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Melbourn 2 vs Cambridge 4 (12th February 2024)

Melbourn lost 9-15

Supposedly luck will even out over time. Now I don’t believe this is actually true, but let’s go with it for now as an explanation of how the 2nds, off the back of two 3-2 wins that included one string won 3-2, ended up losing this game 2-3 with one string ending 2-3 against!

What would turn out to be a weird and uncomfortable night got off to a discombobulating start as Jan Brynjolffssen built a 15-3, 12-6 lead over Stephen Axford… only for Cambridge’s skipper to pop his head over the balcony to say they had got their order wrong and Stephen was their no.4 and not their no.3! After a brief pause and a consideration of “what now??” it was decided that Jan and Stephen’s (non-)match hadn’t been physical enough to make playing the right people impossibly challenging. So it was a reset and redo.
That meant Jan (3) taking on Nick Askew instead. For two games this went very nicely as Jan absorbed Nick’s power game and counter-punched him into deep tight corners with mistakes flowing as a result. Leading 2-0 and with a game-and-a-half already in his legs Jan wanted to wrap things up quickly, but a mixture of him overpushing and Nick changing his tactics to hit with less force but much greater accuracy allowed the Cambridge player to build a substantial lead in the third (11-3 at one point). Jan began to close this, which was obviously making Nick tense, but a key point at 10-13 went to the Cambridge player and he round things off to his audible delight.
The fourth was very back and forth until a good run saw Jan win 8 points out of 11 to lead 12-9. With the finishing line in sight and aware that the lactic was building he got a bit tight and conservative, which Nick seized on to turn things around again to reach game point first. A good depth in this rally generated a loose ball that was inviting for a backhand volley drop kill. Jan went all out for the shot, putting hearts in mouths (especially his own) as the ball sailed towards the front wall, but it found exactly the right spot: 14-all. A deep tight backhand drive in the next generated an error and a match ball, which was converted with an ace as Nick pushed all the way up to the service line, very central, to take it early… and Jan sent the ball around him by aiming for the nick in the service box and again precisely finding his target. That completed a 15-9, 15-7, 10-15, 16-14 win.

Whilst all this was happening things were equally dramatic, though along rather more traditional lines, between Kate Bradshaw (1) and Hamish MacKenzie next door. Squashlevels indicated that a tight match was to be expected, with Hamish shading it in the end. Spot on as it turns out, but a lot of sweat was shed before that outcome was reached! Game one went the Cambridge player’s way as he kept his nose in front and pushed Kate deep enough for her attacking shots to be just ever so slightly ineffective. However Kate fought back, and was as they say “on it” in games two and three, holding a high ‘t’ and pushing off powerfully to cut balls out at the midcourt. This meant she was in the attacking position which is where she is deadly – Hamish later commented “She didn’t miss a drop all night!” The games were tight, but Kate was 2-1 up and an upset win seemed possible. Sadly it didn’t quite last as Hamish, realising he couldn’t afford to allow Kate to intercept on the service line, put both more stick and more variety on his drives. That got the Melbourn player turned into the back corners again, where her game is less effective. Not ineffective, as anyone caught out by that deadly backhand drop shot played from basically on the back wall will attest, but with an extra bit of flight the opponent has slightly more chance to make a retrieve from the front corner. Fine margins, but when the match finishes 3-2 and the game scores are (Kate first) 12-15, 15-13, 15-13, 9-15, 12-15 fine margins are all there are between the two players!

Second on to Court 1 was Aidan Hird (4), with Stephen Axford returning to the fray to play the player he was supposed to be facing! After some initially nervous rallies a spell of cleaner play from Aidan saw him recover from 2-4 down to establish a 9-5 lead in the opening game. Those demons are never far away though and a burst of errors made things tight again… only for Stephen to offer a gift back to the other way at 8-10 that was of critical importance to getting Aidan feeling OK and over the line. Game two saw Aidan trying to hit deeper as his attempted kills were being picked up on the service line. However he took the pace right off to do it, and instead Stephen was intercepting, still at the service line! This was less effective from Aidan’s perspective (more so from Stephen’s) and meant the Cambridge player raced out to a 6-1 lead in the second. Aidan gritted his teeth from here, winning in two or three point bunches and almost never letting more than a single one go. It was hard, hard work but it turned things around to get him two ahead. The third saw another change in style, this time to the right pattern – hit to deep but hit HARD, taking Stephen’s time away. Some initial doubts were present about this strategy, leading to an initial 4-6 deficit, but once Aidan committed and realised it was going to work he finally began to relax and play Squash near the level we see from him in practice. An 11-3 burst of points followed as he wrapped up a 15-10, 15-12, 15-9 win.

Aidan’s victory had us 2-1 up, but that was about to become 2-2 when Will Bradshaw (5) was presented with his nightmare style of opponent, embodied by Cambridge skipper Jonny Hughes. Jonny has a technique all of his own devising, the eyeball test marking it as unconventional and unlikely to work, especially when put against Will’s classical, coached approach. This undersells Jony though as for all its funkiness his method works pretty well (or he wouldn’t be playing County Division 3 Squash!) and being experienced he knows where his strengths and weaknesses lie - that made him determined not to play an up-and-down the wall game against Will that Will would win! Play on your own terms, etc.
It came down to who could impose their style on their opponent, which is a scenario that many Juniors struggle with – basically Jonny appreciated that this was how the game would be won and lost whereas Will was just playing Squash! End result was Jonny repeatedly breaking the game up, hitting the ball to unconventional angles, being a tall bloke who was somewhat in the way and generally making things feel bitty and unlikely. That denied Will the rhythm he needed to establish his patterns. A masterclass of an experienced adult getting under a talented youngster’s skin and winning a match where the kid was arguably the ‘better’ player but the adult was unquestionably the more effective one on the night. Will lost 9-15, 8-15, 9-15 and was a rather frustrated and forlorn figure at the end of it. ☹

So it all came down to the second string, which pitted Liam Murphy against Peter Connaughton. And… I’m not sure what to say about this game, because it went very badly from Liam’s perspective. There were few signs of the problems to come in the opening game which Liam won 15-6, utilising all his considerable attributes of fitness, patience and core strength to retrieve absolutely everything and completely neutralise Peter’s game. The second appeared to be heading the same way as Liam rattled out to a 7-2 lead… but ‘rattled’ is the key word here as Peter then found a few nicks, which made the game closer.
Liam, somewhat misled by the opening game into believing he should be winning easily, started to lose his focus over these ‘lucky’ winners for his opponent. Loss of focus quickly led to mistakes from Liam’s racquet as his patience evaporated (‘I’ve got to kill this before he get YET ANOTHER nick’). This was disastrous against a player like Peter, who is deeply calm – Liam was making unforced errors to gift Peter points, but Peter wasn’t about to reciprocate. And rather than this being a brief interlude it became a vicious circle, only getting worse to the point where Liam had lost it completely by game four, resulting in a conduct warning after his rage against his own failing game went too far. It all added up to a 15-6, 11-15, 13-15, 7-15 defeat that also gave Cambridge overall victory.

Cambridge 1 vs Melbourn 1 (14th February 2024)

Melbourn lost 8-16

Fresh off the back of a key win against March last week the 1sts travelled to Churchill College to take on Cambridge 1sts.

The home side are involved in a tight four-way battle to win the County title this season – they came into this game in fourth place, but only 8 points adrift of then leaders Hunts County. 8 points is a very slender advantage in a league that awards up to 20 points per round. The pressure was therefore all on Cambridge, whilst our boys, with their 30 point advantage on the bottom two (courtesy of that 20-1 win over March), were able to play with freedom.

The result was a very tight match… both overall and at each string. Every single encounter included at least one tie-break game with each string having the potential to go the other way. Melbourn held the upper hand at the top of the order as Matt Sampson (1) claimed a 3-2 win against Ali Dawson (11-3, 11-13, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7) and Chris Shaw (2) came through a closer match with Stefan Ranoszek than the 3-0 final score in his direction indicates, cf. the “at least one tie-break” thing; in this case the second as Chris won 11-8, 13-11, 11-7.

Cambridge struck back in the lower order with Melbourn’s Miles Jeanneret (4) and Mark Oppen (5) both going down 3-1 to Cameron Gibb and Joseph Reeds respectively… though if Oppen had won an extended tie-break in his fourth game then who knows? Miles game scores were 10-12, 11-8, 4-11, 7-11 and Mark’s 9-11, 11-6, 7-11, 12-14.

Arguably the decisive clash of the night was the middle string, where Mike Herd was seriously underrepresented by the final score of 3-0 in favour of Cambridge’s Grant Bryant.  Herd was intensely competitive in every single game but saw all three games go to the wire and twice well beyond it before Grant took the critical points as Mike went down 9-11, 15-17, 11-13.

The final score was 16-8 in Cambridge’s favour keep their title challenge up (they rose to second spot, in fact) but also edging the 1sts a spot higher up the Division 1 table to sit sixth.

Melbourn 1 vs March 1 (7th February 2024)

Melbourn won 20-1

One glance at the league table prior to this match said it was a big one – the 1sts sat 8th in Division 1 on 131 points, March were 9th on 120. Whilst finishing second-bottom of Cambs Division 1 doesn’t mean automatic relegation (only bottom spot in the 10-team Division brings that, and that looks highly likely to be Ely this season) you still want to avoid finishing 9th as that means a play-off with the team second in Division 2. Which may fall on a day with bad availability or injury or whatever – a one-off match to save one’s top-flight status is situation to be avoided if possible!

That was what was on the line… but Melbourn is still a long way from March and that meant the visitors travelled short-handed, gifting Mark a walkover at fifth string. That left the 1sts looking for just two more strings, which they had pocketed two matches into the evening as Vinod overcame Christopher Parson 3-1 (11-8, 11-5, 8-11, 11-7) and Miles was too consistent for Andy Osborne, winning 3-0 (11-6, 11-6, 11-8).

This gave Matt and Chris at #1 and #2 respectively a rare chance to play with the bonus point pressure off – most of the 1sts matches seem to finish 3-2 one way or the other, but this time the boys were 3-0 already! Both put in strong displays, Chris having too much game and too much court coverage for Avi Warren as he won 3-0 (11-3, 11-3, 11-5) and Matt picking up a very satisfying 3-0 victory against Scott Drewery (11-9, 11-6, 11-7), his first win in four tries against Scott (the overall h2h now stands at 3-3), and the first time that a match between the two has been decided in straight games.

Peterborough 3 vs Melbourn 2 (5th February 2024)

Melbourn won 14-8

The Seconds travelled to Peterborough somewhat below the strength of the last couple of weeks (numbers #1, #2 and #3 from those Kate, Liam and Ed were all absent) and a little bit nervous of whether the team we actually put out would be good enough against 8th in the table Peterborough. It wasn’t exactly bare bones, but it did involve at least one player who wasn’t going to play due to illness coming back in at the last minute as someone else was feeling even worse!

First on court (Peterborough’s glassback show court, no less) for Melbourn was #5 Sean Hamilton, who took on Jacques Calitz. This was just Sean’s second match for the teams this season, and his first since playing in the reverse fixture in the opening half of the campaign. That lack of recent game exposure would ultimately prove his undoing as Sean was a little bit low on confidence to go for his kills, which was an issue against a player like Jacques who defended and ran well but one who didn’t have particularly tight attacking shots. The ball was there to attack, and Sean was a bit slow to realise. There was also an issue of Jacques’ tendency to hit the ball back towards himself and not only stay there but actually push up behind it, ready for a counter drop. In game one Sean was forcing himself in front of his opponent but finding no backswing due to the compressed space, which resulted in bunted drops that Jacques was able to chase down.
Despite all this the game one really turned on execution at the clutch moments as Sean fought back from a deficit to build a 13-11 lead… and then got tight, made an unforced error when he should have gone 14-11 up and then backed off his attacks. That allow Jacques to power through to take the game. Sadly exactly the same pattern held in game two (despite Sean calling some lets that were awarded as strokes in this one as he realised Jacques was too close) and game three was nearly the same without Sean ever edging ahead in the final stages. It finished 3-0 to Jacques.

Meanwhile on the non-show court two up Matt Walker (4) was taking on Pierre Caruso. Matt was comfortably the more classical of the two players – the question was whether he could be light and rapid enough on his feet to cope with Pierre’s ability to play unusual angles and also the home player’s hitting lines which are occasionally unexpected loose/squirting out. What Matt was looking to do was to make it an up-and-down the wall sort of game where Pierre was repeatedly having to turn and retrieve from the back corners. This meant tight, deep hitting and a nice high t-position to react to short balls. The first game was where Matt put the work in, both on his own game (settling in to a rhythm) and in terms of making Pierre chase more than he wanted, tiring the Peterborough player out. This worked well as, after edging that opener Matt, won the second and third with increasing ease to claim a 3-0 victory.

The match stood at string each when the third strings took to the glassback, Colm O’Gorman for us taking on Josh Fillmore. Josh is a highly promising young player, ranked no.3 in England at U13 level. But he is still only 12, and his Squash ability is ahead of emotional development to an extent. What he is great at is playing against conventional players, who will rally up and down the wall with him – he beat Matt 3-1 in the reverse fixture at Melbourn in the opening half of the season before losing. But Josh’s rapid improvement means he jumped up Peterborough’s order and was up against Colm this time, and Colm is what is known in Squash circle as “an awkward cove” (or some similar in meaning word to ‘cove’), who plays unconventional shots that only somebody with the wrist strength from his old sport of Hurling could even contemplate. These are not shots a ‘proper’ Squash player would take on… and not ones an individual who has had as much coaching as Josh has is really primed to move towards. This meant the kid was constantly off balance, which in turn meant resulted in him not catching the ball as crisply as he expected. And this was clearly getting under his skin. As long as Colm stayed concentrated and made sure he kept his foe both deep and twisting and turning then there was only one winner. Beyond a wobble midway through game two he did that to wrap up a comfortable 3-0 success. Good job, as he won’t be beating Josh again this lifetime…

Another Fillmore was in action at #2 string, Josh’s dad Jeff taking on Melbourn’s Gareth Jones. The opening game saw some early sparring before Gareth put together a run of points that managed to combine brutal hitting with icy coolness on the chop-drop, as he rattled away with the opening game. It was great, and the key thing was for Gareth not to think about it. Unfortunately, his teammates, who should probably have left well alone, instead gave him the advice to “keep doing what you are doing” which made he do exactly the wrong thing and think! Dangerous, because thinking comes with second guessing. There was little enough between the players that this turned the second game the other way, and then things looked bleak for Gareth when he also dropped a very close third. However going back to what worked in game one worked again in game four as Gareth dug in and played a more conservative and consistent game, cutting down the unforced errors. Gareth with few unforced errors is a real force at this level and that was enough for him to flip the narrative once again to level up at two-all and then race into a 10-2 lead in the third. Jeff is a determined soul and he didn’t give up despite the large deficit, but despite shrinking the gap he never really closed it as Gareth wrapped up a superb 3-2 win.

Gareth’s success meant Melbourn had the win on the evening prior to (actually more like a game into) Jan Brynjolffssen’s clash with Shane Maelane at #1 string. This was a good job because despite some well constructed rallies, and a decent chunk of points in each game, Shane moved too well for Jan, particularly laterally, which allowed him to mostly control the front wall. Jan tried what he could to match this and find some sort of counter, but this mostly involved taking too much risk – for instance, on one point Jan produce a very good winner by cutting a high backhand volley for a cross-court drop volley that was just above the tin. An excellent shot (if, truth be told, slightly miss-hit in execution) but not something to be repeated often. However, having found a shot to get out of a rally Jan went for it once more… and not only tinned it, but did so with Shane proving he was not going to be caught out be the same thing twice and standing poised to respond. Instead it was Jan who didn’t learn his lesson as he attempted the kill twice more in the match, each time to no avail. He just couldn’t punch the necessary holes in Shane who cut things out on the service line too well, and also had a lovely bunt out of tight back corners that sent the ball zipping back to a length when no backswing seemed possible. It all added up to a 3-0 defeat, which made the overall score 14-8 for us. Good enough on a night where we were slightly perturbed where the three winning strings would come from.

Melbourn 1 vs St. Ivo 1 (31st January 2024)

Melbourn lost 3-20

The 1sts were looking to continue their good recent form when they took on St. Ivo 1sts, but so were the visitors who are pushing hard for the Division 1 title this season, something they haven’t been close to for a while.

St. Ives strength comes from two very promising Juniors at the top of their order, in particular no.1 Diego Pita, who is an aspiring pro. Diego is currently no.2 on the English Junior rankings, though his national representation is for Portugal (as with his sister Sofia, also on a pro path and who played for us last summer). A reasonably familiar face then (let us know if you want to play Div.1 in the Herts League this summer, Diego?) and a challenging one for Matt to face at top string. Experience can count for quite a bit, Matt taking the third game, but there are some gaps even it can’t bridge and Diego won this one 3-1 (8-11, 8-11, 11-4, 6-11).

St. Ives other talented kid is one of our former players, Mumin Bilen. Vinod took on the challenge on this evening but it took him two games before he began to make any impression. If Vinod had claimed the tie-break in the third would Mumin have felt under pressure? That will have to remain an unknown as it finished 1-11, 4-11, 10-12 against the Melbourn player.

The presence of Diego and Mumin has allowed Ivo’s previous long-time no.1 John Dewis to drop down to #3. He proved too strong for Mike Herd, John taking charge from game two on as Mike went down 7-11, 2-11, 5-11. Also dropping down the Ivo order is Nick Giles, who Miles Jeanneret ran into at #4 string. This one proved to be the match of the evening as Miles dominated the first two games as his brand of consistent Squash was a crucial bit more solid than his opponent’s similar style… but after two games fitness came in as a factor and that broke Nick’s way, resulting in Miles eventually going down 11-2, 11-3, 5-11, 4-11, 7-11.

Fifth string pitted Melbourn skipper Mark Oppen up against Harry Aldridge. Harry, whilst no longer in his teens, is still at the younger end of the bracket of Division 1 players. He also plays a nice game, a bit more conventional than Mark’s all-action style. The match-up worked against Melbourn as Mark was beaten 7-11, 10-12, 3-11.

A bit of a sobering evening for the 1sts overall, then. Only picking up 3 points from it saw the boys slip down to 8th in the table, with a big one looming against 9th-placed March next week.

Melbourn 2 vs Comberton 2 (29th January 2024)

Melbourn won 15-8

A heavy defeat against a strong Saffron Walden side the previous Monday meant the 2nds had fallen outside Division 3’s top two places for the first time in ages – all the way down to fourth in fact as Comberton had gone past as well as Walden. However we had a chance to reverse that immediately as we faced Comberton with the same close-to-first-choice 5 as had ultimately been outgunned the week before.

That meant Gareth Jones at #5 again. He took on Ollie Thorne and, after some initial sparring and settling in to things, it became apparent that Gareth had the greater control and shot placement of the two, at least on this evening as Ollie’s game was off. Once Gareth had figured out the his best pattern (push Ollie deep with a drive to the back corner, push high in expectation of a defensive boast in response, jump on this an win the stroke with a simple straight drop) he cruised through the first game, a flurry of points (7-in-a-row) seeing him move from 8-6 to 15-6. There was no particular reason to think this gameplan needed changing for the subsequent games, at least as long as Ollie was struggling to produce clean shots from the deep corners. The challenge was really just a matter of concentration and diligence for Gareth as he looked to maintain consistent pressure and not allow his opponent to get his confidence back up. There was a wobble or two along the way (7-2 in the third becoming 8-6 for instance), because, well there always is, but these were minor as Gareth basically breezed to a 15-6, 15-8, 15-8 win.

Next door it was the first strings in action as Kate Bradshaw (#1) took on Connor Harmer. Connor is a teenager, and as such has some notable strengths such as pace over the deck, agility in tight corners and a seemingly limitless supply of energy. He is a very, very good defensive player. He has his weaknesses as well though in the tightness of his lines when looking to drive the ball (though the ball will be whizzing along as it comes out a bit loosely!). With Kate’s racquet head skills the gameplan seemed obvious for her – grind and grind some more. Long, up-and-down the wall rallies were her friend as the first player to make an error was mostly likely to be Connor. The problem being this is not Kate’s game! Almost the polar opposite in fact. She tends to look to pounce on any half-chance and cut her usually deadly drop volleys in. Usually. Not against Connor – he is rapid enough to get them and that, it turns out, leaves Kate herself out-of-position.
Game one saw Kate attempting to make her style work, without enough success as she fell 1-0 down. Game two went the other way as Kate played the needed gameplan, though it was tight as Kate went 13-10 up, dropped back to 13-14 down, but then won the next three points to level up. Game three started evenly, Connor going 6-5 up… at which point Kate hit a wall physically (the unspoken problem with attempting to grind a teenager into the dust!). Her tracker app showed this quite dramatically. And that meant it was back to the wrong tactics, trying to end rallies rapidly and giving Connor the front wall. This didn’t work and Kate was beaten 11-15, 16-14, 6-15, 6-15.

