Walton-on-Thames’ Toby Penty left with ‘sour taste’ after Birmingham Lions miss out on Christmas top spot

Walton-on-Thames’ Toby Penty was left distraught as a contentious line call saw his Birmingham Lions side miss the chance to top the AJ Bell National Badminton League table at Christmas, with defeat to Loughborough Lightning.

The Birmingham Lions captain was in the throes of a dramatic men’s singles tie-break with Swedish international Henri Hurskainen, locked at two-games all with his side needing to win the event to stay in the fixture, trailing 2-0.

But with Hurskainen on match point, a line call was overturned against Penty to end the contest, and Loughborough Lightning went on to win 4-1 to leapfrog their opponents into second place.

And Penty admits a glorious opportunity for Birmingham Lions to lead the AJ Bell NBL heading into the festive period was missed, as they suffered their second defeat of the season.

“It was a very dramatic way to finish an NBL match – I’ve never quite seen anything like it,” said a bemused Penty.

“A lot of people behind that side of the court thought it was in but I think there was a lot of indecisiveness from everyone.

“I don’t think a ‘let’ was the fairest thing but there wasn’t a call.

“I’m not sure if 4-1 is a fair reflection. It was a good match and it was a shame that it ended with a bit of a sour taste.”

A victory for Penty could have been the start of a Birmingham Lions comeback, with Rasmus Fladberg and Mette Poulsen taking the next mixed doubles event, defeating Greg Mairs and Jenny Moore.

But it was a slow start for the defending AJ Bell NBL champions, with Gary Fox and Fladberg losing the men’s doubles while Heather Olver and Poulsen missed out in the women’s equivalent.

And Penty’s loss compounded a difficult evening, though the 24-year-old was encouraged by the way he performed before going down 9-6, 9-5, 7-9, 7-9, 3-0.

“The first two sets were tough, I though Henri played really well. His speed was really good and it was quite hard to get into the match,” he continued.

“I felt as the match went on I got better and the quality of the badminton was quite high, so that was a good thing and I think the crowd were getting quite into it.

“It was a good match to be involved in, just a shame I came out on the wrong side of what was one of three matches that went to five sets.

“It’s a very close table and I think this is probably the year where all the teams are very closely-balanced in terms of quality and how competitive every match is.

“That showed with how many matches went to five sets against Loughborough.

“I think in general for the last year and a half we’ve been flying high, we won the league last season and in general we’ve had quite a good start.”

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