never score games between Sam Saywell and such as Phil, Colin Woodford or Pete Calvert! They are marathons. But Sam could only block and retrieve against 4Matic.

In the end, Louth B (handicap 200) beat 4Matic 378 - 372 (!). This time Sean did NOT play his 3 at the beginning, which might have cost them. The scores:

Sean V Sam Saywell 21-4, 21-7;
Luke V Raddy 21-8, 16-21 (!) *
John V Sam Dean 21-9, 21-5
Luke V Sam S 21-9, 21-13
Sean V Raddy 21-8, 21-8
Luke V Sam D 21-17, 20-21*
John V Sam S 21-8, 21-3
John V Raddy 21-7, 21-12
Sean V Sam D 21-7, 21-11.

Louth actually got 178 points, nearly twice as many as us in the semi. Sorry Luke, but the first * marks the turning point for me. And Raddy was the hero in my book. He had never played these players before, he remarked. Fast learner! But the whole Louth team did incredibly well. And yet again a top Premiership was thwarted in the final.

Since that final we have played all but two weeks of Season 2019-20. Sadly the Coronavirus Pandemic brought us to an abrupt halt. More about “this” season later: while it lasted it was a belter. Watch out for the next instalment.

Paul Butters

© PB 31\3\2020.

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