Mon 11th December
Melbourn lost 2-3
The Cambs County Cup are slightly complex beasts to explain. Well not the Portway Perpetual Cup, that is for Ladies teams. But the Light Blue Travel and Hereward Cups are a little more involved; the Light Blue Travel is for clubs with teams in Divisions 1 and 2, the Hereward for those in Div.s 3 & 4. That is straightforward, I hear you cry. But wait – a club only gets one entry in either competition, regardless of how many teams it might have in these leagues. Essentially the idea is that each club picks a side from all the players it has active in these Divisions.
That wasn’t complicated for us – the 1sts are in Division 1 and the 2nds in Division 4, so our team in the Hereward was Melbourn 2s. Comberton had a greater amount of choice though with their 2nds in the lower reaches of Division 3 and their 3rds likewise in 4. As it turns out the side we faced was moreorless Comberton 2nds.
To add to the off-kilter evening, we started at the top with the 1st strings as Jan took on Stuart Elmes. The opening exchanges were nip-and-tuck, but then Jan put in a string of solid points, stretching well to cut shots out and keep his front court position as he ran away with the opening game. Some early errors from Jan saw Stuart build a lead at the start of the second. Twice this was closed down, only to re-open. However the third time Jan levelled, at 13-all, he took the next two points to steal it, and that proved the key moment as he came through 15-5 15-13 15-9.
Next door was more normal service with Sean (5) up against former Melbourn player Les Stockley. Sean took the opener but then was pegged back as Les won two tie-breakers to move 2-1 ahead. However Sean dug in, holding the front court well and taking a string of points late in the fourth game as he forced errors out of Les in the back corners to take it to a decider. Points were exchanged early on in this before Sean made the first significant indoor to open up a 9-6 advantage. This was soon closed down, and once again it was back and forth to 13-all. That point proved decisive as Sean had a kill opportunity but found the top of the tin, Les winning the next rally to claim victory. Final score (Sean’s first): 15-8 16-18 14-16 15-9 13-15.
Fourth string pitted Gareth against Tom Parker. Well, what to say? It was one of those Jones days where shots going into the base of the tin rather than just over it. Tom certainly played his part in inducing the errors with good stretching and retrieving and one can also question some of the tactical choices but ultimately this was about a bad day at the office in terms of execution as Gareth lost 9-15 7-15 8-15.
That meant Michael Easton (3) had to win against Harry Henessey to keep the tie alive. This didn’t look at all likely in an opening game where Mike appeared lost, repeatedly putting the ball short and loose and paying the price. Wrong-footers were always unlikely to catch out a player as athletic and youthful as Harry. More considered and patient play got Mike to the T more often and closer on the scoreboard in games two and three, but Harry was always the that bit too clean in his actions as Michael went down 5-15 10-15 12-15.
That match finished pretty well prior to Matt (2) getting underway against Graham Broughton, meaning most people were aware it was a dead rubber played for pride only. And delaying us from getting to the pub/home. We could safely say, approaching an hour later, that these are two very proud individuals! Everything was tight, with game scores close and the players often closer with many, many lets being called. Graham edged through the opening two games, but Matt came roaring back, crisps drives to the back letting him hold the dominant position and play tight enough drop volleys that even his rapid opponent couldn’t dig up. It remained pretty tight, but now the pendulum had swung decisively to Matt who came through 12-15 13-15 15-11 15-9 15-11.
Skipper-for-the-night Jan said that “They probably deserved it overall, though we did come close to nicking the match. Matt played particularly well to turn his one around. We wish Comberton good luck in the Semis.”