Melbourn I vs St. Neots I
Weds 19th September
Melbourn won 19-6
Melbourn 1sts could hardly have had a tougher start to this season’s Cambs Division 1 campaign than facing defending champions St. Neots. However the addition of Malik to the middle of the order meant the team were cautiously optimistic about their chances in the game.
The first two matches suggested we were in for a long evening as both Mark Oppen (5) against Grant Mankee and Dan Easton (4) against Mark ‘Sparky’ Emery went the distance. Mark (O) began well, taking his opening game 11-5, saw the second escape after a slow start but then earned himself multiple game balls to win the third. He let the first three go, before claiming the fourth on an unforced error from his opponent…
Grant put another solid game together to level, but Mark started the fifth well, producing some accurate and patient Squash and despite a few wobbles as the game went on came through 11-5 7-11 11-9 5-11 11-5.
Meanwhile Dan had started well against Sparky, playing the cleaner Squash as he took the opener only for the St. Neots player to level this one as well. Dan edged back ahead after a closely fought third, but then found himself 10-8 down in the fourth. However he saved both game balls, and a further one at 11-10 to earn himself a match ball chance at 12-11… only for Sparky to hit a death or glory return volley winner! This knocked the wind out of Dan’s sails, the game ending 12-14 and he could never quite recapture the momentum, always trailing in the fifth as Sparky edged across the line. The game scores were 11-7 10-12 11-9 12-14 9-11, and both players were exhausted at the conclusion.
Next on was Malik Bilen (3), who was making his debut for Melbourn. Malik is just 15 and was up against a much more experienced player in George Zitko, but it was the home player who looked in control throughout, building leads in each game as both his whippet like speed around the court and ability to generate surprising power from his very slight frame came into play. George fought gamely in response, but ultimately Malik’s 11-7 11-6 11-8 win was comfortable.
Your correspondent didn’t see much (indeed anything) of Ed Wheeler’s 3-0 win over Matt Nankivell at second string, so I’ll have to go with the consensus view of proceedings, which was that Ed played above his usual level, particularly in attack where he was apparently very sharp. It all added up to an 11-9 11-9 11-5 win.
That meant victory was in the bag prior to Matt Sampson (1) starting against Chris Reeve. This match featured some shuddering power from both players, and also elements of exquisite touch. Chris produced one reverse drop-shot in the first game that drew shocked laughter from Matt due to its quality, but more often it was the Melbourn player producing the tight drop winners, particularly counters of balls that looked beyond reach. Matt also repeatedly caught Chris out on the boast, especially in the third and fourth games as he came through 11-8 5-11 11-4 11-6.
Melbourn skipper Oppen commented “I am absolutely thrilled by the team’s performance in our debut match of the season. Such a positive start, which I am sure won't be a one-off”