Grounds for optimism as Derbyshire savour winter tonics in Boston and Wrexham outings
SKIPPERS Dennis Archer and Jayne Allsopp said they could take "a lot of positives" after their Derbyshire teams challenged for promotion at this year's AEGON Winter County Cup.
The county's top men travelled to Boston hoping to avoid relegation in the annual tournament for the third year running, while the women went to Wrexham looking to back up the result which saw them promoted last year.
Archer said, despite the men being down to the "bare bones" at one stage of the three-day event, they pulled off two stunning wins to finish level on points with the leaders of Division 4B.
But they missed out on Division Three because they did not have as many winning rubbers as table-toppers North Wales.
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Allsopp's women were still in contention for promotion after the first day because they lost their opening match by one rubber but a second defeat left them in a straight relegation fight which they managed to win.
Both captains agreed their team's performances gave them optimism for next year's competition, as well as for the annual AEGON Summer County Cup.
Archer said: "I saw lots of good things throughout the weekend – particularly from some of our younger players.
"I think we only lost two doubles matches out of nine and, even though we had injuries and a changing team, we only just missed out on promotion.
"And we beat the team who were promoted ahead of us, which I think says a lot about how we did.
"I would have been disappointed if we had been relegated but it turned out better than I expected – it bodes well for next year."
Allsopp added: "I knew that the competition would be difficult, the other teams having full-time players.
"But my aim at the start of the tournament was to try to secure a place in Division Three and that is exactly what we did.
"The support and encouragement from all my team to both myself and each other contributed to the success."
At the Winter County Cup, matches are decided over the best of nine rubbers, with six singles and three doubles matches.
The team finishing top of the division are promoted, while the side with the fewest points go down.
Archer's team featured Chris Archer, Curtis Clarke, Dan Cottier, Jacob East, Sam Ferguson, James Rushby and Simon Thornewill, with Tom Rushby sidelined because of an injury and Chris Simpson unavailable.
James Rushby was forced to retire from one of his rubbers on the second day because of injury, while Cottier was only available for two of the three days.
The selection headache meant that, at one stage, normally non-playing captain Archer had to come on to the court for the first time in many years to play in one of the doubles rubbers.
They opened the competition with a 5-4 win against North Wales, followed by a 6-3 loss against Lincolnshire and a 6-3 victory over Cornwall, who were relegated.
Allsopp's ladies team featured herself, Ceire Mullins, Olivia Nelms, Danielle Pym, Kathryn Cook, Katie Higson, Katy Wilson, Louise Holtum and Gemma Praditngam.
Their opening-day 5-4 defeat by Hampshire & Isle of White was followed by another tight loss against Cheshire.
This left them facing Northumberland with the certainty that the losing team would be relegated but the 5-3 win kept Derbyshire in the division.