GEES GEE’D UP FOR PLATE FINAL!
New Milton Table Tennis Club were assured of one of their teams making it through to the final of the annual Times and Directory Handicap Plate as their B and G teams had been drawn in the semi-final. It was nip and tuck at the Grange until the sixth match but then the Gees won the last two matches to go through to the final. They had already despatched the D team in their quarter-final.
It was always going to be a tough test for the Premier’s relegated B team (John Millward, Brian Bickell & Shaun Newcomb) as they were giving away some hefty handicaps to their club mates in the G team (Graham Underwood, Mike Toole & Bev Scott-Johns) who came runners-up in Div 3 in the league.
In the first match however the B’s captain Millward received a +2 start from Toole and beat him in two straight sets with a powerful attack down both wings. Wheelchair player Newcomb then had to give a +12 start to Club Secretary Scott-Johns who played very steadily to win over three sets to level things off at 1-1.
Next up was England Veteran Bickell who also had to give a +12 start to Gees captain Underwood. Underwood just nicked the first 21-20 and Bickell was coming back at him in the second but fault-served at 16-20 to lose 16-21 and hand the advantage to the Gees.
Newcomb only had to give Toole a less daunting +3 start, and although losing the first set 17-21 he went on to win the next two sets to level things off at 2-2. Millward had to give Underwood a +9 start which was clearly a bridge too far for him, and a rampant Underwood won both sets by 21-10 to restore the lead for the Gees.
Bickell came to the rescue in the sixth match as despite giving Scott-Johns an eye-watering +13 start he won both sets by 21-19 to level things off at 3-3. Newcomb had to give Underwood a +11 start which made a mockery of Underwood’s first set win of 21-5. Newcomb got more to grips in the second set, but Underwood was now really up for his hat-trick and won it 21-14 to make it 4-3 for his G team.
Bickell had to beat old adversary Toole in the eighth match to keep the Bees in the match. It was the first time that they had played one another in over 25 years and there were some thrilling and thoughtful exchanges which delighted the onlookers. Toole never surrendered his +4 advantage however and beat Bickell 21-17, 21-13 to take the Gees into the final.
The victorious G team are picture below, left to right Bev Scott-Johns, Graham Underwood (captain), Mike Toole.
It will be the second Plate final for Underwood as he won it with a differently populated G team captained by Les Smith last season. The other finalist is Div 1’s Bournemouth Sports D whose squad comprises former Milton player Alan Gordon, captain Andy Hartnell, Loui-La, the very awkward Lee Devaney, Kwai Keung Chan & John Tennant. The final is due to take place at the neutral venue of the Merton Club, Southbourne on Thursday 20th April at 7.30.