Whilst Kate’s match was ongoing Jan Brynjolffssen (4) took the court against Jason Lane. Jan and Jason have both been on the Cambs Squash scene for years so there was no surprises for each player over the other’s approach – Jason looking to end rallies at the earliest possible opportunity with boasts and drops, Jan looking to go slightly longer but only by a few more shots as he looked for a front court opportunity to try a kill. An important pattern of the match was first seen on the very first point as Jason lobbed a high serve up to Jan’s backhand, the ball dropping with ice on it. Jan attempted a backhand overhead in response… and put it out on the front wall! The intent of taking it on the volley and not risk it dropping tight was right though, and the willingness to play play backhand overheads would eventually undermine Jason’s key rally construction of high looby serve, loose response at half-court, kill.
It took Jan a while to establish his counter-attack as he trailed through much of the opening game, but from 5-8 he inched it back to 11-12, and then focused hard to keep his serves tight, and therefore Jason deep, which lead to three successive points. Jason saved the first game point but on the next he tried the loopy serve, which Jan returned with a volley cross-court lob (essentially a counter-serve, except done from a dropping ball deep rather than the hand!) that found the perfect width and length, forcing Jason to turn and attempt a forehand defensive boast which went into the tin. Game two started with Jan making mistakes and Jason again looping the ball up. However from 8-3 down Jan found an extremely rich vein of form, playing tight shots to length and getting himself high on the ‘T’ to put together a run of 12 points from 13 rallies to claim the game. Two games up was a huge advantage as Jason was already visibly tiring (and soon had an injury aggravation to add to it), Jan picking up the intensity once again from mid-game to complete a 15-13, 15-9, 15-9 win.

Now 2-1 up Melbourn were looking for one more win to claim the five bonus points. Would Ed Aspeling (3) provide it against Richard Anthony? Erm, no, basically. Rich is a decidedly awkward player to play against at the best of times, with a deeply irritating ability to hold his shot and wait for his opponent to move before adjusting to play it away into a different corner. This is already challenge enough for most, but add in Ed being off his game and feeling off-colour and it was one-way traffic from the outset as Rich built a 10-1 lead in the opening game. Ed dug in somewhat but still lost the opening two games heavily. Game three saw Ed simply looking for some enjoyment out of his dispiriting evening as he attempted to hit out. This produced some nicer looking rallies for the Melbourn player and a move even game score, but even so Rich was always ahead and never really looked majorly concerned as Ed went down 6-15, 5-15, 9-15.

That meant it went down to the 2nd strings, which pitted Liam Murphy against Jez Cotton. In certain ways this appeared a good match up for Liam as Jez likes to break the game up with angles and boasts, which can catch slower players than Liam out. Liam’s height (1m90 ) and his well-coached ability to use all of that length in lateral lunges into the corners meant he was able to counter Jez’s attempts to outmanoeuvre him and claim game one. However Jez is a determined cur and he chose to play somewhat against type from game two on, going for more line and length early in the rally and then pouncing from in front rather than behind. This results in drops tight enough that not even Liam could dig them out. One game all. And then two games to one as Liam got increasingly wound up that he couldn’t dominate things. Game four saw Liam pulling out all the stops – that is in terms of movement, and determination, and also emotion. He was on the crest of the wave from 6-2 down and seemingly in trouble to win the game by a large margin, winning 13 points out of 15.
The deciding game was dramatic, albeit rather to voluble to be a classic. Despite the way game four went Jez still had his teeth into things and to Liam’s intense frustration he found himself trailing 7-2. But Jez wouldn’t give up and built a 7-2 lead at the start of the fifth. Liam pushed himself extra hard in response to try and claw things back, but Jez kept nicking a rally every other point or thereabouts as he got himself 13-9 up – the match was nearly Comberton’s. That became 14-11 to Jez and three straight points that weren’t only for the string but the whole shooting match. However Liam was flying about the court like a man possessed by now and he chased absolutely everything Jez tried down, whilst keeping errors out of his own game. All three saved. And then another in the bag and now it was Melbourn with a point for victory. The highs and lows weren’t done yet though as this time it was Jez who didn’t budge, claiming the next two rallies to give himself his fourth chance at 16-15. That was the second last twist – the final one was Liam gritting his teeth to save another match ball, and then earning himself his own second chance… which he took to complete an explosive and at times unlikely 15-11, 11-15, 13-15, 15-8, 18-16 win.

Liam’s comeback meant the 2nds won the evening 15-8, which was enough to swap the teams position in the table, Melbourn moving back up to third spot. Cambridge 3 suffered a shock defeat as well, which makes the gap between them and us just 12 points, which is potentially a bridgeable gap over the last six rounds of the campaign.

Peterborough 1 vs Melbourn 1 (24th January 2024)

Melbourn lost 17-11

There was an element of After the Lord Mayor’s Show for Melbourn Squash Club 1sts last week as they were unable to back up a good opening win to the second half of the campaign. This side fell to an 11-17 away defeat at Peterborough 1sts, which was an intensely close match but also a slightly deflating outcome for Melbourn 7 days on from an away win at league leaders Hunts County.

There was next to nothing to choose between the players in all five strings, none of which were won in straight games. However at the end of things Melbourn only had two wins to their name, provided by Vinod Duraikan (3) and Miles Jeanneret (4) who won 3-1 and 3-2 against Courtey Burke and Tim Millintong respectively. Meanwhile Peterborough claim three wins as Matt Sampson (1) and Chris Shaw (2) both lost 3-2, Matt falling to longstanding rival Dan Soar whilst Chris, who played through injury to keep the order, fell to a shock-on-paper defeat to youngster Aiden Fillmore. The overall match went Peterborough’s way as they won the bottom string as well, Melbourn skipper Mark Oppen (5) falling 3-1 to Sean Michelson.

Defeat saw Melbourn drop two places to 8th in the Division 1 table.

Melbourn 2 vs Saffron Walden 1 (22nd January 2024)

Melbourn lost 3-18

This match had loomed on the calendar for a while given the positions of the sides just behind Cambridge 3rds at the top of the Division 3 table. We sat second, but Walden were only a couple of points worse off in third. And it was clear from the team selections that both Captains had pulled out the stops in terms of selection and availability as both teams were basically as strong as they could be – I believe that all 10 players involved either had a SquashLevel of >2000 on the day or have had that many points to their names at some stage over the past 12 months!

That pre-match SquashLevels check was also concerning though as, based on the ratings, we were looking at a 5-0 win for Walden. Could the 2nds upset the apple cart. Well, Gareth Jones (5) had a good go against Christopher Gray. Chris is a lovely player with a fine touch, but it was clear from early on that his fitness was short of where it could be, and that this was an opportunity for Gareth to claim a higher-rated scalp. All he needed to do was play against type and make a string of straight counter-drops. Nothing too complicated, nothing to hard, push your opponent deep, get a short ball, pop it in and wait for him not to run for it. After figuring this out midway through game one Gareth executed things perfectly for a game-and-a-half to build a 2-0 lead. He did lose his way in game three (Gareth wouldn’t be Gareth without a Gareth-esque wobble) but give how hard Chris was breathing a barnstorming comeback to win 3-2 seemed highly unlikely – instead Gareth was able to re-assert himself and take the fourth to complete the win.

That was the good news. That bad was ever other string went to the form book. Exactly to the form book. Liam Murphy (2) played well for two games against Will Blower, but his best shots making no impression on his opponent and the occasional loose one being pounced on was getting him down and he somewhat spiralled in the third. Kate Bradshaw (1) saw her match against Simon Goddard flow similarly, though here it was more Simon getting extra confident than Kate’s head dropping to her chin – still 3-0 overall. Ed Aspelling (3) was up against a player he knows well in Andrew Kidger. The two produced a lot of high class Squash… but Ed always seemed to be the more reactive of the two and this eventually told in every game as the later points flowed away from him: a third 3-0 to Walden, and with that overall victory. That meant Jan Brynjolffssen (4) against Mark Scott was academic from a result point-of-view (though not a league table one). That was handy as Jan spent the next 20 minutes consistently running in the wrong direction as Mark held his shots, waited for his opponent to show which way he was going to move, and then opened or closed his wrist to send it to a different corner. Another match that got easier for the away player as it progressed.

Jan (standing in for Colm) commented post-match: “This was the strongest side Walden have put out this season… they pulled out all the stops, and it showed. We were also at basically full strength but were simply outmatched – the match was played at an extremely high level for Division 3.
“If Walden can get the same team out regularly they walk away with the title. But if we can get the same five out most weeks we will be in with a strong shout for second. We do need to bounce back immediately, though.”

Hunts County 1 vs Melbourn 1 (17th January 2024)

Melbourn won 19-7

The 1sts pulled off their best result of the season to date, and arguably of any of their recent forays into Cambs Division 1, as they opened the second half of the campaign with an away win at leaders Hunts County 1sts.

The home side had a very familiar look to them as three of their number, Colin Griggs, Sofia Averio-Pita and Jason Burgon, have each played for Melbourn in the past – Colin learning the game at our club many years ago (he now teaches it to others!), with Sofia and Jason having played for us as recently as the Herts League last summer.

All three former Melbourn players fell to a current representative though as Colin was beaten 3-2 by Matt Sampson at top string, Sofia fell 3-0 to Chris Shaw (2) and Jason went the same way against Vinod Duraikan (3).

The bottom two strings were intensely close contests, Mike Herd (4) coming out on the right side of a match that went the distance against Henry Ingham with Mark Oppen (5) losing out in similar fashion after he and Luke Halliwell (the newly appointed league secretary) played each other to a near stand-still.

The final score was 19-7 in the 1sts favour, which lifted the boys up to sixth in the Division 1 standings.

Ely 2 vs Melbourn 2 (18th January 2024)

Melbourn won 18-6

The 2nds were after a less dramatic evening than in the Cup the previous week, when Liam had had to recover from two games down to win a decisive final string of the evening. And they managed it… if you consider Liam fighting back from one game behind to win a winner-takes-all match as a significant variance!

There was a whole evenings Squash to come before we got to Liam’s match though, starting with Matt Walker (5) against Benedict Cross. This string alone packed enough drama in for the whole evening as the match swung this way and that. Matt lost the first, found more consistency to win the second, but then got back into feeding Ben’s speed and dropped the third. He then found himself trailing 9-5 in the fourth (Cambs Division 3 is PAR-15 so this is not as terminal as some may consider it… but it’s still a serious hole to be in) only for Matt to respond by playing a string of focused, clean, low-risk points. And winning 8 rallies in a row as a result to move 13-9 ahead. There was still time for extra drama as Matt dropped off his level allowing things back to 13-12 before closing out game four and then kept edging ahead and being pegged back in the decider. That got nearly the whole way before an error from Ben at 13-14 got a relieved Matt over the line for a 3-2 win.

Things were more straightforward next door for Colm O’Gorman (4) against Martyn Goodger… though Colm did try his best to avoid such a boring match with some odd errors to keep Dave encouraged. Where is the fun in a quietly efficient win, eh? Colm always looked like he had the upper hand in rallies and was generally ahead throughout each game. He finally won 3-0. What’s all the fuss about?

The second match on Court 2 pitted Jan Brynjolffssen (2) against Chris Hornby. The pair had met before, Jan fighting back from 0-2 down to win 3-2 on that occasion. He was determined not to repeat that, pushing up the court high to attempt to take Chris’ drives down into the front backhand corner. This worked really nicely, so Jan repeated and repeated… until, mysteriously, he went for variation, trying to pull a backhand volley drop crosscourt instead. Having found the bottom of the tin with this it was “lesson learned” and back to the usual stuff until one comes back. Well, we are still waiting as the final point of the match was another volley-drop kill on the backhand side as Jan came through a much closer game than the 3-0 final score implies.

That put Melbourn 2-1 up and looking to Gareth Jones (3) to close things out against Dave Mankellow. This didn’t work as people in the depths of the Amazon rainforest can attest from having their ears burned by the “frustration”. Gareth was all discombobulated after a busy day and late arrival and that meant New Good Gareth, the patient sort that moves his feet and waits for his attacking opportunity was still unloading his stuff from the car and we got the older version of Gareth, all-upper-body, death-or-glory, winners-or-bust instead. Bust on this particular evening as more found the tin than zipped just above it, the match point at 13-14 in the fourth a case in point. Despite all the mistakes there was little in it in scores, Gareth losing the third and fourth 15-17, 13-15, but the hinderance of giving Dave a helping hand was too much to overcome.

That sent the night down to Liam Murphy (1) vs Andrew Jones. From the outset it was obvious that Andrew had some really lovely touch play in the front court – he was able to feather the ball beautifully. Liam spent the opening game trying to take him on at his own game, which is the Rod Laver method (‘attack a player’s strength, because if you can beat them on that then they have nowhere else to go!’) – this is why great players don’t necessarily make good coaches because what Rod Laver elides in that is step 1 is “Be Rod Laver”. Liam is good, but he ain’t an all-time great, and playing Andrew’s game just meant Andrew winning the opening game. However a problem is also a solution – game two saw Liam making Andew play his game, longer, more physical rallies, up and down the walls, and that worked well enough to claim a close one to level up. With that the match was turned on it’s head, Liam winning the next two going away as Andrew’s fitness dwindled and  as his breath went his touch followed it, leading to some odd errors as Liam won through 3-1.

The win kept Melbourn second in the Division 3 table, five points behind leaders Cambridge and only two ahead of third-placed side Saffron Walden. Who are the next opponents, as it happens. A lot riding on that one, then…

Newmarket 2 vs Melbourn 2 (11th January 2024)

Melbourn won 3-1(ish)

3-1(ish)? What? How come we don’t know the exact result? Well, the first problem this game through up for skipper Colm O’Gorman was finding five players who were both available and eligible to play in this Cup game – the rules of the competition are that only those who have previously played a league game may appear in the County Cups. Sensible, but somewhat restrictive for any side who has had good availability for the league games only to find regulars unavailable in Cup week. Which, irritatingly, was exactly where the 2s found themselves.

That meant the Moises Estrelles Navarro’s clash with Chris Talbott at fifth string was officially lost before Moises had even hit the court – he only travelled to give Chris a game, really. Which was a shame as he turned in an excellent performance to pick up a 3-0 win against a player who Squashlevels would have picked to beat him. But it didn’t count towards the three wins we needed to progress, which left it up to the rest of the Melbourn side to deliver.

This was something that both Matt Walker (3) and Jamie Ware (4) did in impressive fashion, seeing off experienced campaigners in Oliver Pynn and Gary Last respectively, both by a score of 3-1. Each match was distinctly losable, and in the end that would have seen Melbourn eliminated, so it was key that both Matt and Jamie gritted things out.

Next on was Colm (2), who probably shouldn’t have been playing anyway due to illness but did so for lack of alternative options. Colm’s hopes weren’t high against a very handy shot-player like Paul Bragg, who has the game and experience to make things really tough for an opponent who would really rather not be running hard. Colm started off strongly, racing into a 7-1 lead in the opening game but was rapidly running out of gas, Paul fighting back to take the game after an extended tie-break. This was terrible news as far as Colm was concerned – not only had he expended a substantial fraction of his likely maximal effort he also had nothing to show for it! From there on out it was really just a matter of time, and how much Colm was willing to hurt himself fighting against the inevitable – this turned out to be considerably as Colm forced each game to go the distance… and still had nothing to show at the end as he lost 3-0 anyway. Sometimes life is unfair!

This meant the match all went down to the top string as it was 3-1 to Melbourn on the court, but 2-2 on the scorecard. Liam Murphy (1) had to win against Graham Clark. Which was looking distinctly unpromising when Liam found himself two games down and generally frustrated with his game. However Liam hung tough, using his fitness and reach to stop Graham’s momentum and take the third game. This turned things on its head as Graham began to take greater and greater risks to try and flip things back the other way. Which didn’t work as it just played to Liam’s counter-punching style, allowing the Melbourn player to come storming back and win 3-2, which also made the overall score a win for his team; be it 3-1 or 3-2 – pick your poison.

We appear to be a little ahead of the rest of the Hereward Cup draw – this was the first QF to be played. Well the deadline for getting it done is still a way away – the QFs are to be played by 31st March. In fact one of the first round games, pitting St. Ivo against Saffron Walden, is still to happen (and that is overdue as it was meant to be out of the way before Christmas). The Semi will be against either St. Ivo or Walden or Peterborough… but we probably won’t know which until the league season is over and Easter has gone by. The Semis just need to be played by Friday 19th April, with the Finals day set for Saturday 20/4.

Melbourn 2 vs Hunts County 3 (27th November 2023)

Melbourn won 17-5

The 2nds opening half in the Division 3 has been upbeat, and it ended on an in-keeping note as the final game before the Christmas holidays produced a 17-5 win over Hunts County 3rds.
Hunts started positively after Kate Bradshaw (1) was edged out 3-0 by Sean Brodrick, though with only a handful of points between the players in every game. Melbourn struck straight back though, Jamie Ware (5) winning by the same score line with a 19-17 tie-breaker second game key to his success over Nathan Hilton.
Gareth Jones (3) got Melbourn’s noses ahead as he claimed a 3-0 win against Emily Fuller in a hard-hitting contest, though Gareth had to work for it as games two and three ended only 15-13 in his favour. Meanwhile next door Matt Walker (4) was involved in an epic contest with Rick Watson, Matt recovering from losing his first two games on tie-breaks to level things up at 2-2. The decider went all the way, Matt building a lead in the closing stages. The end was tense, Matt snatching at a chance he would usually snaffle in his sleep when match-ball up at 14-12… but then benefiting from an unforced error (Rick served out!) to get over the line 15-13.
With the winning bonus secured Liam Murphy (2) produced the performance of the night against Paul Goodwin, an experienced and tenacious player who arrived at the match with a record of five wins from six appearances this season. Nimble footwork and elastic stretching from Liam took Paul’s attacking game away from him though as the Melbourn player won 3-0.
The 2nds are locked in a three-way battle at the top of Division 3 at the mid-season break – they sit second, three points behind leaders Cambridge 3rds and ahead of Saffron Walden 1sts only on head-to-head record. Comberton and the Uni are a further 10 or so points back.

Cambridge University 1 vs Melbourn 1 (29th November 2023)

Melbourn lost 17-8

The 1sts suffered an extremely narrow defeat yet again as they concluded the opening half of the Cambridgeshire League Division 1 season with an 8-17 defeat at Cambridge University 1sts.
As with a number of other matches this season Melbourn were beaten by three strings to two, with at least one of the strings breaking the wrong way from their perspective after going all the way to the fifth game. In this match it was Miles Jeanneret (4) who suffered that fate, in his case not just losing his fifth game but seeing it disappear after an extended tie-break finally ended 15-13 in favour of Ellie White instead.
In the other strings the students won at the top and bottom as Matt Sampson (1) and Mark Oppen (5) both fell 3-0 to Benjamin Adams and Patrick Foley respectively. The middle strings went Melbourn’s way, Chris Shaw (2) recovering from a 2-1 deficit to beat Matthew Wong 3-2 and Vinod Duraikan (3) grinding his opponent down to win 3-1 going away from Ralphie Reeves, Vinod winning his third and fourth games 11-4, 11-2.
The 1sts sit eighth of the ten teams in Division 1 at the mid-season break.

Cambridge 3 vs Melbourn 2 (21st November 2023)

Melbourn lost 17-6

This one had loomed large in the calendar for a while seeing as it was a top-of-the-table clash, the 2nds (who had been top of Division 3 for a number of weeks) visiting a Cambridge 3rds side who had recently been catching us up and were in striking distance to overtake at the start of this encounter.

The first match on was the fifth strings, Matt Walker taking on Sanjay Porja. Sanjay likes to break the game up and boast, which was information Matt took on to court with him but initially found hard to utilise as Sanjay’s attacking strategy worked well on the cold Churchill College courts. Matt gradually warmed into things though, building a lead in the mid-part of game 1 and then scrambling over the line 15-13 as both players made key mistakes on big points (fortunately for Matt doing so tit-for-tat). Game two was much better from Melbourn’s perspective as Matt executed his game-plan perfectly: stay high to counter Sanjay’s angles and reverses, and go for drops and kills as the Cambridge’s player’s approach is all rather death-or-glory – it’s either a winner or he is far out of position and set up to be counter-attacked. This game ended 15-5 to Matt and thoroughly established the pattern. Sanjay dug in as hard as he could in game three, which made things much tighter, but Matt always had his nose ahead to complete a 15-13, 15-5, 15-11 win.

