Isle of Man 1 travelled to Darlington to play its final matches in Badminton England’s Senior County Division Two North Championship.

After gaining promotion to the division for the first time last season, hopes were high the team could consolidate its position in this league.

The team comprised of Leah Brennan, Kim Clague, Mia Kirk, Jessica Li, Philippa Li, Alex Buck, Tobey Cheng, Neil Harding, Ben Li, Matt Nicholson and Steven Quayle.

Their first opponents were Durham 1.

Men’s singles produced a comfortable win for Cheng 21/14 21/13 and two narrow defeats for B. Li and Buck in three games.

J. Li and Brennan got the team back to winning ways, each in straight sets.

The men’s doubles pairings of Cheng/Nicholson and Harding/Quayle were both made to work hard before winning 21/10 and 21/13 respectively in the third games.

Both women’s doubles pairings of J. Li/Clague and P. Li/Kirk gave dominant performances to win 21/7 21/8 and 21/10 21/11 respectively.

In the mixed B. Li/Clague narrowly lost the first game 21/23 before upping a gear to win the next two games 21/18 21/16. It was similar story for Nicholson/Kirk losing the first game 16/21 before taking the next two 21/16 21/17 to confirm the island a fantastic 9-2 win.

They next played Yorkshire 4, which on paper looked like a tough match but with IoM inspired by their morning success they had other ideas.

B. Li won his singles 21/17 21/13 to give them a great start, while Cheng was unlucky to lose 23/25 in the third game to his university team-mate. Buck also lost out narrowly in three games.

J. Li again showed her class winning her singles 21/9 21/15, with Brennan losing out to an England junior.

Cheng/Nicholson faced opposition who had won gold and silver medals at a recent Badminton England competition, this didn’t overwhelm them and they played a very focused and consistent match to take it 21/17 21/19.

Harding/Quayle, after losing the first game 14/21, played some great attacking badminton to take the next two 21/17 21/17.

The ever-reliable and consistent J. Li/Clague had a good 21/5 21/19 win. P. Li/Kirk’s match could have gone either way but they narrowly lost out.

This left the IoM 5-4 up with two mixed to play. Cheng/Clague and Buck/Kirk showed grit and determination to both take the wins in three close games 17-21 21-17 21-19 and 21-17 17-21 25-23 respectively to give the island a brilliant 7-4 victory.

The final match of the county campaign took place on Sunday against Lothian 2 and what a match it was.

B. Li took the first game 21/19 before losing the second to the same score, then wearing his opponent down to take the final one 21/6.

Buck and Quayle were totally dominant in their singles, winning in straight sets, as was J. Li.

Brennan won her first game 21/15 before being edged 20/22 in the second. She then kept the pressure on her opponent to take the third game 21/17.

The remaining matches were all won by IoM in two straight games, with men’s doubles wins for Cheng/Nicholson and Harding/Quayle, women’s doubles wins for J. Li/Clague and P. Li/Kirk and mixed doubles wins for Nicholson/Clague and Harding/P. Li to give the Manx a resounding 11-0 victory.

These three wins meant Isle of Man finished runners-up in the league, far exceeding expectations.

Congratulations to Jessica Li, Clague, Harding, Quayle and Nicholson who were all unbeaten over the weekend and to Jess Li who remained unbeaten during this season’s county campaign.

l Isle of Man 2’s final county weekend is on May 6 when hopes are high of them securing promotion from Division Four Central.

matt nicholson