The Women’s British League season drew to a close over the weekend with a tough run of results leaving Cardiff City TTC Ladies now facing probable relegation. The third division side journeyed to Doncaster to compete in five crucial fixtures spread across Saturday and Sunday.
Despite a faltering start when the first half of the season was contested in Tipton last September, team member Danielle de Jong says her side went north in good spirits. “We all knew it would be hard but we were still confident of staying in the league. We were second from bottom at the beginning of the weekend but we knew we’d only need to rise one place and then we’d be safe.”
This confidence was showing early on Saturday as Cardiff began their hectic weekend with a welcome 5-1 victory against promotion-chasing St. Andrews. This was the team’s first win of the season and hopes were high as their win lifted Cardiff temporarily out of the drop zone.
This renewed sense of optimism would be short-lived, however, as Cardiff this time found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-1 score line in the day’s second match, slipping to a defeat by eventual league champions Fusion TTC. Cardiff ended Saturday locked in stalemate with Cliffdale Chandlers. The 3-3 draw against the Lincolnshire side featured Cardiff club member Julia Furber being declared player of the match.
That night Cardiff’s security in the third division hang in the balance as the team bedded down for an overnight stay in Doncaster.
Nottingham Sycamore must have shared Cardiff’s unease. They were another side positioned precariously above the relegation trap door and it was the East Midlands club who lay in wait for Cardiff on Sunday morning. Knowing that defeat could prove lethal for the survival chances of either team, Nottingham Sycamore eventually emerged from this titanic clash as 5-1 winners, effectively securing their own safety and sealing Cardiff’s fate.
Already confined to the drop zone, Cardiff kept their heads held high in the final game but their fighting spirit could not prevent their opponents Greenhouse from triumphing 5-1 and winning a promotion place for themselves. The lack of points on Sunday meant that Cardiff finished the season at fifth place in a league of six, meaning that they and bottom-placed Cliffdale Chandlers will likely be shifted back into the fourth tier of womens’ table tennis; a division which Cardiff had celebrated winning only a year ago. “I would be pretty confident about competing in Division 4”, said Danielle de Jong with some certainty, “I don’t think we will be in that league for very long.”
Despite the Womens’ British League action now being over until the summer, Cardiff’s relegation is not yet inevitable. Given the long distances required by league participation and the fact that many club’s field several teams in each category, drop outs from the league system are not uncommon. When this does occur league administrators often decide to only relegate the very bottom team from a division, allowing the second bottom side a happy reprieve.
For Wales’ only team in the Womens’ British League, it could be a long and uncertain wait until the new league set-up is confirmed in September. One thing is for certain, though; whether they find themselves in the third or fourth tier Cardiff City TTC Ladies will return stronger next season, ready to return to their long term advance up the British League system.