The first string on the other court turned out to be an epic as 2nds skipper Colm O’Gorman ran into Gift Nuka, who is a human running machine.
Being able to go and go and go is not so different from Colm’s strategy, though in his case it’s more Irish Terrier, get-ones-teeth-in and refuse to let go rather than Gift’s hyper-fit greyhound version of going forever. Grit, determination and constant running against athleticism. And constant running. Both the rallies and the games went on and on and on as neither player could find a consistent way of putting it out of the reach of their foe. However, in the end, both games one and two eluded Colm’s grasp as an element of tiredness crept in late on, he began to search for winners that were just not there against a player as fast as Gift – Gift won the opening pair by the same score, 15-13.
Game three was much the same, apart from Colm established a few point cushion early on which enabled him to stay calm and with the game plan of simply rally and rally until Gift broke down – when fitness is an obvious strength then shot-making must be a relative weakness… or players wouldn’t be down in Cambridgeshire Division 3. Everyone at our level is flawed in some way, that is why we play where we do! Anyway, yes, grinding Colm ground out game three by the same score flipped, 15-13, but could repeat the trick in the fourth as this one was closer. The closest yet in fact, going to a tie-break. But this ended 16-14 to Gift, making the final score 3-1 in the Cambridge player’s favour. Both players seemed relieved it ended there – even someone as fit as Gift was feeling it, which goes to show how physical Colm had made the match.

By this point the 1sts strings were on the other side, Liam Murphy taking on Cambridge’s Alex Holland. And it was soon apparent that the players were going to put on a feast of Squash, with Alex’s shot making coming up against Liam’s superb movement and retrieving. Game one was nip-and-tuck until Alex upped things a notch in the final moments to squeak it 15-12. The second was Liam at his very best as he moved, lunged, kept rallies going far longer than they should and also feathered in some lovely touch drops. One particular jaw-dropping rally saw wrong-footing drop-shots exchanged at the front wall, both players lunging out to make unlikely retrieves until a slightly looser pick up from Liam allowed Alex to pump it down the backhand wall. Liam was not done though, racing back across court to boast it back. “No matter” said Alex, as he stepped in to take the forehand drop shot kill early… into the nick for good measure… yet somehow Liam ate up the court sprint to pick this stone dead shot up and flick it for a cross-court drop winner. Alex could only applaud. A handful of points later it was Alex’s turn to pull off the extraordinary when Liam produced a seemingly inch-perfect lob into the backhand corner. With no apparent angle to work with Alex somehow forced a backhand boast out that crept above the tin and dropped short enough to force an error from Liam.
These exchanges typified the high level of game two, which looked like it was going Liam’s way when he got 14-11 up. However, once again Alex found an extra gear in the clutch moments to play three very clean rallies to save the game balls. Liam was gutsy himself at 15-14 and 16-15 down, especially the first one as he won a rally that had been in Alex’s control from the serve, but eventually he broke at 17-16 to fall two games down. And that, really, was the match as it was too lung-busting and thigh-burning even for someone as fit as Liam to contemplate a comeback from 2-0 down. Liam tried to shorten rallies in the third, which just led to a string of mistakes totally uncharacteristic of what had come before. This wound Liam up, his lovely racquet (which had worked wonderfully for two games) paid the ultimate price, and Alex won 3-0. Game scores 12-15, 16-18, 4-15.

Meanwhile on the other court one epic was followed by another as Gareth Jones took on Ben Knappett at third string.
Gareth took a game to get going (never!) as the opener saw him playing his old style of overly attacking Squash, which didn’t work against a tall and swift mover like Ben, who was more than happy to counter-punch attempted kills from deep for his own winners. Having seen that Old Gareth wasn’t going to work Gareth broke out New Gareth for game two, playing with more patience and straightness, looking to work his way in front, and only then go for the kills. Not a particularly novel Squash strategy, but always a good one. And effectively delivered to win game two 15-8 and level up.
That was great. Keep doing that. Don’t get complacent and start mixing things up and going for winners agai… oh. So what we got instead was groundhog day as Gareth over-egged the pudding in game three, learned his lesson for it and played lovely controlled stuff in game four. 8-15, 15-12. 2-2. Unfortunately it is hard to break out of patterns and the same situation manifested itself at the start of the fifth as Gareth made key errors trying to over-press, falling a distance behind (memory says something along the lines of 11-3). Faced with impending defeat Gareth knuckled down, worked things rally by rally and was closing when an unlikely (*cough* mis-hit *cough*) winner gave Ben a key point at 13-10. Rather than 13-11 and getting increasingly under-pressure the Cambridge player suddenly had 4 match balls – he only needed one as Gareth was beaten 6-15, 15-8, 8-15, 15-12, 10-15.

Despite carrying an injury, Jan Brynjolffssen was determined to play and help the team against a strong Cambridge 3 side, who were positioned in 2nd position in the table before the top of the table clash. Jan was up against James Buckley, a match which would in normal circumstances go the distance.
Game 1 was evenly balanced, both players retrieving and driving to the corners, 5:5 and then 6:6. Jan was applying the pressure with relentless driving to the corners and forced the errors, to lead 6:8. Jan then uncharacteristically served out, in so doing handed over the initiative and the game 15:9.
In game 2, Jan again more than held is own in the early stages. The injury however was clearly constraining Jan’s movement and mid-way through the game, James was able to stretch ahead. Jan was forced into take some risks which inevitably didn’t pay off, James taking the game 15:9 again.
Jan, as is his nature, was in no mood to throw in the towel, and came out fighting in the 3rd. In his best period of the match, Jan moved James around the court with variety to his game and picked off points at will. Jan continued to drive to the corners but the restriction in his movement meant he gave away points he normally wouldn’t conceded, and James was able to stay in touch and establish himself in the game. While Jan continued to battle, taking 3 points in a row when his opponent had match ball, it was a step too far on this occasion and James took the game 15:12 and the match.

That meant it was 4-1 to Cambridge overall, 17-6 on points. That was enough for the sides to swap places in the table, but it remains tight at the top and the 2nds are still very much in the Division 3 title hunt.

Melbourn 1 vs Ely Squash & Leisure 1 (22nd November 2023)

Melbourn won 20-4

The 1sts picked up a maximum 20 point haul in their Cambridge Squash League Division 1 clash with bottom side Ely 1sts in Melbourn’s penultimate match before the Christmas break.
Melbourn approached the fixture in determined fashion after suffering a series of frustratingly narrow losses in recent weeks, each by 3 strings to 2, with some of the individual rubbers in those also ending 3-2 the wrong way from Melbourn’s perspective. That was reversed in this fixture as both Vinod Duraikan (3) and Miles Jeanneret (4) ended on the right side of encounters that went the distance, Vinod going all the way to a deciding game tie-break before seeing off Ben Mitchell whilst Miles found a second wind in his deciding game after Jamie Woor had pegged back from being 2-1 up.
Either side of those Melbourn picked up comprehensive wins as Marrk Oppen (5) cruised away from Chris Hornby to win 3-0, whilst Chris Shaw (2) was always in control of his match as he won all three of his games with Chris Purkiss 11-3. Matt Sampson completed the whitewash with another 3-0 win, taking two games by comfortable scorelines then seeing off a fight-back from Jack White to wrap things up in a game three tie-break that nipped any comeback in the bud.

Melbourn I vs Towers (15th November 2023)

What we told the local press, pt. 5ish
[Ed - I'm trying to presuade the 1sts to submit 'proper' reports with more colour in them... but it's not proving easy so far. Too focused on being good at Squash or something... ;-)]

Melbourn Squash Club 1sts were so close and yet so far to a second win of the season for the second consecutive week after they lost 15-10 at home to Bedford-based side Club Towers.

Every string was extremely tight, with a most games decided by two or three points, many of them going to tie-breaks.  Melbourn fell behind when Miles Jeanneret (5) recovered from a 2-0 deficit to force a decider but ran out of steam in that and lost 3-2. The hosts struck back though as Mike Herd (4) produced an impressive performance to win 3-1.

Another Melbourn player to go the full distance was Vinod Duraikan (3), who exchanged games with his opponent to get to a fifth. In this Duraikan fell substantially behind but then put together a series of highly determined, fleet-footed rallies to close the gap right up. However the deficit proved just too much to overcome.

Once again Melbourn responded, Chris Shaw (2) finding just enough three times over to win his string 3-0. Unfortunately for the hosts things went the opposite way for Matt Sampson (1) as all three of his games went to tie-breaks, but all ended up going Towers way.

Melbourn II vs Cambridge University II (13th November 2023)

Melbourn lost 18-7

A third of the season had gone by and the Seconds were yet to taste defeat. However we knew we would be challenged on that when we saw Cambridge Uni’s team was the strongest they had put out all campaign, with their somewhat irregular top string present and correct and a new player to their squad at second string pushing everyone else down one or two spots.

Individual string summaries below follow the principle "a problem shared is a problem halved"... or in this case fifthed as reporting duties were shared around the team.

Jan writes:
The first match underway was the fifth strings, where Matt Walker took on Patrick Nickols. The first game as a back and forth affair as neither player managed to string runs of points together. Matt was having joy exploiting Patrick’s deep backhand corner whilst Patrick was catching Matt expecting drives and therefore a bit deep, which opened up the front corners for straight drops. In the end it went to a break and ended on a frustrating error from Matt. Game two was much better for the home side as Matt adjusted his position higher up the court, which allowed him to get Patrick’s kills and really work over that deep backhand. A string of forced errors gave Matt the game 15-12, and things were looking rosy. Unfortunately this didn’t last long into the third as Matt relaxed a little and made a few more errors whilst Patrick knuckled down. That meant a lead for the Uni player which he never relinquished to move 2-1 ahead. Game four was fairly similar to game three as Matt was always a little behind. He kept pushing and trying and fighting and generally giving it his all, but the small gap was never levelled up and Matt fell 14-16, 15-12, 9-15, 11-15.

Liam:
Next door Kate Bradshaw (1) was taking on Calum Harvey who’s warm up did not belie his game - controlled, consistent and economic movement. Kate started at pace which fed into Calum's natural rhythm; Calum’s refusal to make mistakes led him to a quick lead. Kate did try and mix it up but lost out 15-11. Hoping her legs would fire up, Kate tried to disrupt Calum and change up the pace in the second but again Calum won marginally 15-12. The third saw Kate finally find her movement, this time slowing the game down, and also the killer volleys she had been searching for. Calum lost his way a little and Kate forced the errors seeing her take it 15-12. The fourth was a real tactical tussle and saw both players play some beautiful squash, with each in a position to take the game. However, some errors from Kate toward the end gifted Calum a marathon game 19-17 and the match 3-1.

Matt:
The second match on Court 1 pitted Jan Brynjolffssen (3) against Benjamin Peng Jan took to the court knowing that a win would be essential to maintaining hopes of a team victory, following first-up losses for strings 1 and 5.
The tone for a highly competitive and clean hitting match of lung-busting rallies was set in the first game which ebbed and flowed but ultimately went the way of the visitors as a run of points in the final third of the game proved too much ground to make up for Jan. The second and third games were similarly cat-and-mouse with both players finding lengths and widths to keep points tight and, with a warm court making dead-drops or die-in-the-corner drives hard to come by, outcomes often decided by an error. Jan proved the more consistent in both games, edging ahead 2-1.
It may have been the mental and physical effort of the first three games that saw Benjamin capitalise on a slight dip in Jan’s form in the fourth game. A 5th-game decider felt fitting for the match, and this was as closely fought as any of the preceding games. The spoils went to the Cambridge player who in the closing stages perhaps profited from higher risk tactics in showing more willingness than in previous games to go harder and lower in his shot-making. Regardless of the outcome, it was a great watch and the match of the night. Jan lost 9-15, 15-13, 16-14, 9-15, 12-15.

Liam (stepping in for Kate):
Long before Jan’s match had finished Gareth Jones (4) got underway against Duncan Greenshields. What looked like a blood and thunder contest very much played out that way in game one with both Gareth and Duncan having a repertoire of thunderous drives and cross courts which, on warm courts, meant the rallies just kept on going. Duncan took a fast lead, with Gareth learning very quickly that he would have to slow things down. Into the second and Gareth produced more control and less swashbuckle, and as a result put Duncan under more pressure, translating into a well fought levelling of the match. The next two games saw Gareth continue to exert control and increase pressure on his opponent. Duncan started to make more errors as he didn't intend on changing his game plan, which led him to fade out of the contest, Gareth sailing through the next two games to take the match 3-1. Game scores were 6-15, 16-14, 15-12, 15-9.

Gareth:
As Liam Murphy (2) went on court the match was still in the balance. Yes, we were 2-1 down but there were still 2 matches up for grabs. Liam hit overdrive and played out of his skin. Chasing down seemingly impossible balls, keeping the rally going, playing tight and deep, minimal unforced errors. All the things we normally say should win him the game.  Quite frankly Liam was playing beautiful squash. But.....and it was quite a big but.....his opponent, Chris Miller, was doing the same...but better. Quite a lot better as I am sure Liam won't mind me saying. Great to watch. Easy to mark, but only really going in one direction despite Liam's almost superhuman efforts.  Suffice to say the result was 3-0 but basically we should probably acknowledge that Chris should not really be playing 2 in Div 3! Game scores were… painful (and not to be repeated here!).

Narrator* takes back over:
Jan, skippering Melbourn for the night, observed afterwards “Gareth did the business for us, and Kate, Matt and I were all in our contests; on another night we could have snatched one or two more wins. But equally the results that happened were fair. They were all good contest and high quality for this level. The Uni put out a very strong team in general, and in Chris [their no.2] they have a player who is exceptional at this level. Liam was very unlucky to run into him.”

* - Sometimes reliable. Unreliably reliable, then.
* - Did you know the narrator in Danger Mouse (definitely unreliable!) is called Isambard? The things you learn from reading these reports…

Stamford I vs Melbourn I (8th November 2023)

Melbourn lost 10-16

Press Release report

Melbourn Squash Club 1sts fell to an agonisingly narrow defeat in their Cambridgeshire League Division 1 match at Stamford last week.

The sides went into the match with little between them in the table, and that closeness was transferred onto the court, especially at fifth string where Miles Jeanneret battled hard but eventually came up short against Eden Spooner 3-2. Stamford extended their advantage as Mike Herd (4) was beaten 3-0 by Neil Steadman, but Melbourn fought back with 3-1 wins for Chris Shaw (2) and Vinod Duraikan (3), the former coming against former World Women’s no.4 Tania Bailey and the later versus Rob vVvian.

That sent the match to a deciding rubber at top string, Matt Sampson (1) building a two games to one lead. Sampson’s teenaged opponent, Callum McGurk, showed no signs of slowing though, and took advantage of some non-ideal court conditions (a damp night resulting in wet walls with skidding bounces that disrupted Matt’s attempts to find dying lengths) to power his way back to win 3-2, securing the overall win for the hosts by three rubbers to two.

Melbourn II vs Kimbolton I (6th November 2023)

Melbourn won 20-3

Week 6 of the season, and the 2nds were yet to lose a match. Could we keep that record going against newly promoted Kimbolton?

The initial signs were highly promising as Aidan Hird (3) and Matt Walker (5) took the court against Ian Morgan and Adam Jessup respectively, and immediately took firm control of their matches.
Aidan was in ‘Good Aidan’ mode, playing with control up and down the walls to keep the ball to a nice depth – it took a good eight rallies before he finally unleashed the power, by which stage he was 7-1 to the good. Ian fought as valiantly as he could but he was always behind, both on the scoreboard and physically on the court. And he found what many others have discovered before him, that playing from the back of the court against Aidan can be a nightmare. Aidan never let up, keep himself calmly constructing rallies throughout to rattle through a 15-6, 15-7, 15-3 success.

Something similar was happening next door between Matt and Adam as Matt kept the tight and deep, asking Adam to play his touch shots from near the back-wall – not where Adam’s game is at it’s most effective. This lead to a string of errors from the Kimbolton player’s racquet as he tried to make high tariff shots. By contrast Matt was up on the service line, which was perfect for his cut-out drop volleys, which Adam had no chance of retrieving. The only potential issue for Matt was a loss of focus, which he avoided by staying true to his game to wrap up a comprehensive 15-6, 15-6, 15-7 win.

The match was played to the National League standard order, albeit by pure coincidence. That meant the third game on was the top strings, where Liam Murphy (1) took on Graham Uff. And see above, really – Liam always had this one in the palm of his hand as Graham struggled to cope with his spectacular retrieving based on his length and stretch. Liam can always be relied upon to keep the crowd in the match, which he did in this one by making a few unforced errors at the start of ame three that kept it close for a while, but when it came to the crunch Liam’s focus and simple, basic and highly effective defensive Squash was back on show as he rounded out a 15-5, 15-6, 15-11 win.

The 2nds had the win in our pockets whilst Gareth Jones (4) was on court with Andy Rettie. Andy has the touch and court nous to exploit errors if Gareth let’s them creep into his game, and that was the case in the first as Kimbolton got their first point of the evening on board. However Gareth reacted right by going cleaner, simpler and more patient, a generally applicable mantra. That saw him take the second 15-6 and generally take control of the match. From then on Gareth was dictating playing, eventually winning 9-15, 15-6, 15-9, 15-9.

The first four strings were all very quick, and there was concern that we would be at the pub for dinner before they were ready. However Jan Brynjolffssen (2) advised his teammates to wait to call “in case my game goes four or five” – prescient. It didn’t look likely after Jan waltzed through game one against Dave Parker 15-5, but after that Dave began to dig balls out of the deep backhand corner much better, and Jan seemed to lose his way playing loose balls that Dave was able to push forward and boast or volley-drop. Jan was no longer able to read his opponent’s shots and found himself scrambling, losing game two on a breaker and falling 14-7 down in the third. That was a turning point though as from there Jan found that playing with less calmness and more intensity worked – nearly enough to turn game three around as the first 6 game balls were saved (but not the seventh) followed by game four fairly comfortably. Game five was tighter as Dave threw the kitchen sink at it, but a key call from the marker at 12-9 proved critical as he ruled a shot back over Jan’s head had also cleared Dave’s: no let and 13-9 rather than a stroke and 12-10. Jan took advantage of the let off to close things out 15-5, 14-16, 13-15, 15-8, 15-10 and ensure Melbourn’s first maximum point haul of the season.

After the match Jan commented “Well, I couldn’t let us get to the pub too early, could I? I blame my teammates for being all efficient and stuff. Next time, lads, like me and Gareth – put a little bit of tension and drama into the evening!
“That said, it was great to finally get a 5-0 win, which we have been threatening for a while. It took us 20 points clear at the top of the table as well, which is also good news. Somewhat unexpected news. But good, nonetheless.”

Melbourn I vs Cambridge I (1st November 2023)

Melbourn lost 5-18

What we told the press:
Melbourn Squash Club 1st team were frustrated by the outcome despite competing well against Cambridgeshire Squash League Division 1 leaders Cambridge 1sts hard before going down to an 18-5 defeat.
The visitors started fast, winning 3-0 at each of the bottom two strings, though Melbourn’s skipper Mark Oppen (5) was involved in an extended tie-break in his second game with Hamish MacKenzie; former Cambridge player Miles Jeanneret (4) was well beaten by Cameron Gibb.
Mike Herd’s match with Grant Bryant at third string was extremely tight, with games going either way by a handful of points. It eventually went the full distance, but in the end Herd was beaten 3-2. Vinod Duraikan (2) also played a series of tight games against Ali Dawson, but saw each go against him to lose 3-0. Melbourn got a consolation win as Chris Shaw (1) came through his match with Stefan Ranoszek 3-1 to ensure Melbourn got a decent point return from the evening.
Melbourn currently sit 8th of the 10 sides in Division 1.

[Ed - hopefully a 'proper' website report will replace this short summary at some point]

Cambridge IV vs Melbourn II (2nd November 2023)

Melbourn won 19-5

All refreshed after a week off the 2nds returned to Cambs League action with a short trip to Churchill College to take on Cambridge 4ths.

The first issue of the night was the building work going on at the venue, which neatly segregated the car park from the building housing the courts. Once this obstacle was negotiated and all the players were inside the venue it was time to start… and 30 seconds later it was time for everyone to comment “These courts are icy cold, aren’t they?? The walls are stone dead!”

First into the cooler was Jamie Ware (5) who took on home skipper Jonathan Hughes. It was immediately clear that Jamie was the cleaner of the two players, and would win if he kept himself light on his feet to cope with Jonathan’s admirable attempts to scramble and irritating ability to somehow get the ball not only back, but back popping out at all sorts of unexpected angles. Jamie was mostly dictating the rallies in game one, lost his way for a period in game two as he went for immediate kills that Jonathan had read he would attempt, but once he steady himself to construct rallies took charge again at the start of game three – racing into a 7-0 lead – and eventually came through 15-9, 13-15, 15-7, 15-11 without undue stress.

Next door Matt Walker (4) was up against Stephen Axford. Matt made somewhat heavy weather of the first game as he frittered away a lead and got drawn into a battle. Mistakes at key moments kept undermining his attempts to pull away, the game getting closer than he wanted. However Matt ground it out to take the opener on this breaker… and once he had that really decided the match as Stephen had given his all to the first and fallen short. Matt cleaned his game up, utilising the patented Walker pattern of deep drives and cut-out drop volleys [a patent liable to challenge by many others on the grounds of prior art… but that is not our concern] to take an increasing stranglehold and claim a 15-10, 15-7, 15-7 win.

