Melbourn 2 vs Hunts County 4
Mon 3rd February
Melbourn lost 8-20
Second against first in the table ought to produce a good match, and the 2nds clash with leaders Hunts County 4ths didn’t disappoint as every string was very competitive.
That hadn’t looked likely in the first ten minutes of action of the night as both Sean Hamilton (4) and Roger Woodfield (5) struggled in their opening games against Ian Gabriel and Billy Bremner [not that one] respectively. Roger began to turn things around as he edged an incredibly close second game 16-14 on a breaker and then went 2-1 up as he controlled the front court sufficiently often to get his deadly drops in. The match featured a number of momentum shifts as one player would win a bunch of points in a row, followed by his opponent. Runs of points, and of games as Billy struck back after losing two straight to level and then built a lead in the decider. Another switch saw Roger come back again, saving a pair of match balls to get to 13-14… but not the third as Billy’s forehand drop won him the day 3-2.
As for Sean, he settled after the slow start and began to anticipate Ian’s shots better and re-adjust to the pace of team Squash. He was also making clearer thought-out choices, not giving away the front wall as much as he came through the next two comfortably enough. Well, in scoreline terms but not physically. The match was Sean’s first competitive one after nearly four months out due to injury, and he was clearly beginning to tire from midway through the third. That resulted in more kill attempts in the fourth too early in the rally, which was a return to the pattern of the opening game. And had the same outcome. Despite a determined effort in the last the situation had turned around again and we had another 2-3 loss on the books.
Next on court was Gareth Jones (3) against Rick Watson. It didn’t take long for the pattern of the match to be clear as both players absolutely leathered the ball around. On an atypically warm evening for February and with the heaters doing their job to boot, the ball was nearly glowing and was close to unkillable. It simply came down to mistakes and patience. For two games Gareth was too attacking for the circumstances, and therefore found himself two behind. Games three and four saw him calm down, take a little off the pace of his drives (which meant they didn’t sit up off the back wall as much to be creamed back at him!) and be more cautious in attempting to finish rallies off. Good tactics as he came back to 2-2. Such good tactics that Rick copied them in the fifth, leading to the prospect that a rally could go on forever as both players eschewed any attacking shots! A greater contrast with pinball chaos of the opening game would be hard to imagine but the outcome of it was very similar – it went Rick’s way, and that ensured that Hunts had the overall win.
The win bonus was gone, but a game score of 6-9 was not bad from the perspective of Melbourn’s league position. But could Matt Walker (2) and Jan Brynjolffssen (1) add anything to that in tough matches against Matt van den Bos and Andy Budd respectively? Not in Matt W’s first for sure, as he started off completely cold. He picked up his game substantially in the second, clawing back a late deficit with a string of points to earn himself a game-ball at 14-13. Not converted and then two rallies later it was 0-2. It would have been all too easy for Matt W to collapse mentally after that setback, but impressively he did the opposite, steeling himself to hold his high court position, playing his volley drops and grinding out the third 15-13. The winning point was greeted by a roar and a large fist-pump. Sadly Matt W couldn’t quite do it again, though he did make the other Matt sweat as he was closing the gap before running out of time and going down 15-12.
As for Jan, he started really well against Andy, racing out into a five point lead. The rest of the game was about hanging tough and making sure that points were only lost in dribs and drabs rather than in a glut. Every time Andy won a couple of points on the bounce Jan found a stretch and produced a down-the-wall shot that opened up the gap for a drop. He took the game 15-10. Excellent, but could he maintain it? Well, no, not to a high enough level as Andy also stepped up his game. Jan now found himself behind his opponent 60% of the time whereas in game one he had been in front for around that proportion. Attempts to race forwards were getting caught with holds, trying to stick was resulting in frustrating off-boasts that were not tight because they were being played at the right times and didn’t have to be. Jan rallied as hard as he could, recovering from 1-10 in the fourth to 10-14 for example, but from the start of the second on Andy was playing Squash that was fractionally but also clearly superior and he won 3-1.
Skipper Roger commented ““Everyone put in a massive effort to be very competitive so it was very disappointing to lose all five strings. On the other hand, we did pick up 8 valuable points to keep us in the hunt for promotion. We need to keep this momentum going for the rest of the season!”