Eldon 2 2018-2019 Season Review

After barely surviving a relegation scare last season, Eldon 2nd team were looking for a season at the right end of the table this year. A mostly unchanged top 5 saw only Lee Robinson jump ship to Dunston but, much to the relief of captain Mark, he was replaced by our new no.1; Eldon original Will Benson, who stepped down from the 1st team after some new arrivals.

Our 1st fixture was at home to division 4 new boys Ashington 2 and, not for the 1st time in the season, we relied on help from the 3rd team to field a full squad. On this occasion it was Umer who came in at no.5, to replace James, and he got us off to a good start with a comfortable 3-0 win. We doubled our lead shortly after as Alan won 3-0 at 4, despite being on the waiting list for his 2nd hip operation! Andrew finished off the tie before the no.1 and 2 even got to step on court, another comfortable 3-0 in our favour. Ashington, though, weren't about to be whitewashed and won the remaining 2 matches, both 3-1. This was a solid start picking up 16 points of a possible 20.

Our busy October continued with 3 matches in quick succession, but happily, we were able to field our full team for all of these fixtures. We came out with 2 wins from 3; losing a close 3-2 against Concordia 2, but backing up with a 5-0 thumping of the league whipping boys Tynemouth Social and then a solid 3-2 victory against Consett 2. This left us sitting on a healthy 60 points after 4 matches.

Next up were Northern 5 away and once again we were without our full team, this time missing both James and Alan. However, 3rd team players Umer and Adam were more than happy to fill in. Adam won 3-0 at 5 but Northern pegged us back straight away with their no.4 beating Umer 3-1. Andrew continued his fine form to took a 3-0 win, putting us in the driving seat for the final 2 games. Mark was unable to capitalise after he went 1-0 up, with Wayne "Hurricane" Hollywood proving just too much. With the tie poised at 2-2, the pressure was on Will to take the win, but he was edged out in a tense 3-0, ending his 3 game winning streak and giving Northern the victory.

We took an unfortunate dip in form in the last 2 games before the winter break, losing 3-2 to high-quality Chester-le-Street 2. We then faced title favourites Northumberland 4, a battle which was made even tough as we were without the ever-reliable Andrew. We lost 4-1 but Will played a superb match to beat their no.1 3-1, and we managed to scrape 6 points in total as Adam picked up a point at 5 and Mark come out on the wrong side of a 3-2, the 6th time his match went to 5! This turned out to be the last game we would be able to field our top 5 players, as Alan took the decision to hang up his racket for the second half due to his hip preventing him from competing at his usual level.

Starting the 2nd half with only 4 available 2nd team players, Andrew moved to number 2 after an unbeaten first half, Mark went down to 3 and James shuffled up to 4. We had to heavily rely on a variety of 3rd team players for the remaining games, as we didn't want to get any of them tied. This, paired with our bad end to the 2nd half, made any promotion hopes seem almost impossible.

We did, however, get off to the best possible start away against Consett. With a rag-tag team including Umer at 4 and veteran Richard Adamson at 5, we squeezed over the line with 3-2 wins at 2 and 3 and another win for Umer seeing us come out 3-2 winners taking 17 points in total. We came out with the same result, and 15 points, a week later against Ashington, meaning we did the double against both teams.

Our best result of the 2nd half came against Concordia at home, a team who had beaten us in the reverse fixture. It was Richard Martin's turn to fill in it at 5 and despite a strong performance he lost out 3-1. Next up was James at 4, and with an assured performance he levelled the fixture at 1-1. This was quickly followed up with a win from Mark (surprisingly not a 3-2 this time either!) to give us a 2-1 advantage. Will's match at 1 went the distance, but he eventually lost by a single point,15-14 in the fifth. This left the fixture in the balance and all the pressure was on Andrew to win. Not a one to take the easy route, Andrew found himself 1-0 down, then 2-1 down only to perform a miraculous comeback and take the match 15-14 in the 5th, to give us the overall win and maintain his unbeaten record! The drama and excitement didn't end there, however, as the post-match meal in Strawberry coincided with Newcastle's match against Wolves, where Wolves equalised in the last minute causing a riot to erupt in the pub and we were lucky to escape in one piece!

On cloud 9 from our 3 match winning streak, we travelled to Tynemouth and turned over the socials again taking maximum points. Our unbeaten streak continued in somewhat unfortunate fashion, unfortunate for Northern that is. The match was level at 2-2 setting up a decider between the 1s, but a mix-up in the Northern team led to their no.1 being a no-show and we were subsequently awarded a 5-0 win by default. This was by no means the way we wanted to win, but we certainly weren't complaining as this extended our league win streak to 5 and the 20 points put us top of the division, although it was short lived as Northumberland and Chester-le-Street were only 5 points and 1 point behind respectively and both teams had 2 games in hand.

Snuck in between our league matches against Tynemouth and Northern was our 2nd round B cup match against Boldon 2 from division 5, both teams had a bye in the opening round. Adam kicked off the tie at no.5 and despite not playing to his usual level fought his way through a marathon match, in which he saved 3 match balls at 2-1 down to come out victorious, 15-12 in the 5th. James extended his winning streak to 3, taking a 3-0 win and Mark sealed our place in the QF after beating his experienced opponent, you guessed it, 3-2! Boldon salvaged some pride taking the match at no.1 3-2 (15-14 in the 5th) before Andrew compounded the victory winning 3-1 at 2. A quarter-final with Consett 2 beckoned.