Colm O’Gorman (3) had followed Matt on to court, up against Anderw Stott who looked like he had classy shots in the warm-up. Colm started well enough, establishing a lead as his more dogged play was initially outdoing Andrew’s stylings. But the game got close, and Colm got a bit tight, Andrew eventually taking it on a tie-break. That proved to be rather pyrrhic for the Cambridge player though as the effort involved had clearly drained his tanks. From game two onwards he was a step slower, which allowed Colm to put him into deep positions where he needed to make his attacking shots from poor court positions. He tried anyway… and made errors. Colm was in increasing command of proceedings as a result and came through 17-19, 15-9, 15-6, 15-8.

A similar contrast in game styles was in evidence as Jan Brynjolffssen (2) took on Chris Smith. Chris had looked to have some really flashy shots in the warm-up, the top-spin backhands were particularly interesting, but once the game got underway Jan found he could read Chris’ attempts to kill in the front corners, which in turn allowed Jan to pump the ball into the icy-cold back corners were it flopped down, waved its legs in the air and never moved again. Chris looked increasingly bemused about why it wasn’t working, with Jan also quietly perplexed about how well things were working – the first two games ended with really lop-sided scores. Game three was closer as Chris played somewhat more conventionally and Jan made more errors than he had in the first two combined, but an acceleration towards the end closed things out for a comprehensive 15-5, 15-4, 15-10 win for the Melbourn player.

The final match of the evening between Liam Murphy (1) and Peter Connaughton was therefore a dead rubber. It proved to be anything but dull though. In fact it was the closest, and far and away the most dramatic clash of the evening.
The pattern of play was set early as Peter tried to catch Liam out with boasts and Liam moved and stretched and lunged in his usual highly accomplished fashion to counter-punch these. Liam appeared to be cruising in the opening as Peter was forced into errors going for too much, with Liam having six game balls at 14-7. Good job as he lost focus and half-a-yard of speed with it, only regaining it when he heard the score was now 11-14. He queried this (it was right) and having woken from the spell he won the next rally to avoid throwing the game away. The second was similar, even though Liam was frustrated by his serve during it. But even so he controlled matters and took a two-love lead.
Game three proved to be a turning point as Liam lost a fraction of sharpness, which let some of Peter’s boasts become the winners the home player needed. Nothing in it as the game went to a break, but it was Peter who claimed it 17-15 to revive the contest. Now Liam was struggling, mentally and physically. His Squash was still there, but the legs and at times the self-belief were not where he would have liked them to be. This saw a lead at mid-game turned around, and we were in for a decider.
If what had come before was drama it was nothing on the last. Liam had a smallish lead at mid-game when a ball off the back wall came all the way back to Peter on the ‘t’. Liam asked for a let, meaning a stroke. Technically he was probably right, but most markers in Division 3 apply the (not part of the rules!) rule of thumb from club play of “no strokes off the back wall” so Liam only got a let out of it. This prompted an eruption from Liam, which didn’t get him the stroke he wanted… but was channelled into six points of massive intensity, all of which he won. With a 13-7 lead it seemed the match was in the bag… which was unfortunate because that meant the wave of emotion subsided and that allowed Peter to claw his way back in, one point at a time. One at a time and seven in a row as 13-7 became 13-14! It looked for all the world like it would be 13-15, only for Liam to make an extraordinary stretching forehand retrieve, another desperation chase to the deep backhand corner, and somehow turn the point around to save the match ball. And then promptly serve out to make himself face another. He saved that one as well, but couldn’t repeat the trick for a third time at 15-16 as Peter’s boast was just out of reach of the forehand stretch. It finished 2-3 against (15-11, 15-10, 15-17, 12-15, 15-17), making the final score 19-5 in our favour.

After the game the news filtered through that Cambridge 3rds had lost elsewhere. Which was important as we had started the evening second in the table to Cambridge 3rds, who were the only unbeaten side in Division 3 alongside us. No longer – Melbourn are now the only unbeaten team, and are top of the table. Whoop!

Skipper Colm reacted thus: “A strengthened Cambridge 4 team present a big challenge for us tonight, and a special mention to Jamie, who stepped in for his first match of the season, winning a tough match. Taking 19 points tonight and going top of the table after 5 rounds puts us in a strong position early in the season.”

Melbourn II vs Peterborough III (16th October 2023)

Melbourn won 15-9

Week four of the season brought with it a clash of unbeaten teams as Peterborough made the trip down the A1 to face us.

Pre-match was characterised by late chopping and changing in our side as Ed and Aidan dropped out from their planned games at 1 and 5,* which lead to strings 2-4 moving up a spot and Sean Hamilton and Matt Walker coming in at #4 and #5 for their first appearances of the season.
* - Yes, Aidan was really going to play #5 in Div.3. Given what happened in that string (see below) this would have been very interesting. Maybe we can get him out at that number for the return gam instead?

Matt (5) found himself up against a 12 year-old… but a very talented one as young Josh Fillmore is in the top handful for his age group nationally. It was immediately apparent in the knock-up that Matt would have his hands full as Josh belied his small stature by absolutely hammering the ball around the place. Pure timing… imagine what it will be like when he grows and adds muscle as well?!? *gulp* This wasn’t really the match that Matt was looking for as he attempts to work his game back into the state it was at prior to around three years of injuries. Too many errors from his racquet resulted in key points against as the kid battled with impressive maturity. There was so little in in… but Matt’s chance of beating Josh went by as he was beaten 11-15, 16-18, 15-12, 14-16. All his teammates were sympathetic… and glad it was him rather than us (and also hoping that Josh will be up into Peterborough 2nds before any of the rest of us have to try and cope with him!).

Sean (4) was facing a rather more experienced player in Peterborough skipper Pierre Caruso. These two have met before and that was very tight… and this was the same. Pierre was playing clever Squash, changing his angles around and Sean was getting frustrated as he felt he wasn’t hitting the ball clean, not really realising this was because it kept coming to him in (deliberately) awkward positions. When Sean did get a clean strike on to push Pierre back he could control rallies and dominate the front court, though. The phrase “there was nothing in it” is swimming towards this report, but actually there was a single fine margin there – Pierre won the clutch points in every game. That’ll do it – Sean lost 3-0. The final point of the match was typical of Pierre’s clever strategy as he got a service winner with a serve deliberately played with more angle, Sean rushing towards the wall to cut out any possibility of a dying serve into the corner… and finding the ball right up against his tights as a result. Sean lost 14-16, 12-15, 15-17.

OK, so we were two down. All on the top three then, starting with Gareth Jones (3) against Joe Eggins. Joe had the edge on Gareth in age – at least 15 years the Melbourn players Junior. But Gareth maybe had more Squash nous of the two. And game style favoured Gareth as Joe was the sort of hard-hitting run-and-gun player that Gareth excels against. As with many a Gareth match this was very much on the Melbourn player’s racquet – could he force himself to eschew the power kills from no sort of position and get the good lengths, letting Joe make the mistakes instead? Apart from game two the answer to this was ‘yes, he could’ as Gareth once again showcased the greater control he has found in his game over the last year or two, coming through a match he might once have lost in relative comfort, winning 20-18, 12-15, 15-9, 15-10.

One back then. On to Jan Brynjolffssen (2) to add to it. Jan was up against Renzo Rozza Gonzalez, who was another youngish player who likes to run and likes to hit… but does the latter a little loosely. Just up Jan’s street really as he played a high, wide and deep game, finding repeated dying lengths into the back corners as Renzo opted against volleys in favour of hoping the ball would pop out – sometimes yes, but give repeated chances to try a dying length and he will find it sooner or later. There were some dips, the start of game three featured some over-aggressive play which lead to errors trying to kill balls that didn’t need to be killed, but mostly Jan was Mr Consistency, happy to rally away with Renzo because he was always confident that he was fit enough to last until his opponent was forced into an error. Jan won 15-11, 15-9, 15-9.

That sent it to the final match of the evening, Liam Murphy (1) taking on Jeff Fillmore. Liam once again showcased his wonderful movement and near professional stretching and lunging to keep getting balls back that Jeff was sure were going to be winners, this causing the Peterborough player to overpush. Jeff was responding with workrate and pure determination to keep himself in touch… and also living off the occasional odd error from Liam’s racquet when he moved from the defensive counter-puncher to trying to make the play. But overall the balance was in Liam’s favour as he took the opening two games and then got himself to three match balls at 14-11 in the third. However an overly aggressive attack on the first of these led to an error, which in turn prompted Liam to be too cautious with the remained. Jeff won five straight points to turn the game around. Suddenly it was game on.
The fourth was again tight as the players were nip-and-tuck, but once again it was Jeff’s determination that triumphed. But at what cost? He had seemed close to exhausted after game three and now was nearly out on his feet. Maybe that contributed to the fuss in game five as when Jeff didn’t get a stroke decision he wanted, but even if he had Liam was already in charge of the game and would probably have still won anyway. Jeff’s clear disagreement with the call (and the substantial majority opinion who thought he was wrong) definitely contributed to the margin in the decider as he lost his focus, allowing Liam to run away with it to claim the win for Melbourn. Liam won 15-11, 16-14, 14-16, 12-15, 15-4.

Stand-in skipper Jan offered the following post match comments "The finale was very dramatic. Liam’s fitness and retrieving was again exceptional, and this ultimately won him the match as Jeff could barely move anymore by fifth. It was probably his best performance of the season. As a team we did well to come through a challenging match with another win."

The 2nds sit second in the table in the Division 3 table at the half-term break following this win, just behind Cambridge 3rds, the only other side with four wins from four.

March I vs Melbourn I (18th October 2023)

Melbourn lost 10-14

The last match of the opening quarter of the season sent the 1sts north to take on March.

The match started off in disappointing fashion as the player due to play Mark Oppen (5) didn’t show, meaning he travelled and got no play. Hmm. That did mean Melbourn had one 3-0 win over their belts though.

March put this underwhelming start behind them by claiming string 4 as Miles Jeanneret was beaten 12-10, 11-13, 11-4, 11-3 by Christopher Parsons. Knowing the games of both players – lovely and clean with few mistakes but more defensive counter-punching than shot-makers – and looking at those game scores I’m thinking games one and two were pretty epic and those took all the sting out of Miles’ legs… Melbourn responded though as Vinod Duraikan (3) beat Avi Warren 11-8, 11-8, 11-6. Both Vinod and Avi have been around on the Cambs Squash scene for many years so I’m guessing there were no secrets here.

That put Melbour two rubbers to one up going into the top two strings, which both proved to be intense and drawn-out battles. Chris Shaw (2), up against Mark Davis, won his opening game on an extended tie-break, but was then narrowly edged out in the next three that were nearly as close, one of them another breaker. Game scores were 14-12, 9-11, 10-12, 8-11. Matt Sampson (1) also won his opening game on a breaker against Scott Drewery, and established a two games to one lead at one point, but was eventually undone by the Scott’s youth and fitness (he is in his early to mid-20s) as he outlasted Matt 3-2 (12-10, 7-11, 11-7, 7-11, 3-11)

The final score was 14-10 to March.

The 1sts go into the half-term bye week in 6th place out of the 10 teams in Division 1, with 42 points to their names from their four fixtures so far. Around 10 points per game would have had the side in mid-table last season, so this counts as an encouraging opening for sure.

St. Ivo I vs Melbourn I (11th October 2023)

Melbourn lost 7-16

The 1sts were looking to back up a first win of the season when they travelled to Huntingdon, which St. Ivo now call their home.

The hosts were noticeably strong at the top of the order, and noticeably young as well as two talented teenagers* as Chris Shaw (1) took on Diego Pita and Vinod Duraikan (2) faced off with Mumin Bilen. Neither clash went well for the Melbourn players as both fell 3-0, though Vinod did managed to drag one of his games as far as a tie-break. That was as close as either he or Chris got to claiming a game. Game scores were 8-11, 4-11, 5-11 for Chris and 2-11, 3-11, 11-13 for Vinod.
* - each of these handy youths has a Melbourn connection: Mumin had played for us for a couple of seasons around three or four years ago. Diego hasn’t played for us… but his sister Sofia (another super young player) did in the summer.

Melbourn countered in the bottom strings as both Miles Jeanneret (4) and Mark Oppen (5) battled out tough 3-1 wins, Miles securing his victory over Matt Dixon in a crucial game four tie-break as he dug deep when his energy reserves appeared spent, and Mark dealing with the huge hitting of Grant Mankee as he recovered from losing his opening game to storm back and win. Miles scores were 11-8, 11-6, 4-11, 12-10 whilst Mark came through 7-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9.

The crucial encounter of the evening turned out to be the middle string, where Mike Herd (3) was up against Nick Giles, who is a very clean and classy player. It took Mike a while to make any inroads on Nick, but once he was up to speed games 2, 3 and 4 were all close. However only the middle of them went Mike’s way as he lost 3-1 (3-11, 8-11, 11-9, 7-11).

The final score was 16-7 in St. Ivo’s favour.

Comberton II vs Melbourn II (10th October 2023)

Melbourn won 16-7

Match number three of the season sent the 2nds on the short trip to fellow South Cambs side, Comberton.

Once we arrived, and some who had been there many times before had refound the courts (oops) we discovered Comberton have had some recent investment which has given them a new glassback court. Whizzy. The opening of this must have been extremely recent as things are not yet set up fully around it. Which is something we will come back to later.

But let’s start our round-up on Court 2 (old traditional) where Colm O’Gorman (5) took on Tom Snaith. Tom is a very good touch player… usually. Not today though as Colm kept pounding him deep, drawing errors from his racquet. Great tactics from the Melbourn skip, frustrating as hell for his opponent. This saw Colm get comfortably through games 1 and 2, well comfortably on the scoreboard at least but we got the usual bellyaching from Colm that he was being asked to run around and work, and this was unreasonable, and it was all closer than the numbers said. No wolf, yet again.
Colm lost his way a little in game three after building an initial lead (Girvan-related loss-of-focus seemed to be the issue – playing and childminding are difficult to do simultaneously) but dug in when he fell behind, possibly spurred on by the knowledge he really didn’t want a fourth. He was aided in this by some outrageous fortune on shots at crucial times, clawing through the third game and avoiding what could have been an unpleasant turnaround of fortunes – Colm won 15-8, 15-7, 15-13.

Meanwhile over on the glassback the first strings on were the top ones where Kate Bradshaw took on Connor Harmer. During the warm-up Kate was already looking a bit uncomfortable with the set up, as the unlit spectator gallery and dark unfinished areas behind the back wall were seeing the ball disappear when it went deep. She was also essaying a little concern over Connor’s likely game style – hard running and hard hitting rather than the technical rally-building of Kate’s own game, which she also excels against. Despite this Kate’s killer touch was in evidence in game one as she went ahead, but then her fears came to fruition in game two as Connor picked up her kills and then fired it back at her with both pace and odd directions. Kate came off saying she needed to play “high and tight” which was achieved in game three, but then she lost her way again in games four and five as too many pop outs and balls sitting up allowed Connor to run her out of it. Kate lost 15-9, 12-15, 15-9, 10-15, 11-15.

Switching back across to the standard court where the second match on pitted Liam Murphy (2) against Alastair Maclean. Liam was talking about how he is the fittest he has been for years – lots of time and effort has been invested in it – and this is both true… but of the two players, in context, veteran Alastair’s energy and movement was even more impressive. Tag on deadly attacks when he gets a loose ball and Alastair is a difficult player to play against, which makes Liam’s eventual 3-1 victory all the more notable. As does finishing it on close to one leg after a stumble saw Alastair’s full body weight go through Liam’s calf – Liam’s description of this was a “chop tackle”. Game four was obviously the critical one as it was extremely close, but Liam went on to claim a 15-10, 9-15, 15-7, 15-13 win to have us 2-1 up.

This lead wasn’t to last all that long though as back on the glassback Jan Brynjolffssen (3) was struggling with two things – the somewhat dead front walls, and opponent Richard Anthony’s ability to hold his shots and mess with his opponent’s movement. Jan fell behind early in the first and never really rallied, but did have Richard a little worried in the second with a string of points late on. The issue was this was from 14-8 down and if it took a death-or-glory volley drop return winner to see Richard across the line on his fifth game point, that was still good enough. Jan also essayed a bit of a comeback at the end of game three, but again this was from a losing position as ultimately he was out-thought in this one and beaten 9-15, 12-15, 10-15.

This sent the match to the deciding rubber, which, untraditionally, was the fourth strings. Gareth Jones took on Jason Lane in this one, the crowd gathering around the glassback to watch, intrigued.
After two games where the unresponsive front wall and dead (and ball obscuring!) back corners had been an advantage for the Comberton players, this time the court conditions favoured Gareth’s power game. He could whack the ball as hard as he liked, and this would work wonderfully. Marvellous. This built him a lead in the first against Jason’s more coached game, but as the game got to its denouement Gareth began to lose his way, making drop shot errors to lose points. It got to 13-12 down, and a key moment as Gareth race into his front backhand corner and slapped the ball hard crosscourt right back at Jason – the Comberton player had the whole court to aim at, but rushed for time he tinned it… and then promptly followed this up with two more unforced errors in the next two rallies to gift Gareth an escape.
And that, basically, was the match as it turned out that Jason had cycled 250km two days before and his legs were turning to jelly. Gareth took increasing command, utilising the idea that power and pace could rush mistakes out of his opponent if he got into trouble (accurate attempted kills were put away on the counter, wild slams were tinned as Jason was rushed for time!) as Gareth won 15-13, 15-10, 15-8 going away

Melbourn I vs Peterborough I (4th October 2023)

Melbourn won 16-9

Last season it took Melbourn Squash Club 1st Team 14 goes to collect their first of the season in Cambridgeshire League Division 1. The team were relegate as a consequence… but receive a last-gasp reprieve a few weeks before the 2023-24 season when another side had to bail on the top flight after losing key players. So another assault on the top Division is underway, with everyone determined to improve upon the underwhelming outcome of last season.

The 1sts first step to most of their good fortune was to get that opening win rather quicker this time around. How about round 2 of the season at home to Peterborough? Yes, how about that…

The middle of the order was the key for Melbourn as Chris Shaw (2), Vinod Duraikan (3) and Mike Herd (4) all won.
Chris’ was the critical success, as he showed his superb conditioning to outlast a talented teenaged player, Aiden Fillmore, recovering a 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 (6-11, 11-5, 7-11, 11-3, 11-6).
Vinod brought out all of his usual understated athleticism (incredibly quick around court whilst never seeming to work hard) to claim a 3-0 success against Paul Watson. Game scores were 11/6, 11-9, 11-8.
Mike meanwhile won 3-1 going away, taking the clinching fourth game against Tim Millington for the loss of just two points to close out an 11-9, 11-7, 6-11, 11-2 victory.

Either side of this there were wins for Peterborough as Matt Sampson (1) was edged out 3-1 by Dan Soar, a very tall and hard-hitting opponent (11-3, 6-11, 5-11, 4-11), whilst Mark Oppen (5) fell by the same score against Sean Michelson, an unconventional but oddly effective player who gets results like this 7-11, 11-7, 7-11, 7-11 win that the eyeballs tell you shouldn’t happen [ed – you need to get on court with Sean to understand just how tricky he is to play!]

Overall it added up to a 16-9 win for Melbourn, meaning the side are up and running for wins after just two games this time around rather than having to wait until the final quarter of the season to get the scoreboard ticking over. Hopefully that is a sign of better things awaiting from this campaign…

Saffron Walden I vs Melbourn II (4th October 2023)

Melbourn won 17-5

Week two of the Cambridgeshire Leagues Division 3 season pitted Melbourn against a bunch of familiar faces, but not in a familiar location as Saffron Walden’s home courts at the Lord Butler Leisure Centre in their town have been closed after new owners of the centre found a problem in the roof above the courts, which they apparently have no plans to fix. This means the ‘home’ side now face a 1-hour round trip to Great Dunmow in Essex to play their home games. They have our sympathies, and we hope Squash can happen in Saffron Walden itself at some point in the near future.

N.B. This match report is once again a collaborative effort. Report writer identified ahead of each string.

Jan writes:
The match itself got underway in unusual fashion, with the 1st strings. This pitted Kate Bradshaw against Chris Gray. Kate was playing her first competitive game in a number of months after a spell out injured and was making her return to action for the 2nds rather than the 1sts. This showed in a couple of ways in the first game – the rustiness resulting in some mistakes in both shot execution and tactics, and dropping down a team seeing Kate walk off thinking she had lost the game when she fell 11-9 behind! It looked like Kate might make the most of her second chance when she immediately reversed the deficit to lead 13-12, but Chris took the next three rallies to win the game anyway.
The other issue, the tactical and execution one, was addressed from game two onwards as Kate accepted that the front court (her key strength) was also where Chris wanted to play and had his best shots, but that she had the beating of him by playing a deeper and more conservative game than is her usual wont. This resulted in claiming the second comfortably, and racing into a 5-0 lead in the third. We then got the Bradshaw-wobble as Chris was allowed back in, the game eventually ending in a tie-break. But when Kate won that 16-14 she had the match basically sewn up as Chris was patently out-on-his-feet by this stage. Game four was hardly a cakewalk but Kate was always ahead and in control as she won 13-15 15-8 16-14 15-12.

