Barrow Crowned 2010 British League Play-Off Champions
This past weekend (8th and 9th May 2010) Barrow played in the British League play-offs at Cippenham Table Tennis Centre, Berkshire. The award for the top two teams in the round-robin event would be a place in the coveted British League Premier Division where the top 8 British table tennis teams compete.
Like every other sports team going into a major event, Barrow had analysed the opposition and identified the dangers. On paper, it looked like three teams would be vying for the two places available: Fusion, Pavilion Brighton and Barrow (in that order).
On the Saturday, Barrow played three teams: TTK Greenhouse (London), Elgre Nottingham and Fusion (London).
On the Sunday, Barrow would play two teams: Pavilion Brighton and OLOP Impact (Reading).
Barrow I vs TTK Greenhouse I
Despite not making it onto Barrow’s pre-drawn list of threats, with England number 12 playing for them, TTK Greenhouse weren’t going to be a pushover. Indeed, Barrow knew they had a fight on their hands as they went 3-2 down.
As expected, two of TTK Greenhouse’s wins came from Herbert, the former England Number 2 who was once considered to be blessed with the ‘best serves in the world’. He beat, or should that be ‘served off’, Barrow players Jakov Krivić and Bradley Evans. TTK Greenhouse’s other win came in the form of a five-set thriller with Jide Owalabi edging out Barrow player Scott Crawford. For Barrow, the wins came from Krivić over Chris Lewis and Jonathan Crawford over Fatium Sadiku.
The next three games were straight-forward three-set affairs all going Barrow’s way. Jonathan Crawford comfortably beat Lewis to level the score. He was backed up by Evans who beat Owalabi and younger brother Scott Crawford who beat Sadiku.
Given the strength of TTK Greenhouse’s number 1 Gareth Herbert, in Barrow’s eyes this was a satisfactory result and a solid start. Each Barrow team member, without exception, played well and showed good form.
Final Score: Barrow I 5 – 3 TTK Greenhouse I
Barrow I: Jakov Krivić (1), Bradley Evans (1), Jonathan Crawford (2), Scott Crawford (1)
TTK Greenhouse I: Gareth Herbert (2), Chris Lewis (0), Jide Owalabi (1), Fatium Sadiku (0)
Barrow I vs Elgre Nottingham I
Elgre Nottingham are well known to Barrow as they are the other team from Division 1 North to make the play-offs. Indeed, they finished above Barrow. However, with world ranked Croatian Krivić on display for Barrow, Elgre Nottingham were more of a ‘banana skin’ than a real threat.
Thankfully, this ‘banana skin’ didn’t find its way under Barrow’s feet as they won comfortably 7-1. Jonathan Crawford maintained his 100% record beating Sophie Neil and David Arrowsmith. Krivić beat Arrowsmith and Chris Rogers while Scott Crawford beat Sophie Neil and Emma Vickers – a player who had been a thorn in Barrow’s side in the two teams’ last encounter. Evans on the other hand had mixed fortunes as he suffered a five-set defeat to Rogers, but beat Vickers.
Barrow’s 7-1 victory over Elgre Nottingham was deserved and pushed them to joined first place with Fusion, the team they were to face next.
Final Score: Barrow I 7 – 1 Elgre Nottingham I
Barrow I: Jakov Krivić (2), Bradley Evans (1), Jonathan Crawford (2), Scott Crawford (2)
Elgre Nottingham I: Chris Rogers (1), David Arrowsmith (0), Emma Vickers (1), Sophie Neil (0)
Barrow I vs Fusion I
This was a big match for Barrow; any points picked up would be a big bonus and put the team on track for a dream British League Premier Division place.
The danger presented by Fusion doesn’t lie with any one individual, but the strength and depth of the team. That said, the team does boast former Olympian and Nigerian International Sule Olaleye as its number 1.
For the next few games Barrow were always playing catch-up. Firstly Krivić comfortably beat Tom Cutler before Mark Smith beat Scott Crawford in an intense match to give Fusion the lead once more. Jonathan Crawford then beat John Dennison to draw the match 2-2 at the halfway point.
In a truly world class match that caught the attention and imagination of everyone in the room, Krivić faced Olaleye. After some incredible off-the-table attacking rallies interspersed with delicate touch play, it looked like Krivić was going to take the match as he led 9-7 in the deciding fifth set. However, Olaleye managed to tighten his game over the last crucial points and used his immense experience to edge out Krivić and sneak a win.
Fusion’s ever dependable Smith then went on to beat Evans to give Fusion a 4-2 lead with 2 games remaining.
It was now up to the two Crawford brother’s backed up by former England Team Coach Denis Neale and travelling supporters to pull something out of the bag and gain Barrow a valuable point. On the Barrow supporters side things were tense, but on the Fusion side there was an air of contemplation.
