Two home matches against Burnley B for Todmorden’s mixed badminton team in two weeks, brought crushing victories, but lots of nerves on both counts.
First up as the NDBL season heads towards the business end was the Pollard cup semi-final, Todmorden having despatched their main rivals Towneley in the quarters.
They were expected comfortably to beat Burnley B, who are currently rooted to the bottom of the league table.
As the cup is handicapped, and the handicap is only made known at the end of the evening from a sealed envelope after the points from all 12 sets are aggregated, every point assumes significance.
While Kathy Wilde and Richard Hollows were getting off to a flier against Hindle and Whittaker, triumphing 21-9, 21-5, Sandra Simpson and Phil Howitt were much less comfortable in their 21-18, 21-17 victory over Gillam and Bailey.
In the reverse pairings, Wilde and Hollows caught the jitters, winning their first set only 21-20.
While Todmorden always looked likely all night to win each set they played, the margins of victory always felt a little less than they ought to have been.
Only in the final pairings, when each player swaps partners, did the play become more assured, with Wilde and Howitt winning out 21-12, 21-14, and Simpson and Hollows 21-13, 21-12.
The final scores were Todmorden 252, Burnley B 163. The dreaded envelope revealed a handicap in favour of Burnley of 48 points leaving Tod in the end to go through easily by a full 41 points.
They will face Burnley A in the final in May, hoping to retain the cup they won for the first time last year.
A week later, Burnley B were back to play a league match.
The nerves this time were for a different reason.
Tod needed practically maximum points in this match to remain on a par with title challengers Towneley, who have won their last two matches 18-0.
There was a change to both teams as Steve Larkin returned as captain for the home team in place of Richard Hollows, while Burnley were boosted by Karen Rogan’s appearance in place of Gillam.
On a night when some sets were won and lost by huge margins, Tod got off to a particularly ropey start when Wilde and Larkin lost their opening tie 11-21, 21-17, 19-21 to Rogan and Bailey.
Simpson and Howitt also inexplicably lost a set while beating Hindle and Whittaker 21-6, 19-21, 21-14 to leave the match all square at 4-4.
Tod then got rather more into their stride, with straight set victories in the reverse pairings, leaving the ladies’ pairing to romp to a 21-7, 21-4 victory.
Larkin and Howitt ground out a more sweaty 24-22, 21-16 win in the men’s, only gaining daylight in the second set when Larkin produced some brilliant short play.
The overall 16-4 victory leaves Todmorden just about favourites in the title race with a single game to play.