Liam:
Colm O’Gorman (5) came up against an opponent that nobody ever likes to play against - someone who plays tennis!! Colm was clearly the superior player winning 3-0, but a mixture of an 'unusual' playing style from Charles Arthur, awkward angles and mental tiredness from Colm, made it trickier than usual.
Despite winning each game, Colm's tendency to play the shot a squash player wouldn't want, did not mean Charles would respond in the same way. Each break between games involved a conversation on informing Colm on what his opponent didn't want, namely playing straight and low where he couldn't volley or cut the ball short. Elongating rallies and moving Charles back and forth saw Colm comfortably close the match out 15-9, 15-9, 15-10. Nice one Captain!

Colm:
Next up at string 2, Liam Murphy was against the highly ranked Mark Scott. Liam has been in excellent form, but this would present a challenge Liam has not faced. Mark was quick to assert his authority and forged ahead to lead 7:1. Liam however was not in the mood to let the first game go easily and found his rhythm. Using his fitness and determination, he retrieved brilliantly and started to step forward more. Liam took 5 points in a row to battle his way back to make it an even game at 8:8, we were in for a great contest. Each player fought for every ball, staying within a point of each other. Both players had a chance to take the game, Liam missing the opportunity at game point, Mark took it narrowly.
In the second, Liam was able to keep it close, but let Mark get ahead at the crucial time. Some marginal calls along with unforced errors were very frustrating for Liam, giving Mark the opportunity and he was able to take the game. While Liam was feeling hard done by, he overcame the frustration quickly and started the third game in confident mood, dictating the playing, introducing more variety to his game and putting his opponent under a lot more pressure. He was especially able to move Mark to the back corners before some deft drops, taking point after point. It looked as though Liam had figured out his opponent's game too. Mark however responded and adapted, helped with some luck and very clever play, in particular a number of accurate lobs to the back corners. He brought it to 13:13 and had the momentum, taking the third game and the match (Liam’s scores first) 15-17, 6-15, 13-15.

Jan:
Gareth Jones (4) finally got on court as the fourth match of the evening, having been all prepared to go on first. He found himself up against a very familiar face – current Melbourn member John Goodfellow, who played for the 2nds for a season recently but is has a much deeper association with Walden as he is their vice-captain.
How well did Gareth know John? Maybe a mix of too well, and not well enough. John is a clever, tricky, handy player at our level – he has a tendency to put the ball in positions that require twisting and turning to reach rather than necessarily outright winners. His opponent is constantly finding their movement messed with, and balls that in terms of location on the court may appear attackable but in context of how the player needs to move to reach them are not really like that.
This was close to a perfect strategy for unsettling Gareth, who couldn’t resist the apparent openings to attempt to bash winners even if it meant starting to swing whilst the ball was still behind his back! A half-court ball is attackable come what may, right? This led to frustration for both the Melbourn player and his teammates because i) he knew he was making errors and ii) they could see if he just played sensibly he was going to win.
The latter point was emphasised by Gareth reining himself in and by doing that having just enough to win the first game. He also edged the second, though this time he was of making it hard for himself was by floating his drives down the wall and trying to wrong-foot John on every kill when John was waiting patiently to see which way Gareth would go. Game three finally saw all the foibles ironed out as Gareth hit crisp drives down the walls and took the kill chances into the open court. That, finally, saw the best Gareth, the one we see in training sessions, emerge. And with it a 15-11, 15-13, 15-11 win was secured.

Gareth:
Last match of the evening was Jan Brynjolffssen (3) vs ‘Derek’ [Ed - aka Kirk Archibald 😉]   Pressure was off as the match was already in the bag, but that didn't stop Jan being determined to put in a decent performance. First game proved a bit tricky. ‘Derek’ was cutting the ball out early and looked to be on great form. 1-0 down. Time for some amazing advice – “Don’t let him take it early!” Jan upped his game and tightened up his line and length. Fitness also came into play and Jan started to take control. 1-1. ‘Derek’ continued to put up a decent fight but couldn't cope with Jan's consistency and extended rallies. 11-15, 15-10, 15-10, 15-7 in the end with Jan very much in control in the final game.

Job done. 4-1.

Colm said this was “Another good performance by the team which is great early in the season. Special mention to Liam who competed so well against a highly ranked opponent, unlucky not to get more from his match.”

Melbourn I vs Hunts County I (27th September 2023)

Melbourn lost 9-16

Melbourn's 1sts first team match of the winter season was against Hunts County… and also lots of fellow team mates from playing Herts summer and Cambridgeshire intercounty matches.

Melbourn's team comprised: Chris Shaw (1), Vinod Duraikan (2), Mike Herd (3), Miles Jeanneret (4) & Mark Oppen (5). It proved to be a series of closely fought battles.

Chris won comfortably 3-0 against Hunts captain Colin Griggs (11-8 / 11-6 / 11-6), who learned his Squash at Melbourn.

Mike's match against Jason Burgon looked like it may have been a straightforward win for the opposition after Mike lost the opening game 5-11. However, Mike gradually pulled it back in the second game, levelling the scores 10-10 and with the spectators wondering which way the result would go?!? For Melbourn though, Mike just missed out on the second game 10-12 and the opening half of the third game looked to be as tight as the second until around the 7th point - Mike made some errors that let Jason in that extended the lead. This resulted in Hunts gaining their first 3-0 match win of the night, levelling the overall teams result one-a-piece (5-11 / 10-12 / 7-11).

Miles was on next against Henry Ingham. The match was up and down, seeing Miles move from losing the opener 5-11 to then winning the second comfortably 11-6. With the games 1-1 it was more a case of whether Miles' had the legs to keep his match alive. The third game was close but Henry's retrieving was relentless and after a loose drop from Miles' the visiting player had game ball and shortly after the game 11-9. The fourth game was more like the first as Miles battled to stay in the game but alas the result went to the Hunts player 3-1 (4-11 / 11-6 / 9-11 / 5-11).

Mark (skipper) was on after Miles and it was looking like the match could be a close affair as Mark lost the opener 10-12 to his opponent, Luke Halliwell. Mark worked hard to control play, resulting in winning the second game 11-9. The third was even closer with Mark just about taking it 13-11. In typical fashion, the fourth game was a fitness mind game for Mark as he battled to gain control, losing the fourth 9-11. Going into a deciding fifth game, Mark had to dig deep to keep his match alive but through sheer determination he managed to take the fifth game 13-11 and match 3-2 (10-12 / 11-9 / 13-11 / 9-11 / 13-11).

With the overall nights Squash hinging on the result of Melbourn's Vinod Duraikan and Hunts Sofia Aveiro-Pita' match, the suspense was palpable. Sofia had a great start as she took the two first games 11-4 & 11-6. Vinod not to be underestimated, came back in the third game playing the ball earlier and with good length and variety that removed time for Sofia to tee-up for her killing drives. The third game was fantastic, seeing great rallies and excellent play. Vinod played well that earnt him a very close game win 15-13. The fourth game saw Vinod continuing to work hard, carrying on with his third game formula. Although it was tight, Vinod thankfully won the fourth 12-10 to level the match 2-2, making the fifth game the one game of the night to decide the overall result for both teams. Vinod' start in the fifth was not great as Sofia found herself with slightly more shot-prep-time again for unleashing her trademark drives. With Vinod 4 points behind it was looking dicey whether he could pull the scores level. Vinod did bring the scores close but the earlier slow start from the blocks made it an even bigger challenge and unfortunately Vinod missed out on the win 8-11 and his match 2-3 (4-11 / 6-11 / 15-13 / 12-10 / 8-11)

Red Thai curry and hospitality at the Queen's Head afterwards was excellent, as usual. 

Mark commented afterwards: “It was great to see the team back on court again competing in league 1. This division is always a challenge, but we put in a good fight against our close rivals, Hunts. Although not a win, we were grateful for the 9 points and look forward to our next match, at home to Peterborough.”

Melbourn II vs Ely II (25th September 2023)

Melbourn won 17-3

Here we go again, then. Another Winter League season. The 2nds are in Division 3 once more, having finished a comfortable fourth last time out, and with a beefed up squad as it looks like we will have Kate and Ed to call upon, for a while at least. Hopes of a good season are high in that regard.

The first test was against an Ely side newly promoted from Division 4. Like any promoted side the visitors were used to winning, but there is a definite step up in level between Div.3 and Div.4 and this was something Melbourn successfully demonstrated by winning the bottom four strings all 3-0.

The margins of victory may have been the same, but the pattern of the matches varied. For instance skipper Colm O’Gorman (5) had to work his little cotton socks off* to see off Daniel Osborn, who proved to be very fit and tenacious (not the sort of player Colm enjoys facing at all!) but who made too many mistakes. As Daniel tired in games the margins grew, and we all know Colm likes a moan about things being too difficult/exhausting/whatever but the final scores of 15-8, 15-6, 15-6 really do make the match seem more one-sided than it really was.
* - these are green, I assume

Gareth Jones (4) had a challenge to keep concentrating and keep patient against Krystof Kucharczyk. Gareth always had the game and the fitness to win this, it was just a case of knowing when to attack and when to defend, and not to let Krystof have too many half-court balls to play the kill shots he wanted for easy points. I’ll say a few wobbles at times, but then it wouldn’t be Gareth without those – an entirely wobble-free Jones would be a most confusing concept – but nothing like enough to threaten his victory. Gareth won 15-9, 15-5, 15-10.

Third string saw Jan Brynjolffssen in action against Martyn Goodger. It took Jan a while to adjust to Martyn’s wristy play - he later admitted to being an adapted Badminton player, which explains the strong flicks straight form positions where a boast was the Squash shot. Jan’s kept trying to jump the gun, and then find he had to unjump it and reverse his first step. Tiring, slow and not great for balance that. Despite this, Jan was able to build a 12-8 lead in each game… and then promptly blow this so that all three became close. However focus in the critical points allowed Jan to get out of it 3-0, though the first game was altogether too close before he claimed it on a tie-break. Jan won 17-15, 15-11, 15-12.

Showing the way to do it was Liam Murphy (2). Liam has been in excellent form in recent months, reflected in a swap in the playing order with Jan. Key to Liam’s improvement has been playing more regularly, which is helping with both fitness and error rate. The former was much in evidence in this one as the extra bounce in the step meant Liam was able to pull off the exceptional lunges into the corners that use his full 6’4” frame in a near-professional manner. His ability to pick seemingly dead balls up left Martyn struggling for answer, particularly in game 2, Liam winning 15-11, 15-4, 15-13.

That took us on to string 1, and the return of not just one but two familiar faces. First we will say welcome back to Ed Aspeling, who has opted to swap back to Melbourn for this season after playing for Newmarket in the spring. The other returnee was slightly longer term, Rob Davis, who played for us in the 2017-18 season, is now back in the area and representing Ely. This match would prove to be utterly lung-busting, and ultimately rather frustrating for Ed. He knew he was capable of the cleaner Squash after rattling out to 8-2 and 7-1 leads in the opening two games, but Rob gradually wore Ed down in each as he just kept getting it back. Both games went to tie-breaks, the first in particular an epic with Rob eventually prevailing 20-18 (getting the serve in on game ball helped!). Much the same in game 2, though this time the tie-break was a little shorter… but only a little: 16-18 against Ed.
For most of game 3 it looked like a breaker wouldn’t be needed as this time it was Rob leading from the front. However, with the match in his grasp the same gremlins that produced the out-of-court serves in game one struck as Rob got cautious and Ed took advantage to save four straight match balls and claw a 10-14 deficit back. If Ed could have won this breaker, then maybe… but two straight errors gave it to Rob instead as Ed went down 18-20, 16-18, 14-16.

Skipper Colm’s assessment of the evening was “Everyone performed really well tonight, lots of close games that could have gone either way. We're delighted to be back playing as a team after the summer and it's great to kick off with a win against a strong Ely team.”

Herts Summer League - Melbourn II vs Gosling II, 29th August 2023

Melbourn lost 3-12

The 2nds final match in Division 4 of the Herts Summer League saw us welcome Gosling (from Welwyn) to the club.

In a reversal of the usual order the top strings went on first, Jan Brynjolffssen taking on Dan Sadler. This was a repeat of the clash at Gosling earlier in the season that Jan won 3-0 but this one was different from the outset as Dan found gaps at the front of the court that Jan was struggling to get forward to cover. That saw the first game go the Gosling player’s way, albeit narrowly, only for Jan to fight back to win the second comfortably. He then lost his way completely in the third, whilst the first was back to the pattern of the opener as Jan lost 13-15, 15-8, 5-15, 13-15.

Next on was Will Bradshaw (3) against Adrian Rates. The first game was looking very promising for the Melbourn teenager as he looked the cleaner and classier player in the rallies, keeping his nose ahead to win it 15-12. However this is when Adrian’s experience kicked in as he figured out that extra width could draw Will out of position and produced skewed shots from him. Will appeared at a loss to why this was happening, which set up a pattern that he couldn’t break. Games two to four all escaped in similar fashion as despite all his determination Will went down 15-12, 9-15,7-15, 11-15.

The seconds were the final match on, with Sean Hamilton pitted against Oliver Bush. Oliver is a big guy, with the associated power that comes with it, but also nice touch. He wanted to keep rallies short and sharp, and Sean was only to willing to trade power and winners in the front court. Right up Oliver’s ally, leading to a wipeout of a first game for Sean. He improved his ball striking in the second but was still playing to Oliver’s strengths, and that meant he was 2-0 down. It wasn’t until Sean stopped trying to fight fire with fire that he made headway, adding loop and depth to his shots winning him the third. However Oliver dug in hard, aware he couldn’t afford it to go to five, and closed things out in the fourth. Sean lost 5-15, 9-15, 15-12, 8-15.

Skipper for the evening Jan remarked “This was a slightly disappointing end to a good summer, as we all came off court thinking it was a match we could have won. But the Gosling fellas played well in the crucial moments and they deserved it on this particular evening.”

Herts Summer League - Melbourn II vs Biggleswade IV, 15th August 2023

Melbourn lost 10-5

3rd string: Moises Vs Michael
Another match with Moises saw him use his pace and power to overwhelm Michael Broadbent in the 1st closing out the first 15-13. Michael slowed the game right down from there on to take control and moved Moises around the court which saw Moises make one too many errors. Michael took the remaining games 15-9, 15-11 and a very close 16-14. A match that could have gone either way had Moises not drained himself playing a match the day before.

2nd string: Sean Vs Jack
Sean always gets a bit of an advantage Vs right handers, added to Sean's form and game has improved this season seeing him take valuable points. This proved to be the case winning the 1st Vs Jack Wright, 15-11, then ensued a fast and furious match! Cut and thrust from both players saw some spectacular kills and volleys, but Jack's finesse at the front of the court saw him finish off Sean 15-12, 15-8 and 15-7. 

1st string: Liam Vs Nathan
The reverse fixture 8 weeks ago saw Nathan Bascom win 3-0 with Liam nowhere near the level required. This time round saw Liam in much better nick, which blunted the physical edge Nathan usually has over his opponents. Liam took the first 16-14, by just keeping himself in the rallies. Those tactics saw Liam take the second 15-8, but a step up in pace from Nathan saw him take the third 15-7. Then efficient play from Liam saw Nathan drawn into errors and take the 4th 15-6 and the match.

Herts Summer League - Nuffield IV vs Melbourn II, 8th August 2023

Melbourn lost 11-4

The end of the league is approaching – this was the 2nds last away trip of summer. And on paper the most difficult as it sent us to St. Albans to take on league leaders Nuffield 4ths.

First up were the third strings Will Bradshaw and Clive Barker, whose doings were streamed live via Nuffield’s YouTube channel. Which allowed Will’s Mum Kate (who plays for Melbourn 1sts) a rare chance to watch her son in action as Will finds her being their additional pressure. And for those on this website to watch on replay as well – here you go (from 1:02:45 if the link doesn’t jump automatically there):-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qwx-GRMIDuM#t=62m45s
Game One saw both players feeling each other out, with the score ebbing this way and that. Will was hitting crisply and moving well, Clive was trying to get forward and stay there to play his drops and kills… and hope the fleet-footed youngster wouldn’t get to them. Towards the end of the game it looked like Will was getting in command as he built a 14-12 lead, only for Clive to dig in impressively on both the game points. Will was on the ‘t’ in each rally and did little wrong as he tried to find the killer length, but Clive scrambled as hard as he could to stay in both strokes which eventually allowed him to turn each around for a counter-punch winner.
The disappointment from Will on the game balls passing by was clear and he promptly lost the next two rallies to drop the game 16-14 (Kate, via text “Aarghhh! Not sure this is good for my heart!! Very unlucky") and this psychological blow saw also evident in game two as Will dropped a long way behind. Unrecoverably so, despite one serve that he managed to frame directly into a rolling nick, a move called “absolutely filthy” by the home team.
Post game analysis by Will was he was playing too many boasts and these weren’t working anyway (everyone else: yep, that’s true) so he should straight things up and drive down the walls. Good idea? Great idea as he moved into an 8-4 lead on game three. At that stage things looked good but a marking call he didn’t agree with (but was probably right) led to a period of discombobulation and the lead evaporating… only for Will to show impressive maturity by visibly calming himself down and then producing much more focused Squash to take the game to a tie-break. This proved to be an absolute epic with Will having game points but more often Clive having match balls, around four in all. All saved before Will pushed himself up to win 20-18, the clincher a boast from a seemingly defensive position that die in Clive’s front backhand corner.
Well now, what next? Another game of nip and tuck until Clive seemed to make a decisive break towards the conclusion to earn himself another set of match balls at 14-10. Will was not about to give up though, and actually produced his very best Squash of the match over the next three rallies as intensity was well combined with low-risk choices to pound his way through and bring things back to 13-14. Sadly, just when it seemed a huge turnaround was possible (Will would have been a very strong favourite in the fifth) a choice to attempt to play through some interference saw Will’s backhand dig go too high and wide. And that ended matters. Will lost 14-16, 7-15, 20-18, 13-15. So, so close to that first ever win in adult Squash.

Moises (from 1:51:20):- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qwx-GRMIDuM#t=111m20s
Match two on the live streaming court was the second string encounter between Moises Estrelles Navarro and Keith Ragg.
After a few points scoping each other out the first player to make a run was Keith as he pounced on loose attempts to kill from Moises to counter-punch his way to a 10-3 game one lead. Moises got more conservative in his shot choices after this, which was indicative of the way forward for him as the change in approach saw the gap close back to 10-12, only for a missed forehand overhead at this stage to result in a Spanish scream of frustration and a crucial point against – Keith won the opener 15-11 soon after.
Moises had left a few points out there in game one as he had been playing the standard player and not his actual opponent. This meant trying to wrong-foot a player who hadn’t actually moved from his shot. An adjustment to take the open court when it was available (and generally adjust to a player who knew when he needed to move and when he didn’t need to) got the second closer, with the game reaching a dramatic conclusion with Moises saving a game ball at 14-13, having one of his own at 15-14, but losing that on a stroke call and again seeing the game escape.
No matter though as Moises had made Keith work very hard for his two game lead and was also gradually getting used to the idea that drop shotting and kills were not his friend given his opponents clear discomfort with extended rallies involving lots of running. Pumping the ball deep work beautifully at the start of game three, rapidly building a 9-3 lead for Moises. Errors crept in a little as the game progressed allowing it to be a bit closer, but not enough to prevent Moises closing it out with a lovely backhand drop shot into the nick to claim it 15-11 and get on the board.
By now Moises had established a pattern that worked, if he could execute it. That was exactly what he managed in game four – after  some initial early sparing has seen it get to 5-4 in Moises favour he gradually pulled himself clear winning roughly two points for every one Keith was able to scramble to claim the game 15-8.
Going into the deciding game with momentum and fitness on his side Moises was the clear favourite to win. Things appeared to be going as expected as eased 7-4 ahead, but maybe a touch of comfort sneaked its way in as Moises lost the pattern for a while and saw this early advantage evaporate into a 9-8 deficit. This concentrated the mind, a string of four straight points re-establishing the three point advantage at 12-9, which was held to the end despite some fishing for lets from both players that the marker was not having any of. Moises won 11-15, 15-17, 15-11, 15-8, 15-12.