The first set went Scott Crawford’s way as he won game 7. This was then matched by Dennison to bring the match to 1 set apiece.
The next set was to be decisive. It was a marathon containing long attacking rallies as both players chased the ball and gave nothing away. At crucial points both players used their time-outs before the set was eventually settled 23-21 in the favour of Barrow player Scott Crawford.
Dennison found it hard to recover from the disappointment of losing the set and Scott Crawford went on to win the match taking the fourth set game 7, thus earning Barrow a valuable draw.
Going into the match, Barrow would have been delighted with a draw. However, as is so often the case, after achieving what would have been a dream result you can’t help look back and think what could have been had Krivić managed to finish off Olaleye.
At the end of day 1, Barrow had won 2 and drawn 1 against Fusion, the team they shared the top spot with in the play-off table. On top of that, Jonathan Crawford had managed to maintain a 100% record.
Final Score: Barrow I 4 – 4 Fusion I
Barrow I: Jakov Krivić (1), Bradley Evans (0), Jonathan Crawford (2), Scott Crawford (1)
Fusion I: Sule Olaleye (2), Tom Cutler (0), Mark Smith (2), John Dennison (0)
Barrow I vs Pavilion Brighton I
Beating Pavilion Brighton would guarantee Barrow promotion to the British League Premier Division with one game to spare. Barrow approached the game with respect for Pavilion Brighton and knew it would take a good performance by everyone to dispose of them.
The match started out like a dream for Barrow as they stormed ahead to a 3-0 lead. Krivić easily beat Ashley Stokes, Evans easily beat Hans Pillards finishing off with what has to be the shot of the weekend and Jonathan Crawford scraped through against Eli Baraty. Scott Crawford then lost a hugely entertaining match against fellow junior Da Shuai Zhang to leave the match 3-1 to Barrow at the halfway mark.
Going into the second half of the match Barrow were brimming with confidence, whilst with the exception of Zhang, Pavilion Brighton looked to have lost confidence and fight.
Krivić took the next game comfortably beating Pillards to guarantee Barrow at least a draw. However, to guarantee promotion, Barrow needed one more win.
Barrow didn’t have to wait long as Jonathan Crawford continued his unbeaten run beating Stokes. Evans then lost to inform Zhang before Scott Crawford beat Baraty to earn Barrow a 6-2 victory and a place in the British League Premier Division.
After 4 games, Barrow alongside Fusion had gained promotion to the British League Premier Division. However, with both teams tied on seven points and twenty two games won, there was still the honour of been champions to fight for.
Final Score: Barrow I 6 – 2 Pavilion Brighton I
Barrow I: Jakov Krivić (2), Bradley Evans (1), Jonathan Crawford (2), Scott Crawford (1)
Fusion I: Hans Pillards (0), Ashley Stokes (0), Da Shuai Zhang (2), Eli Baraty (0)
Barrow I vs OLOP Impact I
Barrow, buoyed by the morning’s performance wanted to finish the weekend on a high and win the competition out right. As Barrow were on equal points and game difference with Fusion, this meant trying to beat OLOP Impact (who sat at the foot of the table) by as big a margin as possible. At the same time, Barrow had to rely on Gareth Herbert’s TTK Greenhouse to inflict some damage on Fusion.
Maintaining the morning’s momentum, Barrow were fast out of the blocks. They steam rolled a startled OLOP Impact taking the match score to 4-0 at the halfway mark. Evans beat David Barr, Krivić beat Chris Bush, Scott Crawford beat Hari Gehlot and Jonathan Crawford beat Liam McTiernan.
Meanwhile, on the other table, Fusion had dropped a game against TTK Greenhouse, but still held a convincing 3-1 lead.
It would be nice to be able to write that there was a dramatic conclusion as to who the winners of the British League Play-Offs would be, but Barrow were simply coasting. The next four games went the same as the first four and with the exception of Brad’s very tired victory over Gehlot, each victory was easily obtained. Krivić comfortably beat Barr, Jonathan Crawford finished the weekend with a 100% record easily beating Bush and Scott Crawford proved that he could hold his own at this level by beating McTiernan.
With the final score 8–0 to Barrow and Fusion only beating TTK Greenhouse 6–2, Barrow had not only gained promotion to the British Premier League, but had done so in style by been crowned the 2010 British League Play-Off Champions. This is truly a great result and arguably the best result of any Cumbrian table tennis team ever!
Final Score: Barrow I 8 – 0 OLOP Impact I
Barrow I: Jakov Krivić (2), Bradley Evans (2), Jonathan Crawford (2), Scott Crawford (2)
Fusion I: David Barr (0), Chris Bush (0), Hari Gehlot (0), Liam McTiernan (0)