‘We have every chance’: Toby Penty captains side to AJ Bell National Badminton League Finals Day

They may have fallen to a 3-2 defeat on the night to Surrey Smashers but Birmingham Lions skipper Toby Penty could not wipe the smile off this face after captaining his side to the AJ Bell National Badminton League Finals Day.

The 23-year-old Walton-on-Thames-born player saw his two-year AJ Bell NBL unbeaten spell come to an end after a close encounter with the Smashers’ Carl Baxter, a result that saw the visitors take the advantage in the University of Birmingham’s Great Hall on Monday night.

But despite losing his 100% record, Penty insists any personal disappointment won’t overshadow the joy of the team reaching the AJ Bell NBL Finals Day – The Ultimate Smashdown at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena on May 8 for the first time after finishing third in the table.

“I’ve had some pretty big wins this season so I am disappointed to lose my record,” he said. “But at the end of the day we have made the AJ Bell NBL Finals Day, so I am very happy.

“Making the final is massive for us — when I was thinking of coming here, that was the aim and we’ve managed that so it’s a great achievement for us after not qualifying last year.

“It just shows how much progression we’ve made as a team and I really think we will do well on Finals day.

“I’ll admit we’re not the strongest team in the pot, but we’ve beaten some really big teams so we have every chance, and I’m really proud of what we’ve done as a collective group.”

Birmingham Lions needed just one point from the night’s action to qualify for the playoffs, and that was achieved in the very first event of the night with British number one female Fontaine Chapman beating Sutton Coldfield-born debutant Til’ Shiloh Shaw 9-6 9-3 9-3.

The pairing of Alida Chen and Sarah Walker were unable to double their tally against Olympic hopeful Gabby Adcock and her partner Sophie Brown, and there was further disappointment for the home crowd when Penty failed to complete a stylish comeback, eventually losing 7-9 4-9 9-3 8-9 to Baxter in the men’s singles.

Nico Ruponen and Heather Olver managed to pull the match back level with a comfortable 9-4 7-9 9-3 9-2 win over Robert Blair and debutant Claire Millward.

But the Smashers duo of Chris Langridge and Dean George made light work of men’s doubles opponents Gary Fox and Koen Ridder, wrapping up a successful evening for the visitors with a 9-5 9-4 9-2 win.

For Surrey Smashers Shaw, it was mixed emotions after her side missed out on the AJ Bell NBL Finals Day but the King Edward VI Handsworth School pupil admitted she was thrilled to make her debut on home soil.

“It was such a great atmosphere,” she said. “It was very nerve-wracking playing my first game in my home city, but once the adrenaline kicked in I settled down and I really enjoyed myself.

“It was a bit surreal playing a national champion on my debut, but I played all my shots and I was happy with how they went, and in the end, I had nothing to lose.

“But it was obviously a very tough game against Fontaine, but I’m thrilled to have got my NBL career underway.”

Support your local teams and badminton stars in their bid for title glory at the AJ Bell National Badminton Finals Day – The Ultimate Smashdown on Sunday 8 May at the Barclaycard Arena. For tickets and information, visit

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