Due to the length of Moises match Jan Brynjolffssen (1) and Alexander Craig went on to a different court to play their match. So there is no video. What a pity, as you will soon discover 😉
This was a re-match of a clash at Melbourn earlier in the summer when Alex had won 3-2, but only after letting Jan off the hook in the first two games as the Melbourn player recovered big deficits to win them 15-13. This started off in similar fashion, long drawn out rallies up and down the walls that Alex mostly won. Almost entirely won in fact as he powered into a 10-0 lead as Jan was left wondering how on Earth he could kill the ball against someone so quick. He did managed it sometimes, but only very occasionally. 1-0 and comprehensively so.
The second saw Jan trying to play more of his game rather than taking on Alex at a steady up-and-down the wall encounter which the home player was just better at. Initially it didn’t work as another big gap was opened up, but then in a reprise of events at Melbourn it started to as an 8-2 advantage was gradually clawed back to 10-12. Jan had a clear chance to go for a kill at this point, but mistimed it, the ball sitting up for a counter winner. And that was moreorless that as Alex went on to take game two 15-11 and by game three the extended nature of the rallies had drained the energy from Jan’s legs. He found himself deep and pushed deeper, which gave Alex kills in the front court that he exploited to wrap up a 3-0 win that gave the hosts victory on the night.

Herts Summer League - Melbourn II vs Ickleford III, 1st August 2023

Melbourn won 12-3

This match was the 2nds fourth meeting and final meeting of the season with Ickleford, who have two sides in Herts Summer League Division 4. The previous seasonal record read Melbourn 2, Ickleford 1 with the previous match between these particular teams having ended as a 9-4 win for Melbourn.

The last time the two clubs had met it had featured Moises Estrelles Navarro taking on Tony Dean at third string. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose…
1st Game
This is the 2nd leg of the Raging Bull (Moises) Vs Tony and like the first time round, it was very back and forth. Neither player scored more than 2 points in a row in the first. At the sharp end of the game, Moises edged the remaining run of points from 12-12 onward to take the game.
2nd Game
Some 'words of wisdom' from Jan in the interval did not seem to have the affect they were supposed to. Subsequently, Moises started to play a slightly confusing game, making errors and not using his pace and power to overwhelm his opponent. Tony eased to 15-7 to take the second.
3rd Game
The third very much went the same way as the second with Moises not playing to his strengths and Tony capitalising on errors from Moises. Frustration from Moises started to become apparent and losing the third 15-7, he needed a hard reset!
4th Game
Moises cleared his mind and focussed on what he's good at, and so he entered the 4th to execute with clarity. Moises started to move Tony around and started taking the opportunities when they arose. He picked up the pace, elongated rallies and wore Tony down to ensure he took it to a fifth, winning 15-9. 
5th Game
Going into the 5th, Moises was very much on the front foot, Tony looked weary and as a result started playing some extraordinarily high risk shots. A lot of these came off and threw Moises off his game somewhat. Moises however recovered but Tony looked nailed on to take the fifth when he got himself 14-12 ahead. Moises dug deep though to save the two match balls and pushed Tony to the edge to eventually take the game and match 16-14.

Next on were Liam Murphy (2) and Paul Etherington. It was swiftly clear from the initial sparring that Liam was the cleaner player; he was having  joy pinning Paul into the back corners where the latter’s somewhat exaggerated swing left him cramped for space. This was handy as consistent down-the-wall driving is Liam’s game – he won the opener 15-8. However this proved a bit too straightforward and in game 2 Liam moved away from diligent rally construction and went instead for kills early. This suited Paul, who is rapid around the court, which in turn left Liam seeking to go extra tight. And that meant finding the tin and getting frustrated about how his game had apparently deserted him. Game two escaped 15-9 and we were all square.
Back to basics was the cry from his teammates after this. 10 clean, straight driving rallies into game three later Liam was leading 10-0 and everything was right with the world again (well apart from some marking calls…). The bagel wasn’t quite achieved, but 15-4 was impressive. So was repeating that in game four as Liam stuck fast to the method that was working. This time the rush of points was somewhat backloaded with the double figures string coming after falling 4-2 down. 15-8, 9-15, 15-4, 15-4 overall and victory on the evening secured for Melbourn.

Jan (1) took the court after that with the win already for a full reprise from the reverse fixture at Ickleford as he once again took on Sean Barry. That match had ended with Jan running away with things, winning the final game 15-3. He went one better in the opener of this one, rattle through things 15-2. Jan had been aided in that by Sean appearing nervous and making some odd mistakes, but once the Ickleford player had got his game in gear things became closer. Quite a lot closer. But never quite close enough for the visitor as Jan always managed to just keep his nose ahead even if it was only by a point or two in games two and three. But even so consistent hitting into the back corners was enough to ease Jan home 15-2, 15-11, 15-12 to wrap up a 12 point night for the home team.

Jan was skipper again for the evening. He commented “All the matches were up-and-down, but in each of them our players found their groove for a while and played some nice Squash when we were in that.”

Herts Summer League - Chantry vs Melbourn II, 25th July 2023

Melbourn 2nds travelled to play Chantry.

First up at string 3, was a continuously improving Moises Navarro, against an experienced Mark Bagnall.

Moises was quick out of the blocks in determined mood, chasing everything down and putting his opponent under huge pressure, taking a 0:5 lead. However as Mark settled into the contest, he was able to reduce the lead and fought hard to keep in touch. Moises remained in control however and a combination of good driving and the occasional drop kept him in front. Mark was taking some risks to close the gap, but Moises was the better player, continuously forcing the errors by his opponent and took the game 11:15.

In the second, Mark changed tactics with a lot more dropping and boasting. Moises was up for the challenge and fought all the way. Some unfortunate lets against Moises kept it nip and tuck, forcing his opponent again into taking risks, some of which paid off and it was 10:10, both players giving their all. Moises got to game point with great retrieval and determination. However he failed to capitalise and let Mark recover, then an error by Moises handed Mark game point, which he took to win the game 16:14.

In the third, Mark again persisted with more dropping to try to move Moises forwards and backwards. Mark’s experience was beginning to tell and combined with Moises understandably unable to maintain the high energy approach, Mark was able to move ahead, taking a 9:4 lead. Mark was varying his game more as Moises tired and took the game 15:5.

While Moises was still fighting hard and giving it everything, tiredness was setting in and this showed again in the fourth game. Mark had the experience to position himself on the T and force Moises into retrieving. Moises hung in for as long as he could, demonstrating that he had the game to compete at this level, however it was in vain on this occasion and Mark took the game 15:9 and the match 3:1.

The next match on was the second strings, which pitted Colm O'Gorman against the hosts Vinh Tram.

Having first dealt with the really important stuff – Vinh is not short for Vincent – the game got underway and it was immediately clear we were in for a long one as steady play from both resulted in extended rallies. As the game progressed Colm began to take command more and more, his length forcing Vinh deep and allowing him to close his opponent out and drop into the front backhand corner. This gave Colm the opener 9:15.

Could he keep it up though? Unfortunately not as Colm began to be more flustered and this resulted in errors earlier in rallies. He also lost his court position a bit, with Vinh now holding more of the front wall. The home player eased away and when the marker awarded him a stroke at 14:7 it was game over. But wait, Vinh had declined the stroke (to the bemusement of the entire gallery who all felt it was a clear cut call), only asking for a let instead and Colm made great use of the let off winning one point, two points, three points with consistent but also attacking Squash. Vinh was getting under more and more pressure as things got tight – he appeared to be hoping for the error rather than pushing for the winner himself (which, to be fair, is his general style anyway)… and Colm finally obliged at 14:12, albeit he was forced to, to give Vinh a simple kill. And with that we were back all-square.

Colm admitted after this game he was not feeling great, which prompted a death-or-glory approach to game three. Not really his game, which made it all the more difficult to pull off. The tail did wag in the game once again as Vinh went from 14:9 up to another 14:9, but once again just when an unlikely turnaround seemed about to be completed the home player drove himself to be more proactive in a rally and wrapped things up.

And that, frankly, was all she wrote. Colm was basically out on his feet in the fourth - he had been a fraction slow to clear the ball from the start of game three onwards, and now his feet appeared generally stuck. Vinh was still fresh and moving well, and that made for rapid work of sealing things. Colm lost 9:15, 15:12, 15:12, 15:5.

Jan Brynjolffssen, at string 3 was up against a very strong player in Mark Douglas.

After a first testing rally of drives and cross courts, the match changed to move touch style game with drops and boasting from both players. This tipped it in favour of the local to lead 6-4. Jan tried to arrest Mark’s momentum and brought the game to 7-7. But, the boasting and drops kept coming from Mark and at 13-7, Jan was continuously forced out of position and succumbed to a 15:11 loss. This was not for the lack of effort, endeavour and skill, Jan was just up against a very skilful and fit opponent.

Totally different scenario at the start of the second. Jan changed to deeper drives and went 0:2 up, but Mark was able to adapt and the game slipped to 8:2 in favour of Mark, again both players looking like they were performing to their best. Jan varied his game to try to counteract and had some excellent drop shots and recovered to 10-5. But in his attempts to cut the rallies short, we was taking risks and let the game get away from him, Mark taking it 15:8.

Jan wasn’t done though, and was determined to leave his imprint on the match. In the third, he started to move the ball more to the backhand of his opponent, taking the initiative and was rewarded with point after point to go 3:6 up. Jan was playing to the peak of his abilities, bring out some great shots, combining deep drives with drops on his forehand side (his opponent a left-hander). It was 10-10, Jan had given his all and there were signs of fatigue, but his opponent was also starting to tire. Mark was able to push to a 13-11, but back cam Jan and after some incredible rallies, he reached a deserved game point at 13-14. He couldn’t make it count, his opponents with a timely lucky nick. The players battled it out, but Mark just about squeezed home taking it 18:16, and the match 3:0, a high quality and very entertaining match to watch.

Captain Colm, while disappointed that we didn’t take more games acknowledged, ‘we were up against a very strong team in Chantry, and demonstrated that we were not far off their standard, well done to Jan especially for competing so well against a top player and to Moises for showing that he has the game to compete at this level’.

Herts Summer League - Melbourn 2 vs Allenburys 1, 18th July 2023

Melbourn won 10-4

Another week, another match, and this promised to be a tough one as we welcomed second-in-the-table Allenburys to Melbourn.

Liam Murphy vs Gavin Bone, 3rd String:

First on was the third stings, which pitted Liam against Gavin. Apparently there had been some irritable words between these two in the first meeting of the teams in Ware earlier in the season. There was no direct evidence of it in the return, but maybe there was something indirect in how wound up Liam appeared in the first. This resulted in some poor shot choices, mistakes and general irritation with how things were going. Gavin took full advantage of the chances offered to bring out his boast – his main attacking weapon – and race away with things from 7-5 up to claim the game 15-8.
Game two started off in a similar vein as Liam made errors. However these can be overcome with determination, which is exactly what the Melbourn player managed as he turned around 6-4 and 8-6 deficits in high style to win the game 15-10. That damped the annoyance down enough to allow a chat with teammates which meant the view from the balcony could be shared that it wasn’t just failure to execute but also court position that was causing Liam problems – get higher on the ‘t’ to cover Gavin’s main attacking weapon and Liam should dominate.
For the first half of game three it seemed like the message was fully on board as Liam rattled into a 9-3 lead. But this was to be a curates egg of a game as he promptly lost his way, forced things too hard again and six rallies later found himself all-square at 9-all. A refocus and reconcentration on length and rally construction meant a three point lead was re-established, which was enough to sneak through the game 15-13. And that finally, was the key as game four saw Liam up the court, pushing Gavin back deep (and looking tired). The boasts were now being picked off for counter-drop winners as Liam closed things out comprehensively, winning 8-15, 15-10, 15-13, 15-7.

Aidan Hird vs Gareth Jones, 2nd string:

The second match on court was a very familiar affair as Aidan found himself up against Gareth, who in the winter plays for Melbourn in the Cambs League and is a regular at team training (both had been along the previous Sunday, in fact). This felt like it might be a good thing for Aidan, who often fails to produce his best Squash on match nights due to the pressure of having teammates hoping he does well.
Initial signs were promising as Aidan looked relaxed and was moving well, despite some pre-match worrying about a knee problem. He was soon ahead 11-3 in the first. But it’s hard to keep Gareth and his ultra-attacking game down, and he ruffled Aidan’s feathers a bit with four straight points mid-game.. but ultimately not enough to recover the advantage – 15-9 to the Melbourn player representing Melbourn on the evening in the first.
Game two saw points go in streaks. First Aidan rattled himself to 4-1 ahead. Then Gareth won a couple of points and tense Aidan made his first appearance of the night as his play got frenetic and overly attacking – as his arm moved faster, his feet got more and more stuck, with errors coming thick and fast. Seven rallies out of eight went Gareth’s way as he moved 8-5 up. But after that Aidan calmed down somewhat, got his feet moving again and ran through seven straight points of his own to lead 12-8. What would happen next? Well, a reversal back to Gareth of course as Aidan lost a couple of rallies and was clearly concerned about blowing his lead again. He didn’t though as Gareth is also prone to the odd error, making two critical ones on what should have been drop shot winners at 12-13 and 12-14, the ball spinning off the dangled racquet face and bouncing into the tin to hand Aidan the game 15-12.
Calm down and slow down. A simple message, but hard to execute. Yes? No. Because Aidan took this on board entirely and produced a minor masterpiece in game three. Aidan is known around the leagues for his shuddering groundstroke power, but has a tendency to over-use this, especially when he is feeling jittery. Game three saw him play at least the opening five rallies simply on control, 60-70% hitting, looking for lengths and tightness. This allowed the adrenalin to drop back to levels where controlled Squash was possible… and the result was simply unplayable as Aidan was suddenly on a practice court on a Sunday with the first team, playing first team standard Squash. Much too rich for Gareth’s blood. The Allenburys-on-the-day player did claim a couple of points mid-game but facing Aidan not making errors was simply too much and resulted in Aidan wrapping up a 15-9, 15-12, 15-2 (sic) success.

Jan Brynjolffssen vs Ben Griffith, 1st String:

A great match to watch with an interesting contrast in styles. The first game started out with flowing and accurate squash from both players. Jan was a few points adrift by mid-game but pulled it back with a couple of pinpoint drops and some great tight lengths, exploiting our courts' noted tendency to eat anything hit accurately into the back corners. He held the court with patience and took his finishing opportunities well but lost out by turns to Ben's accuracy and low-margin kills. The exchange of points continued to 12-12 before a couple of looser rallies from Jan let Ben snatch it.
The pattern continued to developed further in the second game, with Jan taking an early lead as Ben tried and failed to grab points with risky shots from difficult positions. The Melbourn player settled in to await the game being handed to him, and while he was forced to watch the drops that missed the tin going unreachably short, his consistency was rewarded and they walked off at 1-1.
Ben appeared to have improved his focus in the third, being noticeably more mobile and awaiting a clearer advantage before attempting a finish. The rallies ground on longer but Jan was equal to it, staying in touch as his opponent's winners again became gradually more spectacular and risky-looking. Jan kept things tight and steady to take it to 12-12, before his consistency suddenly wavered for a vital few points and the game escaped him.
The 4th was a looser affair, with Ben looking tired from the outset and Jan gradually following him. Again, it was fireworks against stability with points traded, but at 7-7, Ben hit a rich seam of drops and tight drives and a 6 point lead quickly appeared. Jan fought hard in the last couple of points as rallies became messier but couldn't pull it back. Final scores were 12-15, 15-10, 14-16, 8-15.

Jan commented after the game “Aidan produced the performance of the night in his third game – given his attacking style he usually makes some mistakes. But in game three he made exactly none, and if he does that he becomes a beast to play against. Gareth was unlucky to get him in such form.
“Liam’s win was gritty – he initially looked out of sorts but turned it around well. I was happy to get a point against a stronger player, though that drop shot haunts. But even with that going down we still gained a 2-1 win against a promotion chasing team, and that is a great result.”

Herts Summer League - Berkhamsted 3 vs Melbourn 2, 11th July 2023

Melbourn lost 3-12

The seconds travelled to Berko hoping to end a run of two straight losses, a hope that took something of a knock when we arrived and the home skipper (who didn’t play due to a bug) admitted he had his strongest team of the season so far out to face us. Oh.

First to attempt to upset the apple cart was Will Brdashaw (3), fresh from his 14th birthday. Will was up against Mike Cowan, whose 14th birthday is also in the past… but rather less recently than with Will.
Game one saw Will’s fairly deep starting position causing himself problems as Mike’s height and swing had him moving backwards to stay safe. That gave Mike far too much room in the front court. A post-game discussion focused on getting in front both for tactical reasons and to feel safer, which Will managed to an extent as the game was much closer. That built confidence for Game Three when Will really got himself up the court and began to dictate play. Key to this were some excellent chips down the wall out of his deep backhand corner, Will turning rallies around to allow himself up to the ‘t’ where he could do damage. It all added up to a very slickly taken game. Hopes were high with his teammates when Will started game four well, moving 5-3 up, but a run of a few points and generally tiredness caught up with him as the run of points against continued and continued; 5-3 became 5-13. Oops. Some late resistance as Will went back to what had worked showed what might have been… but the deficit was too much to recover from, Will losing 5-15, 11-15, 15-9, 9-15.

Next on was Jan Brynjolffssen (1) against Mat McHugh. The first game saw Jan build an early lead as he fought and scrambled well… and also benefitted from some unforced drop shot errors from Mat. That saw Jan 12-7 up, only for Mat to dig in to level… and then Jan to respond in kind to take the game 15-12. This was good, the second was better as Jan kept things tight and deep and benefitted from more errors from Mat’s racquet. 15-6. 2-0. OK! A drop in intensity proved fatal in game three though, Jan ending up hoping for the errors instead of asking serious questions to encourage them. 7-15 against. Hmm. More shot pace meant a rapid start to game four and a 5-0 lead. Could Jan hold it together to close things out? All went well up to mid-game, but then Mat came roaring back and it was the home player who got to 14 first at 14-12. Now it was Jan’s turn to dig in saving game point after game point, to earn a match ball at 16-15. But this was well saved, and despite saving another game ball at 17-16 the game eventually escaped. 2-2.
Before the decider Jan told his teammates he still felt fresh. Two rallies and limited movement into the game he realised this wasn’t true! But if that was the case for him it probably was for Mat as well. It became a case of battling and fighting. Unfortunately for Jan Mat was doing that better, getting 13-7 up. That became 14-10. Five match balls. But even now Jan wouldn’t give up as one, two, three were saved by desperation running and hitting. Would things turn around again? Mat was looking nervous, but a deep shot that Jan could only just scramble back allowed him the front wall. One pump down the backhand got another scrap back, and with Jan still trying to recover a flicked drop onto the forehand side found a yawning gap to complete the Berko player’s win. Jan lost 15-12, 15-6, 7-15, 17-19, 12-15.

Which took us to Sean Hamilton (2) against Derek Brown. Though Sean didn’t realise it this was an extremely tough match up for him as Derek had previously only played this summer at top string, with good success, or for Berko 2nds! Anything Sean could get from the rubber was a bonus. The problems were evident immediately in game 1 – Derek is fast (very fast) and could run down any of Sean’s attempted drops and kills. As Sean game is all about killing the ball that was a bad combination. A one-sided first went to the home player. Post-game tactical advice for Sean was don’t drop shot, ever, he will get them. Don’t give him the front wall. Just rally and rally and rally and hope for an error. It may take a while to come. This worked… but was exhausting. Sean built a 12-7 lead on the back of it, but things turned with a really extended rally at that point that Derek won, and left Sean basically out on his feet. At this point he was desperate for exits from rallies so started attempting to kill the ball again… with the same effect as Derek won a string of points to turn the game on it’s head. That was basically all she wrote, Derek cruising through the third as Sean lost 5-15, 12-15, 7-15.

Jan commented after the game “Grant [the Berkhamsted skipper] said before the game it was the strongest line up they have put out this season. In the circumstances we did well to give ourselves chances to win some of the strings. It wasn’t to be, but everyone played well against opponents who they would be expected to lose to.”

Herts Summer League - Ickleford 2 vs Melbourn 2, 4th July 2023

Melbourn lost 5-9

The seconds were beaten 9-5 by a second team for the second week in a row. This time it was Ickleford 2s who were the nemesis.

First on were the third strings, which pitted Moises Estrelles Navarro's game of blood and thunder up against the smooth stylings of Tony Dean.

1sts
The first game was a microcosm of what was to come. Moises using pace and power to try and overwhelm his more mature opponents game of manoeuvring his man around. A very back-and-forth game saw Moises edged out 15-11 with one too many loose balls and errors.

2nd
Wise words from Jan saw Moises calm down, but perhaps El Toro relaxed too much? Playing slower fed into the hands of his opponent and Moises struggled to find his rhythm. However, playing better length and width meant he could move Tony around. Errors found Moises again and after recovering from 13-5 down, Tony just edged the game 15-13.

