Thrilling fightback earns Cromer win

TENNIS: Cromer Ladies A produced a thrilling comeback to edge out last season's league winners Acle A 33-31 in front of a small but vociferous home crowd.

Shorn of regular first teamers Heather Bottomley and Mary Ogden, captain Cheryl Buck called up Val Woodhouse and Lisa Lowe and they did not disappoint, quickly seizing the initiative against Acle's second pair, with strong serving and rasping ground shots a feature.

They maintained a comfortable lead throughout, and pocketed a 10-6 win.

However, on the other court Buck and regular partner Annie Cowper Johnson were up against it, playing a strong Acle number one pair.

With Buck feeling nauseous, and Cowper Johnson requiring treatment and a late fitness test on her back before the match started, this did not augur well.

Not surprisingly their play was very fitful, and the spectators, if not the opposition, were quick to see all was not well.

Whilst the Cromer pair made a number of errors, Acle played well, and were deserved 12-4 winners.

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At half-time Cromer were 18-14 down, and the outlook gloomy. However, after what must have been an inspirational team talk during the break, Cromer were not to be denied.

Knowing that every game would be vital Lowe and Woodhouse fought bravely against their opponents.

Nearly every game went to deuce, and they were unfortunate to only get five games in a 11-5 defeat.

The pressure was then on Buck and Cowper Johnson to come up with a big win, which didn't appear likely given their ailments. Although they lost the first game, suddenly the partnership clicked, with both players responding to the responsibility on their shoulders to produce a display of controlled yet attacking tennis that their opponents couldn't match.

Cromer were 12-2 up with two games remaining, but then wobbled finding themselves 40-0 down on the Acle serve.

They somehow retrieved this situation to win the game, and then Cowper Johnson served out comprehensively to give Cromer a 14-2 win.

Buck and Cowper Johnson were not sure they had done enough, but Woodhouse had already worked out that they had seized an unlikely match victory from the jaws of defeat by the narrowest of margins.

Meanwhile, Cromer Men's B suffered a comprehensive home defeat 20-44 to a strong Cringleford side comprising four county junior players, who on this form look likely to top the division.

Missing the services of Alex Youngman, the management team of Buck and Holdom adopted the principle of picking players on form, and called up Matt Jordan, who had been starring for the C team. They decided to pair Jordan with Buck, having seen the partnership work well in training, leaving experienced Alan Hudson to partner youngster Ross Murray.

Both Cromer pairs found it difficult to cope with the pace and consistent depth of shots from the opposition.

However, after a slow start Buck and Jordan gradually got back into their match with Jordan's strong serving providing a number of opportunities for Buck to put the ball away.

At one point they found themselves 7-5 up, but were eventually happy to secure an 8-8 draw, with Jordan withstanding a bombardment to hold his last service game.

On the other court, Hudson and Murray were involved in a high-quality game against their opponents, but ultimately were coming off second best on the key points. They went down 12-4, which did not reflect the effort put in.

With Cromer finding themselves 20-12 down at the break, the writing looked to be on the wall, and whilst the team started the second series of matches ready for the challenge they could not alter the script. Buck and Jordan quickly found themselves 7-0 behind, and it was with some relief when they registered their first game.

This did not, however, signal a comeback, and they were comfortably disposed of 13-3. Hudson and Murray were faring a little better on the other court, but at no stage could get on level terms, and finished on the wrong side of a 11-5 score line.

There was plenty to reflect on in the clubhouse after this defeat, but there was no doubt the better team had won on the night.