Back to the league and our last 2 games were against the aforementioned title chasers, who by this point had leap-frogged us and gained almost insurmountable points totals. First up were Chester-le-Street in their own backyard. Adam, playing up for the 4th time this season, was up 1st at no.5. But in this, his 19th match after a long season playing for 2 teams, he couldn't quite muster up his previous form and lost a close 3-0. James and Mark also lost 3-0, meaning we had lost the fixture in the blink of an eye and this was quickly followed by a 3-0 defeat for Will. Andrew was our only saving grace, getting us 3 points and helping save our dignity, winning another 3-2 15-14 in the 5th. This was our most comprehensive loss and well and truly ended any slim chance of finishing in the top 2.

Northumberland at home was our final league match, a good result would see us finish 3rd, albeit way off the pace of Chester-le Street and 1st place Northumberland, who also wanted the win to guarantee top spot. We lost 4-1 but the result didn't do us justice, Umer went down 3-0 in a very tight affair, whereas James took revenge, winning 3-0, against the same opponent who beat him 3-0 in the 1st half. Andrew then lost the chance to go the whole season unbeaten, losing 3-1 and Mark, seemingly a glutton for punishment, once again lost 3-2, 15-14 in the 5th! Will was last up and could not repeat his heroics of the 1st half and lost 3-2 at no.1, giving us 8 points in our final game and deservedly handing the title to Northumberland. The only saving grace of our disappointing finish in the league was that we still had a chance in the cup.

There was no rest after our final league defeat, as just 8 days later we faced Consett 2 for the 3rd time this season, this time in the cup. It did not prove to be 3rd time lucky for Consett, as once again we proved too strong taking the fixture 4-1, with composed 3-0 wins for Adam at 5, Mark at 3 and Will at 1. Andrew had a bit more of a challenge but still came through 3-1, while James narrowly lost 3-2. We had made to the semi-final in the cup for the 1st time in recent memory!

We had to wait over a month for our semi-final, a welcome respite for our players after a long and difficult season. Our opponents were somewhat of a surprise, as Dunston 2 from division 5 who had overcome 2 strong division 4 teams in Concordia 2 and Northern 5 on route to the semi-final. The fixture, played at the neutral venue of Tynemouth, started off positively for us as Mark went 2-0 up and then had 2 match balls to take an early lead, but a combination of a minor injury in the 3rd for Mark and his opponent getting better as the game went on meant the match slipped away and Mark lost 3-2 (unbelievably his 11th 5 set match!) James also went to 5 and scraped the win, 15-14 to level up the tie. Adam was up next at no.5; another scrappy match, another 3-2 in favour of Dunston, this time 15-12 in the 5th. Will now had to bear the brunt of the pressure as a loss would see us knocked out of the cup. Despite a lot of nervous tension from the Eldon team on the balcony, Will summoned all of his experience and pulled out a sublime 3-0 win. This, not for the 1st time this season, put all the pressure on Andrew to produce and get us into the final. We were cautiously optimistic, given Andrew's record of 14 wins from 16 wins this season, and Andrew proved why in the 1st game taking it easily 15-6. His opponent fought back in the 2nd winning it 15-12 and all of a sudden we were a lot more nervous. Andrew regained control in the 3rd taking it 15-3 and despite some tense rallies at the business end of the 4th Andrew prevailed 15-11 and propelled us into the final!

Our B cup final saw us face-off against Primrose 3, the runaway division 5 champions and cup giant killers. Primrose had already defeated both division 4 promoted teams, Chester-le-Street 2 and Northumberland 4, and now we were in their sights. We got off to a bad start as James took a swift beating at no.4 quickly followed by a more competitive 3-1 defeat for Adam at 5. Mark was up next and all hope of a cup win rested on his shoulders, unfortunately, he still hadn't fully recovered from his injury in the semi-final as his opponent capitalised and put the tie to bed, winning 3-0. Although we were thoroughly disappointed to come up short in the final, we still managed to make a game of it with Will winning 3-1 and Andrew adding yet another win to his record to make the final result 3-2 in favour of Primrose.

Overall, Eldon 2nd's had a strong season given the circumstances of missing a player for the entire 2nd half. We finished 4th in the league with 184 points, just 3 points off 3rd, and a positive win ratio of 8 wins from 14 matches. Our sensational cup run all the way to the final was an added bonus and an amazing end to our season! Hopefully, we can push on next season with this tight-knit team and make an even more concerted effort to get promotion and maybe even win the cup!

Player of the Season

Andrew Webber - 15 wins from 16 (93.8% win rate) for the 2nds in the league and cup. Also named Northumbria Division 4 player of the season.

Honourable Mentions

Will Benson - won 5 of 7 games in the 1st half and won all 4 of his cup matches in his 1st season at no.1 for the 2nds

The following 3rd team players who helped out this season: Adam Coates (9 games), Umer Chughtai (5 games), Richard Martin (2 games) and Richard Adamson (1 game)

-Adam Coates