3rd
Moises was really now starting to hit his straps and his opponent started to tire, with Moises racing out to win the third 15-8

4th
The slog fest to end all slog fests. Tony found his 5th wind by this stage and in the business of finishing this one off. However, Moises wasn't having any of it and by keeping himself in the rallies he marched his way towards what looked like an inevitable 2-2 and into a decider. As we all know the squash gods are a cruel bunch and some ridiculously good shots from Tony saw himself level to 14-14. Like two heavyweights in the 12th round, they were swinging for the fences but Tony prevailed with a body shot that KO'd Moises to take the game 17-15 and the match 3-1.


Next on were the second strings, which pitted Liam Murphy against Andy Phillipson.

1st
Liam started rapidly, quickly opening up a 6-2 lead in the opener, but then appeared to lose his early focus and made some unforced errors to let Andy back level at 6-all. From this point Liam focused on consistent play and did it very well as he rattled through the rest of the game 15-8. Quite a number of these points were won with perfect lengths which died in the deep corners, especially Andy’s backhand. One would claim local knowledge… but this was at Ickleford, not Melbourn!

2nd
Could Liam back that up in game two? Could he ever! What was delivered was a masterclass of controlled Squash and length hitting. Time and again Liam pumped the ball hard towards the back corners and time and again the ball curled up a died once it got there, leaving Andy completed exasperated. The opening half of the game was pure perfection, Liam racing into an 8-0 lead. Andy did register a point eventually, but only after a long and lung-busting rally – this was also the case of the other two points he was to claim in the game as Liam made precisely zero unforced errors.

3rd
Staying on such an elevated plateau was going to be challenging, and Liam didn’t quite manage it. Even so he was in control, cruising into a 12-4 lead. The focus wavered briefly again, but having allowed three points against Liam produced a crushing and wall-hugging short forehand kill on the return of serve at 7-12 to move to two points from victory. He swiftly added the two further rallies needed, rounding off a highly accomplished performance that saw him victorious 15-8, 15-3, 15-7.


That sent things to the top string, where Jan Brynjolffssen faced off with Kevin Waring

1st
Irresistible force Vs the immovable object, I'll let you decide who's who. The metronomic game of Jan pulled Kev into areas he'd rather not be with Jan consistently finding length and line. He subsequently ran into an 11-5 lead. However one missed stroke call by Jan saw him lose his focus and squander his lead to end up 14-14. Kev eventually winning out 16-14.

2nd
The second saw Jan getting dragged into Kev's game, very un-Jan like. He started to tire quickly and tried to keep a high tempo which meant errors crept in and Kev took advantage to take it 15-8.

3rd
With the third saw the return of the Jan we know and love. The wall was his friend and slowing the game down saw Kev struggling to find rhythm and as a result saw his error count creep up. Jan was showing real court craft and took the game 15-8.

4th
Kev raced into a 6-0 lead in game 4 with Jan looking all at sea. However Jan zoned in and found his game very quickly which meant Kevin attempted more high risk shots to get back in the game. It looked for all the tea in China that Jan would be taking this to a fifth but some miraculous stuff from Kevin dragged him back level. The game was now at 16-16, gladiatorial would be the word for this battle. With Kevin having a strong kill game saw him edge out Jan 18-16 and take a very even game 3-1.


Jan saw skipper for the evening. He commented afterwards “So close! It felt like both Moises and I had the momentum after winning our third games, but the Ickleford boys dug in to grind out the fourth in each case. If either of them had gone to five… Sadly, we couldn’t back Liam up, which was a really shame as he was in imperious form tonight.”

Herts Summer League - Gosling 2 vs Melbourn 2, 27th June 2023

Melbourn lost 5-9

The seconds wrapped up the first half of the summer season with a trip to Welwyn to take on Gosling 2nds.

First on court was teenager Will Bradshaw, 13 (nearly 14… but not quite yet) who took on Adrian Rates. Who is at least 14. Three times 14. Plus a bit more.
The match started with Will doing a good job of putting into practice the his coaching and the gameplan, stepping up to volleying his returns and subsequently to try and hold a high ‘T’ position. Adrian was probing away to find Will’s weaknesses… but was initially mostly picking out a key strength as Will scrambled around rapidly to pick up a number of attempted kills. Will was hitting crisply and used this to build an early advantage of a few points which he held through most of the game, until the conclusion approached when he started to get more cautious and consequently slipped 13-12 down. However a clutch rally was clinically played to level up at 13-all, and this was followed by a dead nick on serve for a wonderfully timed (from Will’s perspective!) ace. Serve was also key to winning the game ball as Will played a clever one with about three different spins or it (or, possibly, he framed it…), the ball going just above the front wall cut line and bouncing just beyond the service line. Adrian seemed nonplussed by this and returned casually as he was convinced something had to be illegal about it. Will promptly dropped the loose ball to win the point and game. After a brief debate about the serve, with the entire balcony confirming it as completely legal (but not cleanly struck), a fist-pumping Will had his first game in adult Squash under his belt.
Unfortunately this didn’t quite prove to be the herald of a first win as Adrian started the second game by upping his intensity and speed of shot, with Will going a bit conservative in his court position and shot choices in reaction. Encouragingly he seemed to recognise the issues and pushed himself higher up the court in the latter half of game two, producing play more like game one, but the early deficit conceded proved too much to overcome. This was a turning point as Will’s confidence declined and Adrian’s experience of how to win points came to the fore. Games three and four went to the home player by comfortable margins as a result leading to an overall 15-13, 10-15, 5-15, 3-15 defeat for Will.
The positive vibes of the opening game weren’t quite sustained the whole way through, but even so this was a significant milestone in Will’s development.

The evening then split on to two courts for the remaining games, to make sure they were done and everyone showered and changed before the Leisure Centre shuts at 10:00. That meant Jan Brynjolffssen (1) was taking on Dan Sadler whilst simultaneously Liam Murphy (2) faced Chris Tutton simultaneously.
Both matches were characterised by one player being very frustrated that the other seemed to have all the luck. With Jan and Dan it was the visitor who appeared to have the local knowledge as Jan repeatedly found nicks, particularly deep in Dan’s backhand side, doing so most often and notably in game one. Game two was closer as Jan lost his way at times (one poor choice to boast rather than drive stuck out – failure to apply the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” principle) but then played some clean rallies at the death to wrap things up. Game three was closer again, with the scores nip-and-tuck for the first time. Dan seemed to have made a significant break when he won three rallies from 10-all to lead 13-10. However Dan was gasping for air at this point and Jan sensed and exploited this to grind his way back in, playing two physical rallies to set up a simple deep-short combo which brought things back to 13-all. Taking a leaf from Will’s book (tactical masterclass) Jan served straight into the nick to go 14-13 up, and then found the back nick in the backhand corner one last time to wrap things up in appropriate fashion – if the match had a signature shot it would have been Jan driving down the backhand rail and the ball dying a death back there. Jan won 15-5, 15-10, 15-13.

Unfortunately for Melbourn next door it was Gosling’s Chris who was getting seemingly lucky repeatedly (it’s usual to quote Gary Player here “The harder I practice, the luckier I get”) which was making Liam climb the walls. Liam would feel in control of rallies, working Chris around, but when he went for his kills Chris’ speed got him to the ball and then his unconventional front-on swing would not only dig the ball up but also send it in a direction that Liam wasn’t expecting, keeping the Melbourn player twisting, turning and generally off-balance. After two games of frustration Liam knitted it all together in game three, punching the ball deep repeatedly to tight lengths early in the rallies to open up big enough front corner holes to get the ball to bounce twice before Chris could rush forwards. Sadly for Melbourn the positive vibes of game three were wholly absent from game four as early rallies went against Liam, who began to rage at the world as he slid to a 11-15, 13-15, 15-6, 7-15 defeat.

Jan was Melbourn’s skipper on the evening. He commented “The most memorable aspect of the evening will remain Will getting his first game in senior Squash. That contributed a league point – his first for the club, hopefully and presumably the first of many”

Herts Summer League - Biggleswade 4 vs Melbourn 2, 13th June 2023

Melbourn 2 travelled to Biggleswade in anticipation of a big challenge.

String 1 played fist with Liam Murphy came up against an opponent who was more machine than man away at Biggleswade.

His superfit rival, Nathan Bascom, was in the form of his life and took the match 3-0. Nathan's team mates agreed he was playing the best they'd ever seen, combining supreme conditioning with shot making - with a sprinkling of good luck on top.

Even the player himself declared on court after another winning point: "I have been going to the gym a lot," before chuckling to himself.

Unfortunately Liam hit quite a few into the tin in first game and his trademark pick up drops were not working. Nathan was relentless in his desire to get the match over and done with as quickly as possible, lunging and reaching for everything, smashing volleys into nicks. Liam showed some moments of recovery, placing a few extremely tight lobs to the back corners. He adopted a strategy of trying to push Nathan into the back which briefly turned the tide.

There was an excruciating moment towards the end of the third game where it looked like Liam might be able to bring it back to 2-1 down. Unfortunately, at a crucial 11-13 up there was a stroke awarded against Liam. Despite strong objections from Liam, from the balcony it looked like the marker had made a fair decision - and remained cool under cross examination. Liam continued to fight, clawing back to 14-14. The spectators groaned when Liam then hit his next serve out, leaving Nathan to take the final game 16-14, and the match 3-0.

Next up at string 3, Sean took on Archie Broadbent. In the 1st, after a couple of dodgy serves, Sean found his rhythm and radar, moving Archie around the court at will, killing off many a rally with some lovely cross court drives. Sean took the game comfortably 7-15.

The 2nd saw Sean try to mix things up early on but his opponent pulled off some beautiful lobs and drops. Sean reverted back to type with a straightforward game of drives and cross courts with his opponent desperate to move up and cut off early but to no avail. Sean however did have a wobble at game point but steadied himself and served to win 11-15.

The third game saw Archie mix it up and try to play into the rallies which threw Sean off a little. Archie's lobs and drops came to the rescue to nudge him into the lead. However, Sean picked up the pace and once again went back to playing a mix of straight and cross court drives to evade Archie's reach. Sean served out to win 12-15.

Last to play at string 2, Colm was up against Jack Wright.

A contrast in styles was evident early in the first, with Jack’s powerful hitting and Colm retrieving and touch play keeping him the game.

Jack forged ahead and with all the energy and pace, seemed to have the advantage, however Colm steadied the ship and gradually began to express himself. This made for an extremely tight game which ebbed and flowed. Colm was serving deep and cutting the returns early to force Jack off the T. Jack was driving well and lengthening the rallies game him the advantage. Jack just about held the lead 11-10 before Colm took a series of points with combination of drives and drops, and took the game 11-15.

The second game continued as the first ended, and Colm continued to apply pressure through serving deep, hitting the corners and cutting early where possible. This game was one-sided with Colm taking it 6-15.

Jack knew he hadn’t played his usual game in the second and was determined to make amends in the 3rd. Jack cruised through the early stages taking a 7-2 lead and playing in a much more composed manner. With a mix of luck, some unforced errors by Jack and some well taken winners, Colm stormed back into the game to take an 8-10 lead. The next few rallies were hard fought but Colm was able to keep Jack at bay and again serving deep and getting more return from his drops, he took the game 12-15 and the match 0-3, securing the overall result for Melbourn.

Captain Colm noted with some relief afterwards, ‘that was a tough challenge and delighted to get the overall result, especially with Biggleswade having taken the first match with such a quality display’.

Herts Summer League - Melbourn 2 vs Nuffield 4, 6th June 2023

Melbourn won 11-5

The Seconds latest match in Division 4 saw us taking on league leaders Nuffield 4ths. We knew the St. Albans side were top, but it seemed they didn’t until they saw the updated league table on our noticeboard!

Having boosted our visitors confidence (oops) we dived into the match starting with the top string on account of both players – Jan Brynjolffssen of Melbourn and Alexander Craig of Nuffield – being present and ready to go, and that not being the case for any other string. At least Jan thought he was ready… taking six attempts (literally!) to knock a spare ball up to the balcony, and having to resort to throwing it instead suggested otherwise! Accuracy? What’s that?
Jan took this shonky form into the start of the first, and swiftly found himself 8-2 down. However it seemed infectious as Alex went from looking imperious early on to making some strange shot choices and odd unforced errors. That allowed Jan to come fighting back and emerge with the game under his belt 15-13. When the same pattern – Alex racing into a big early lead, Jan grinding it back and edging the game, similar to the point of an identical score – repeated in Game 2 Jan suddenly found himself leading two-love. To his general bemusement. If Alex got his patterns right… which he did in game 3, Jan also taking his foot off the pedal a bit in a physical match. This proved a bad move as once Alex’s confidence was back there was only one winner, Jan eventually going down 15-13, 15-13, 2-15, 6-15, 5-15.

The top string took long enough that the match now split on to two courts, Liam Murphy facing Mhairi Gritz at second string on court 1, and Colm O’Gorman (3) playing Julian Craxton on court 2.

On paper Liam looked to have his hands full against Mhairi, who is a familiar face to some at Melbourn (she is a former Cambridge Squash Club and Cambs County Team player), as the Nuffield player counts the Scotland O35 team amongst the sides she currently represents and came in with decent results this summer. However it didn’t prove that way at all as the match-up in styles worked beautifully for Liam, Mhairi’s mixture of low, hard pace and sharp boasts not getting the ball past 6’4” Liam’s long reach – as he continually closed down her boasts he took Mhairi’s game away from her. Mhairi tried to battle, pulling out a notably thunderous backhand drive-kill in game three, but Liam always had a response – specifically an ultra-tight backhand drop a few points later that matched the power-kill as a spectacular winner, and also generally as he came through 15-3, 15-9, 15-9.

Meanwhile Colm was trying to figure out the puzzle that is Julian next door without much help from teammates. Which was unfortunate as Julian is a longstanding competitor on the Herts Squash scene with a well-known and particular style. Forewarned would have been somewhat fore-armed, though there is only so much one can do against a player who can drop or kill-boast from seemingly anywhere! For three games Colm struggled away as he tried to figure out how to deal with Julian’s mix, digging in hard to win the second but losing the other two and generally not really enjoying the experience (few do against Julian!).
A chance to talk it through with teammates after game 3 finally added clarity (don’t go for ‘good’ shots, and don’t wrong-foot – simply play the ball away from where Julian is standing so he has to run) and from there Colm looked in command, cruising through game four 15-6 and then doing the same in the fifth, though Julian did help rather in this one with three unJulian-like backhand drop errors (the first was one he would make 99 times out of 100) that turned a potential 7-6 deficit for Colm into a comfortable 9-4 lead. He converted that well though, rounding off a 9-15, 15-9, 11-15, 15-6, 15-5 win.

After the game Colm commented he was “Delighted win the team's performance this evening, continuing the good run of form over the last few weeks. A special mention for Jan who competed so well against a top player in Alex.”

Herts Summer League - Ickleford 3 v Melbourn 2, 30th May 2023

Melbourn 2 travelled away to play Ickleford 3.

Sean was first up at string 3 against Paul Etherington.

Early on in the first the match was rushed, and the pre-match jitters were being worked out between them. Sean made a string of errors mixed with some nice backhand drops from Paul. It was very much blow for blow but Paul's composure and excellent front court game saw him edge it 15:12.

In the second, Sean struggled to find line and length but when he did he played some lovely controlled squash. However, too many loose balls gave Paul opportunities to score easy points. Once again Paul controlled the rallies, killed off points at the front and comfortably saw out the second 15:6.

The third game saw a quick 3:0 start from Paul which was cancelled out by Sean with some wonderful controlled squash again, Sean played in phases rather than with consistency. Sean started to find his length but some wicked backhand slice drops from his opponent and Sean losing his radar at crucial moments saw a tight game go to the wire. Sean started to look a little tired and a lost footing saw him lose the game point 15:12 and the match. 3-0 in games seemed a little unfair considering the competitive nature of the match.

Next up at string 2, pitting Melbourn’s Liam Murphy against Rich Brown. A complete contrast in styles was quickly apparent between Liam’s classical approach to rally construction and Rich, who was looking to kill absolutely everything into the front corners with his fine hand skills - Liam’s ideal rally was probably around 11 shots long; for Rich, if it had got to 4 then something was going very wrong!

Most rallies boiled down to a handful of key questions… Could Liam keep the ball tight enough to prevent Rich going for a kill (or rather going for them anyway despite being way out position, and therefore missing)? If Rich did attempt a winner, could Liam’s excellent movement and lunging get to the short balls anyway? If Liam got a kill back, could he direct it away as Rich charged forward behind his drops?

The answers to these questions were varied enough that despite the two extremes in approach the match was very balanced. Liam’s method had him narrowly ahead for most of the first game which eventually turned into two game-balls at 12:14, but Rich saved these and then kept his momentum going to clinch the tie-break. A post-game adjustment away from the counter-drop of the short ball, opting for low drives or lobs instead, saw Liam putting work in for the long-term – such plays may (did) win rallies but also achieved a wider aim of putting extra work into Rich’s legs and forcing his court position ever deeper, the concept being to eventually open up the front court for Liam’s own kills. Instant success wasn’t really the point of the strategy but Liam made it work immediately anyway, constant pressure seeing him win the second game 12:15 to level things up (and get Melbourn’s first game on the board of the evening!). It was nothing like easy though – the remarkable stretch and lunge to pick up an(other) ultra-shot Rich drop at 12:14 and somehow dink it above the tin for a game winning counter epitomising how fine the margins remained.

Game three saw Liam’s previous work gradually paying dividends as he looked increasingly in control. That said the standout rally of the game was actually against the grain as rather than a front corner attack Rich had put one tight to the backwall. It appeared stuck, but somehow Liam’s throw-the-kitchen-skin-at-it boast carried enough momentum to just make it above the tin via both sidewalls… and Rich, surprised it had come back, tinned his drop shot in response. He promptly tried to argue Liam’s shot hadn’t been legal – nah, mate, clearly good and up and you just blew the kill! The general trend was different though, mostly that Rich was clearly blowing by this point – there were rallies towards the end of the third where he hit his drop and simply stood still, a (lack of) movement that is often indicative of drained batteries. Liam’s rapidity to the front corners was also causing the Ickleford player to attempt to put the ball extra super tight… not really possible when his standard shot is extra super tight. Going even lower simply meant tinning balls.

And yet, despite Liam now leading 1-2 and reigning in the front court as Rich hugged the back wall, Rich’s dogged competitiveness somehow kept things close through sheer willpower. Liam was always just in front in game four but couldn’t break free to cruise to victory. Instead things once again reached 12:14, and once again this wasn’t converted as Rich played two clutch rallies. In fact the home player appeared about to go 15-14 up, but one more lunge from Liam got him under a short ball for a backhand pick-up that was a counter-winner as soon as it clambered above the tin. Match ball number three was then converted with a tight length to the deep backhand corner forcing an attempted dig out from Rich that went too high to complete Liam’s 16:14, 12:15, 11:15, 14:16 win, Liam looking relived to close things out and Rich just looking for oxygen.

At string 1, Jan was playing Sean Barry in a winner takes all. While the earlier matches had been very competitive, Jan on this occasion dominated the match for the most part, winning three games in succession, despite a brief comeback from his opponent in the second.

It was a thoroughly entertaining match with a variety of innovative and creative rallies. There were some extended drive exchanges tight down the wall. But Jan's punishing mix of cross court drives and lethal drops proved too much for Sean.

Ickleford player Sean was lively around the court, using his fast movement to chase down balls and achieve some astonishing pick-ups and recovery boasts. But all too often Jan was able to finish the rally with a deep cross court to the back which passed Sean by at speed before dying in the back corners.

Sean came alive at the start of the second game. Jan, in one of only a few errors on the night, missed a crucial drop. Sean made it to 6:2 up (and then 9:6 and 10:8) and looked certain to level up the match. However, Jan, managed a late run of five points which took it to 10:13, before winning 12:15.

The third game was over quickly. Sean consistently missed opportunities to take the ball in the air, only scoring three points in total. Jan, who also enjoyed an evening of precision serves, was able to finish comfortably, ending the final game 3:15.

Captain for the night, Jan commented ‘Lots of close games, with great variety in the play made for an enjoyable evening’s squash’.

Herts Summer League - Melbourn 2 v Chantry 1, 23rd May 2023

Melbourn welcomed Chantry for a home tie in the fourth round of the Herts summer league.

Will at string 3 was first up against a very experienced John Grieves. Will started superbly, playing accurate and long into the back corners, positioning himself very well to pick off the first two points. John however using his experience and deft touches to recover, and the game evened out. Both players used good variety between drives, drops and cross courts in a very entertaining match so far. As John got into his stride, Will was more than matching him and at 7:9 down, it was anyone's game. John however dug in and nicked a run of points in a row to take an unassailable lead, taking the game 9:15. The second game followed an almost identified path, very competitive until 8:9. John again was able to exert that little bit more pressure and using drops and boasts, picked off the remaining points to take it 8:15, the scoreline wasn’t a true reflection of how competitive the game had been. In the third, Will again in determined fashion piled the pressure on, playing some excellent squash, particularly moving John from side to side, forcing the errors. John’s experience told again however and he evened it up at 4:4 and was able to dominate with the variation in his game to take it 7:14 and the match. Well done to Will however, showing a lot of shots, energy and determination to compete very well against a strong experienced opponent.

