Nelson are in the first division of the Lancashire and Cheshire Table Tennis League for the first time ever!
Requiring two points from their Friday evening home fixture against Blackpool, the local trioKabrna, Pickles and Polyak won emphatically by eight sets to two. They were never in arrears, rising manfully to the occasion before the biggest inter-town gate for over two years. They had in Kabrna an all-out accurate attacker; in Polyak, an immaculate defensive ability; and in Pickles the well above-average all-round player.
It was Pickles, it seemed, whose all-round approach to the game stamped him as the most complete tactician on either side. He was brilliant in defence, deadly in spasmodic attacks, and, frequently, uncanny in his positional sense. And favoured with such assets, he won all his three singles matches.
In spite of the seemingly top-class comfort of the local win, it would not be entirely accurate to run away with the idea that everything was plain sailing from start to finish. Nelson had to fight hard for every set they won : for every single point they gained they had to pull something extra out of the bag. Blackpool were represented by Norman Groom, Ron Bickerstaffe and Stan Levine. And Groom, who won three sets at Blackpool a fortnight ago, stamped himself as being second only to Pickles. on this occasion at least, as the versatile, adaptable sportsman.
A Blackpool pre-match mistake, it seemed, was the inclusion of Levine at number three instead of C. Lowe, who in spite of losing all his singles games in the first Blackpool fixture, gave all three Nelson players an uncomfortable time. Levine, on this showing at least, was definitely the weak link in the Blackpool chain. He showed neither defensive ability nor attacking potential and literally presented one game to each of the Nelson lads.
Highlight of the evening to many people was the PicklesGroom tussle. The stage was set for a real battle of wits. And true to the book, it turned out just like that. Pickles chopping heavily and varying his pace cleverly, had Groom in trouble several times. And the Blackpool skipper, whose main attacking weapon was the wristy, backhand flick, could not break down Pickles defensive barrier. Pickles took the first game 21/10. Then, for superlative close-to-the-table defence, came the game of the night. Pickles keeping Groom on the run, changing position frequently, never gave the seasider time to get his shots in, hitting down both wings with accuracy and speed. Roy made it 5-2 for Nelson by taking the next game 21/8.
One more game win was required . . . . and Nelson were in. And three more games in which to get that solitary point. Nelson, quite clearly, were favourites.
And, at 9-58, Polyak chopped one down Levines backhand, the Blackpool man mis-hit, conceded the point, the game and the set, and Nelsons T.T. history was made.
The first game of the evening was between Kabrna and Bickerstaffe. And Kabrna, although not hitting with his customary power, won in straight games 21/18, 21/19. But not before Bickerstaffe had shown a reliable defence and a very heavily chopped backhand return.
Groom faced Polyak in game number two, this time the seasider levelling the score by his two-straight 21/18, 21/18 wins. Polyak, who clearly illustrated his attacking limitations, was never really in the hunt.
Then, after Pickles had accounted for Levine, 21/12, 21/15 to make it 2-1 for Nelson, Polyak was again defeated, this time by Bickerstaffe. The seasider took the first game 21/8, but Bambi put in a terrific rally in which he levelled matters at 20 and then saved two game points. Bickerstaffe had all his work cut out before finally winning 24/22.
Kab then hit Levine off the table 21/10, 21/13, to put the local lads in front again.
Then came the doubles, an important game coming at this stage. But Pickles and Polyak were the masters and illustrated why they have never been beaten this season in league affairs. They held ascendancy over Groom and Bickerstaffe almost throughout, showing perfect understanding of each others play and positioning. And the score was made 4-2 by a 21/17, 21/14 home win.
Then came Pickles classic with Groom and Polyaks match with Levine . . . . and the score was 6-2.
Two games to play : merely a formality. Pickles and Kabrna, however, by their respective victories over Bickerstaffe and Groom, made it 8-2.
Scores at a glance: Z. Kabrna beat R. Bickerstaffe 21/19, 21/18; beat S. Levine 21/10, 21/13; beat N. Groom 12/21, 21/19, 21/17
R. Pickles beat Levine 21/12, 21/15; beat Groom 21/10, 21/8; beat Bickerstaffe 21/10, 17/21, 21/11.
K. Polyak beat Levine 21/16, 21/10; lost to Groom 18/21, 18/21; lost to Bickerstaffe 8/21, 22/24.
Pickles and Polyak beat Groom and Bickerstaffe 21/17, 21/14.