Coming off the back of an 8-0 hiding away at Leeds Met last week, Birmingham had no time to lick their wounds ahead of a crunch top of the table clash against second placed Loughborough.
In a much-improved performance from seven days previous, Birmingham battled every step of the way before going down six matches to two against a formidable Loughborough side. The first round of matches saw the top two singles players take to the court. Birmingham’s number one, Mark Happleman put up a stern challenge to his Loughborough counter part, Arthur Cheung. Having gone down 21-18 in the first game, Happleman quickly put the disappointment behind him and charged into a 6-2 lead early in the second. Anticipating all of Cheung’s plays, the home player dictated a lot of the early rallies, controlling the centre of the court and keeping his opponent guessing with a varied attacking strategy. In a dramatic turnaround, the visiting player visibly tightened his defence and was thus able to create more opportunities to implement his destructive attacking game to which Happleman had no answer. Cheung subsequently reeled off 19 of the next 25 points to claim the second game 21-12.
Birmingham’s woes quickly amplified as the home side’s second singles player James Taylor lost out 21-13, 21-13. When the hosts went down in the first doubles to trail 3-0, it was left to captain Andrew Wainwright and his partner James Lauder to try and resurrect Birmingham’s challenge. In an epic encounter, Birmingham’s leading doubles pair had to battle back from a one game deficit to win 21-19 in the third game. In a nerve-wracking deciding game, the lethal combination of Wainwright’s devastating smash and Lauder’s clinical net play, ensured the hosts found a higher gear to just pip their disappointed opponents. 3-1 and Birmingham had a foothold. Any pretensions of a heroic home recovery were quickly dashed, however, as the reverse singles matches both went against the hosts. Despite a gallant comeback to take the second game of his match, Taylor was unable to sustain his charge and subsequently went down 21-7 in the decider. Once Loughborough’s Harley Towler defeated Happleton, the away side had built an unassailable 5-1 lead.
Refusing to accept their fate, Birmingham’s doubles pairings fought to the bitter end. In the first of two enthralling encounters, the home pairing of Doug Furze and Avinash Chanderana produced a breathtaking burst of attacking badminton to overturn a 10-6 deciding game deficit to win it 21-16 and secure Birmingham’s second point. And despite a defiant final game showing, Wainwright and Lauder went down 21-14 in the third game, a result which consigned Birmingham to a 6-2 loss. After the game, coach Lorraine Cole was in positive spirits as she reflected on her sides spirited showing, ‘It was a great effort. The players gave it 110 per cent. If we keep that attitude, our results will definitely turnaround.’ Indeed, the resilience Birmingham showed will serve them well as they look to build on this encouraging performance, and can do so when they travel to Newcastle next week.
Written by Frankie Conway