‘Whatever happens, happens’: Toby Penty’s Birmingham Lions face nervous wait

Walton-on-Thames’ Toby Penty is a man full of confidence on court, but his Birmingham Lions side face a nervous wait to see if they can make the AJ Bell National Badminton League Ultimate Smashdown.

Having taken a first European circuit singles title in Sweden last week, there was no time to rest for the 24-year-old, helping his Lions to a 3-2 victory over Surrey Smashers on Match-night 6.

Penty delivered in the men’s singles event with a straight games victory over Sam Parsons, all after Rasmus Fladberg and Mette Poulsen had delivered a solid start for the hosts at Munrow Sports Centre.

But needing to win the final men’s doubles event to keep in with a shot of reaching Milton Keynes, Fladberg and Frederik Colberg pulled out all the stops – defeating Smashers’ Tom Wolfenden and Olympic bronze medallist Chris Langridge 3-0.

And while it was enough to take victory of the night, their fate lies elsewhere, needing Loughborough Lightning to beat Team Derby 5-0 to reach the showcase final on February 8, with Birmingham Lions having played all their matches now.

“The main thing for us was to win, and from there whatever happens, happens,” said Penty.

“We had some moments in the middle of the season where we weren’t at our best, lost over five sets so if we don’t make it to Milton Keynes then it will largely be down to that.

“Fingers crossed some other teams can do us a favour.

“When you know you’re playing well, it gives you a great deal of confidence and luckily I was able to transfer that over to the NBL. Even when you’re a bit tired you can get those little lifts and maybe get points you weren’t quite expecting.”

Penty took his first win in seven final attempts in Sweden, a moment which undoubtedly gave him confidence heading onto court, with an ovation to match in front of home support.

But it seemed fatigue may set in early on, with Parsons battling hard in the first game before the 24-year-old eventually took the honours, 9-8.

From that moment, the rhythm of Stockholm came flooding back, closing out the straight games victory 9-6 9-4, his side’s second point of the night.

But Penty admitted he needed the support of the Birmingham faithful to help him squeeze over the line.

“I played well, had some patches in the first two sets where it wasn’t quite there, but overall I was happy with the way I played and more important l got the team a point.

“I loosened up a little bit as it went on, I’ve had a tough couple of weeks playing but once I relaxed I was able to feel better.

“Having the fans make that noise for me was fantastic, they’ve always been fantastic for me since I’ve been here and that’s something I really appreciate and hopefully in seasons to come it can be the same.”

The AJ Bell National Badminton League final takes place on 8 February at centre:mk in Milton Keynes, offering a great value family evening out.

Tickets to see the league’s top two teams go head to head to be champions can be booked at

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