Next up playing at string 2, Sean was against another power player in Rory McGurk. Contrasting styles were evident early on, Sean with accurate driving especially on the forehand while Rory’s power hitting and backhand volley drops were highly effective. Sean started well, taking and early lead but was pegged back and it was 4:4 in a very well contested game. Rory was taking chances and going for early winners and this paid dividends as he outscored Sean to take a 7:10 lead. Sean was getting good return from moving Rory from side to side and into the back corners but due to Rory’s power hitting he seemed reluctant to get forward, Rory was picking off winners with his obviously trademarked volley drops and took it 8:15. In the second Sean was determined to step forward and keep Rory to the corners. The momentum was swinging from one player to the other and evenly poised at 8:9. Rory however went a run of scoring, having upped the pace and taking many shots earlier than Sean was expecting. Sean was unable to counter and the game again went to Rory 8:15. Although the pace of the second was unsustainable, Sean came out fighting in the third, full of energy and dominating early on. Unfortunately, Sean got into a habit of serving out repeatedly and the lead was conceded a lot more easily than Sean would have liked. This seemed to energise Rory who pushed on to a 4:8 lead. Sean continue with unforced errors unfortunately, and was unable to recover to prevent a 7:15 game to Rory and match.

At string 3, Colm was up against Josh Beaumont. The first few points were vigorously contested, neither player will to take a step back, an edge was evident. The play was accurate and rallies were lengthy as Josh enjoyed pushing the ball to the back corners and Colm liked to hit the front corners occasionally. Colm was exerting a little more pressure and rewarded with a 6:2 lead, only for Josh to fight back and bring it to 7:6. Another run of scores by Colm, having moved Josh around and forced the errors, brought it to 11:6. But rather than see out the game, Colm allowed Josh to take the initiative, and recover to make it 13:13, the momentum and energy now with Josh and he took the game 13:15. Colm was feeling the pace and in the second fell behind 0:5. A change of tactics was needed with Colm varying his game a little, some lobs along with accurate drops, and brought himself back into the game to level it 6:6. Colm was feeling more confident in his game now and took the next 6 points in a row. He didn’t look back to take the game 15:10. Josh still appeared the fitter player with the energy however and reasserted himself in the third game. Colm was struggling physically, hanging on and lucky to have it at 7:7, and sucked into playing on Josh’s term. Josh was moving Colm around the court, hitting the corners and even when in difficulty, he was able to disguise his boasts and drops to dominate the rest of the game, taking it 9:15. Colm was visibly tiring, and at 4:9 in the fourth game, it looked ominous. He dug in however, served deeper and somehow managed to get it back to 7:10. Josh had been playing at a very high pace up to now and it was inevitable that he would not keep this up. Sure enough, Colm’s deeper drives were starting to force half court returns, and Colm was able to use his drops to take point after point and the game 15:12. The momentum now appeared with Colm, however Josh started the final game with determination and focus, taking an early 0:3 and upping the pace again. Colm was able to break Josh’s momentum, disguising drops and cross courts to make the game more of a scrap and it was 9:9, anyone’s match. Colm ground out a 12:10 lead taking some risks, but then overdid the drops, mainly due to tiredness, with Josh picking them off, and it was 13:12. One final push and Colm forced an error from Josh in the backhand corner, gratefully taking the game 15:13 and the match.

Team captain Colm was very happy with the performance of the team against tough opponents, ‘Special mention to Will who came up against an experienced and skilful player, making it competitive for long stages and impressing with some great shots and showing an ability to get around the courts so well. Will has improved immensely in the last few weeks and I look forward to seeing how he gets on for the remainder of the league’.

Herts Summer League - Allenburys v Melbourn 2, 16th May 2023

Melbourn 2 travelled to Allenburys knowing a tough  was on the agenda, with our winter league colleague Gareth Jones playing at string 3.

First up at string 3, Colm was playing a very familiar face in Gareth Jones, knowing their levels are almost on a par and so expecting a long hard match. The first game was tit for tat until at 9-9 Gareth took control to string together 4 points. Colm hit back with 3 of his own, but Gareth served out to 15-13.

It looked like being a closely fought match all through, however in the second game Gareth made numerous forced and unforced errors to hand the initiative to Colm, who gratefully took it and served out for a comfortable 4-15 win.

It appeared that momentum had shifted, Colm was playing well however Gareth was determined and composed himself early in the third, however the momentum shifted over and back with mistakes creeping in on both sides. At 7-7, like in the first, Gareth regained control and with a combination of deft touches and hard driving, took a 11-14 lead. Colm fought back to 13-14 but again a mistake handed the game to Gareth.

Colm was feeling the pressure early in the fourth and slipped behind, scrambling to be 4 points behind at 7-11. 4 points in a row brought the game level, however Gareth steadied himself and played some superb drops, sensing Colm tiring and saw the game out 11-15 and the match 1-3.

Next to play, at string 2, were Liam and Ian Collin. Watching the warm up, it became clear that here were two equally matched players, at least in terms of height. It transpired they played a similar style too.

The first game started in a very measured way by both players with neat, flowing squash, high accuracy and few errors. Liam had some unforced mistakes, but stayed level with some really tight squeezes that gave his opponent nothing to hit. Both players were doing a good job of staying in the game without taking too many risks and each had game points. Ian took one of his opportunities and the game 17-15.

Both players had a chance to show off impressive corner-to-corner speed as Liam pushed effectively in the second and play began to open up. This suited Liam well, and he quickly took a seven point lead before a run of errors and some inspired play by Ian brought it back to parity at 11 all. From then on, every rally was a full-tilt stretch for both players, with Liam recovering from sitting on the floor to win one point, but the game finally escaping him, again frustratingly for Liam, a narrow loss 15-13, and he was 2-0 down having played great squash.

Liam played attacking squash to pull out a lead on the fourth, his opponent unable to take control of a rally initially. However with both players appearing to tire after a mammoth effort in the first 2 games, both making mistakes and handing the initiative to the other, it was Ian who was able to use his experience to edge Liam and take the game 15-12 and the match.

Aidan at string 1 was up against Ben Griffith, a contrast in styles with Ben’s touch play and Aidan’s power, both with excellent movement and accuracy.

Aidan started with some powerful cross courts, out of reach of Ben and slipped into an early lead. Ben started to retrieve a bit more but Aidan kept the pressure on to take a 2:7 lead with a well disguised drop. Ben stopped Aidan’s momentum and they traded scores followed by a few mistakes and it was 8:10. Ben was started to find his rhythm but Aidan ramped up the pressure again to stride ahead only for Ben to haul him back again to 11:13. Another powerful cross court gave Aidan game ball but he couldn’t take the first one, but took the second in style.

The second game started in a similar vein. A disguised and accurate boast followed by a tight powerful drive and then a tidy unexpected drop gave Aidan a 1:4 lead. Ben however was determined, recovered and went on a run of 4 points taking advantage of Aidan’s unforced errors. They traded scores and then Aidan uncharacteristically missed a few relatively easy kills, then redeemed himself with some beautiful squash sending Ben around the court. But Ben was finding it easier to retrieve and held on, then started to dominate, applying pressure and scoring at will, it was 13:7 all of a sudden and the game was beyond Aidan, Ben taking it 15-8. Aside from the odd unforced error, it was high quality squash and great entertainment.

The third game started with some tricky tactical rallies and it was 2 all, Ben applying more pressure stretching Aidan and forcing the errors. Ben’s energy was up and it was 3:9. Both players traded mistakes before Ben again found the back corner and then a volley drop to go 4:12. The squash standard was rising, a very impressive showing by both players. Some hard fought rallies were edged by Ben and he had game ball which he duly took it 15-5 to go 2-1 up.

Aidan decided to revert to what had worked well in the first and started the fourth game applying power and pressure, Ben retrieving superbly but Aidan was not making the mistakes of games 2 and 3, rather it was Ben making them now. Aidan was up 3-6 after another disguised drop. They traded points and again Aidan stretched Ben to go 9:4 and looked like he had regained control. Some wonderful rallies followed by some glaring errors from both players as they tired, but Aidan was still ahead 9-12. Ben however had other ideas and somehow took back the initiative and forced the mistakes from Aidan to edge head and take the game 15-13 and the match 3-1.

Captain Colm was very happy with the team’s performance against a very strong Allenburys side ‘it was a great night of squash, each match was closely fought and perhaps we could have nicked a few more games but fair dues to Allenburys who deserved the win’.

Herts Summer League - Melbourn 2 v Berkhamsted 3, 9th May 2023

Melbourn 2 hosted Berkhamsted 3 in the second round of the summer league. Unfortunately Berkhamsted could did not have a late replacement for one of their players and so it was 2 v 2.

Liam (at string 1) was first on against Grant Kleiner, a very experienced campaigner in the Herts Leagues over many years. Liam started strongly and soon built a significant lead by moving Grant around the court with good lengths and widths. Grant was unable to break into Liam’s game and Liam took the first game convincingly 15-8.

The second game followed a similar pattern and again the result was 15-8 in Liam’s favour. Grant fought back immediately in the third and moved ahead with a 7-0 lead. Liam had lost his grip on the game and allowed Grant to use his wide array of shots to put real pressure on him. Liam responded but Grant was firmly in control of the rallies and took the game 15-7.

The break saw Liam reset his game and return to his earlier very effective game of keeping Grant at bay and not allowing him into the game. Liam never lost control of the fourth game and he clinically finished the game 15-10 and took the match 3-1.

Talk about changes in momentum, this game has more shifts than nurses did working over COVID. Roger came up against Mike Cowan, who physically had the upper hand, but Roger's experience and tactical mindset enable him to take control!

The first game saw each player feel out how they were going to approach and then Mike figured out quickly if he could move Roger around enough, he'd run out of puff. However, despite Mike taking a 10-4 lead, Roger realised good length and width were key. This produced a storming comeback to lead 11-10, but then Roger conspired to stray away from what was working and lose the next 5 points to lose 15-11.

Second game Roger made a conscious effort to stick to what worked and walked it with 9 straight points from 6-3 up to take it 15-3, with a little help with some unforced errors from Mike.

The third began in similar fashion with Mike up 5-4, but then a mixture of Roger losing his length and Mike pushing himself and Roger around the court led to an 8 point run, where Mike won 15-5.

Mike went into the fourth 2-1 up and with momentum. The game started very tit for tat with Roger leading 7-5, then Mike took 5 straight points and it looked for all the tea in China that he would carry on through. However, Roger hit back with his own 5 point streak to edge ahead 12-10. Mike only managed to make one more point and gave away the last 3 to Roger, to see Roger take the fourth 15-11 and into a decider.

These two brave warriors had slogged it out all game and the fifth was no different. Momentum swang back and forth with neither player able to take real control, only taking one or two points at a time. Roger managed to edge his way to a 14-11 lead but then Mike dug deep and strained every sinew of his tall frame to draw level to 14-14. Roger dug deeper still to clinch the next 2 points to claim the fifth and the match. If there is a lesson in perseverance Roger most certainly knows how to teach it!

Team captain Colm, who joined the players afterwards commented, 'another good night of squash and victory for Melbourn 2, well done especially to Roger for going the distance in a hard fought win'.

 

Herts Summer League - Melbourn 2 v Ickleford 2, 2nd May 2023

Melbourn 2 opened their season with a home game against Ickleford 2

First up, playing at string 3, Moises Estrelles Navarro against an experienced Keith Hooton. Moises had been training hard in the previous month and was determined to let it all on the court. The first game was nip and tuck to 8:8 with contrasting styles making it a highly entertaining game. Keith’s touch play negated by Moises' ability to get around the court, reaching each time. Moises maintained his energy levels and tidied up his drives in particular to force the errors and strode ahead to take the game 15:11. Interestingly, the next game followed a very similar pattern, with both players neck and neck, 11:11 before Moises’ accuracy and determination to retrieve made the difference and he took the game 15:11. At this point, Moises knew he was playing well and had the match under control. In the third Moises' confidence in his shots increased and he dominated the game, despite some very clever winners play by Keith, and cruised to a 15:5 win, taking the match 3:1.

Next up at string 2 was Sean Hamilton against a strong player in William Van Den Aardweg. This was hard fought from the first point of the first game. Sean was driving well on both forehand and backhand, mixing in drops and boast while William was retrieving excellently and able to take the initiative when Sean seemed to be in control. At 11:11 it seems to be there for either player, however William had that little bit more, along with a touch of luck to take it 12:15. The second game was again a close affair, both players determined to give it their best and each playing high quality squash. William again was able to nudge ahead, varying his game to keep Sean at bay, and took the game 11:15. The third was again a story of Sean playing really well to stay in the game, but William demonstrated that he is playing at a slightly higher level to take it 9:15 and the match 0:3. Credit to Sean was putting up a great fight.

A winner takes all string 1 match beckoned with Liam Murphy against Kevin Waring. In the first game, Kevin was quick out of the blocks and forged ahead to lead 0:6. Liam wasn’t panicking however and knew he had the game to match Kevin. Liam got into his stride and began to dominate with his array of shots and ability to retrieve. Liam took the next 4 points in a row before Keith stopped the run, but this was only temporary, Liam again going on the scoring spree taking the next 5 points to lead 11:8. Keith stayed in touch but Liam was controlling from the T and managing to hold Keith off to take the game 16:14. In contrast to the first game, Liam took the initiative in the second, taking a 5:1 lead. Liam was playing with few errors and enjoyed the advantage, pushing Kevin around the court and picking off winners. Liam kept up the momentum to lead 13:6 and while Kevin pegged back 4 points in a row, Liam steadied to take the game 15:11. Similarly, the third game saw Liam take an early lead, however this time Kevin was to storm back, taking what seemed like a defining 11:12 lead, however again Liam showed his resilience and belief in his own game to calmly take the next 4 points to win the game 15:12 and the match 3:0

Team captain, Colm, who came along to support, ‘I’m delighted to see 3 competitive and entertaining matches, everyone playing really well and enjoying an evening of summer squash, special mention to Moises on his performance, having worked hard to improve his game over the last few months’.

Melbourn I vs Hunts County I (22nd March 2023)

Melbourn won 15-7

Melbourn 1sts late burst of form, winning three of their final five matches in the Cambridge Squash League Division 1 season, came too late as other results conspired to relegate them despite their final day 15-7 win over Hunts County 1sts.
Melbourn went into the Hunts match knowing they needed a minimum of 15 points to give themselves any chance of survival. They got that, but only just with Mark Oppen (5) and Matt Sampson (1) contributing 3-0 wins, Vinod Duraikan (3) winning 3-1 and Miles Jeanneret (4) notching a point in a 3-1 reverse. Chris Shaw (2) was beaten 3-0 in the other string by former Melbourn player Malik Bilen.
Having done their part Melbourn saw their hopes of sneaking up to a play-off dashed though by results elsewhere, leaving the local club bottom of the table and returning back to Division 2 once again.

Melbourn I vs Cambridge University I (15th March 2023)

Melbourn lost 7-18

Melbourn 1sts gave Cambridgeshire Squash League Division 1 champions Cambridge Uni 1sts a run for their money last Wednesday… and kept their slim hopes of surviving in the county top flight alive as a consequence.
Melbourn were competitive in every string, particularly at #5 where skipper Mark Oppen picked up an excellent 3-0 success. Otherwise the matches all went the students way, but with every Melbourn player picking up at least a game, and therefore a league point, in defeat: Chris Shaw (2) falling 3-2 and each of Matt Sampson (1), Vinod Duraikan (3) and Miles Jeanneret (4) going down 3-1.
It all added up to 8 points from the evening for Melbourn, which leaves them 15 adrift of relegation rivals Stamford going into the final round of matches, where there will be a maximum of 20 points on the line for both teams.

Cambridge I vs Melbourn I (8th March 2023)

Melbourn lost 9-18

Melbourn 1sts suffered a very significant blow in their battle to avoid relegation from Cambridgeshire Squash League Division 1 after they were beaten 18-9 by the side one place above them, Cambridge 1sts.
Back-to-back wins had got Melbourn to within five points of their hosts at the start of play, and hopes were raised they could reverse that when skipper Mark Oppen claimed a remarkable 3-2 win at fifth string, the match going to a deciding game tie-break which saw both players have multiple match balls before Oppen won 17-15. Cambridge responded by winning the third and fourth strings, Vinod Duraikan and Mike Herd falling 3-0 and 3-1 respectively.
Melbourn struck back by taking another string that went the full distance, Chris Shaw (2) taking clinching a 13-11 success in another deciding game tie-break. The visitors couldn’t make it three 3-2 wins out of three though as Matt Sampson (1) was ground down and beaten by the same score.

Melbourn I vs Stamford I (1st March 2023)

Melbourn won 20-1

Melbourn 1sts required a comprehensive win over Stamford 1sts to retain any realistic prospect of survival in Cambridgeshire Squash League Division 1. And they got it, racking up a 20-1 success.
The closest match of the evening was the first on, Melbourn skipper Mark Oppen (5) dropping the third game of his match to be pegged back to 2-1. However Oppen found that slowing things down worked really well as he closed the fourth out 11-2 to complete a 3-1 win. All the other Melbourn players won 3-0, Miles Jeannert (4) putting on a performance of increasing control, Vinod Duraikan (3) winning two close games, the second on a tie-break, before accelerating away, and Matt Sampson (1) and Chris Shaw (2) each winning in straight games with a degree of comfort.

Melbourn I vs March I (22nd February 2023)

Melbourn won 19-8

It took 14 goes, but Melbourn 1sts are finally off the mark for wins in this season’s Cambridgeshire Squash Leagues Division 1 following a 19-8 victory over March 1sts.
The victory was a battle as none of the five strings were won in straight games. The closest match of the evening was Miles Jeanneret’s 3-2 victory at fourth string – all three of the Melbourn player’s games won (which were the 1st, 2nd and 5th) coming after tie-breaks. Chris Shaw (2), Vinod Duraikan (3) and Mark Oppen (5) all wore their opponents down to win 3-1, in each case the fourth game being taken pretty comprehensively. The winning bonus for the evening was under Melbourn’s belts before Matt Sampson (1) took the court. Sampson has struggled with injuries this season, but was back to near his best in another close encounter. However he eventually ran out of gas and was beaten 3-2.
The victory gave Melbourn hope of Division 1 survival as they are now back in touch with the pack, having previously been adrift at the foot of the table. They face a big match against 8th-placed Stamford next.

Comberton II vs Melbourn II (7th February 2023)

Melbourn lost 4-20

A tough evening for a mix-and-match Melbourn 2nds side struggling with injuries and unavailability saw them beaten 20-4 at Comberton.

The visitors only points on the night came from Jan Brynjolffssen (1) and Jamie Ware (3) who both had leads they failed to convert. In Jan’s case the biggest bugbear was somehow contriving to throw his opening game away despite seeming in complete command when he raced into a 7-1 lead. This became 12-7, but somehow got turned around to 13-14 down. Jan saved the game-ball but not the next one as he lost it in a breaker 16-14. This would eventually come back to bite him as winning the next two only put him 2-1 up rather than claiming a straight games win. An aberration of a fourth took it to a decider which a now highly confident Alastair Maclean won to send Jan to a 14-16, 15-11, 15-13, 4-15, 11-15 defeat.

In Jamie’s case the issue was simply running out of gas – the Melbourn player fought tooth-and-nail for the first three games, winning two of them (1st and 3rd) on extended tie-breaks. The problem was when Jamie came off court after edging out a deeply nervous third 18-16 he was obviously blowing hard, something opponent Richard Anthony took advantage of by rattling through the fourth and fifth. The game scores were (Jamie first) 17-15, 6-15, 18-16, 3-15, 5-15.

The other three matches all saw Melbourn’s players fall to straight games defeats. Teenager Will Bradshaw (5) had no answer to the nous of exerpienced player (and qualified coach) Steve Swanton who beat him 4-15, 5-15, 3-15 and was clearly glad to get this one into the record books now as Will is only going to trend upwards over the coming years. Moises Estrelles Navarro (4) was also in somewhat over his head against Tom Snaith’s variety and ability to hold his shot. Moises did his usual tearing about the place to pick loads up, but it wasn’t enough and he was beaten 7-15, 7-15, 8-15. We had a somewhat similar game at a higher overall standard at second string as Colm O’Gorman found himself up against the subtle variations of Jez Cotton. Jez has left many players bemused over the years… Colm proved to be another as despite giving everything all he was left to show for it was a 7-15, 8-15, 9-15 reverse. Given that trend if Colm could have just drawn things out for another half-a-dozen games… 

Melbourn I vs Swavesey I (1st February 2023)

Melbourn lost 4-18

Melbourn 1sts frustrating season in the Cambridgeshire Squash League Division 1 continued as they were beaten 18-4 by Swavesey 1sts.
Melbourn’s only win came at top string, and even this was somewhat underwhelming as injury saw Shaw complete the job – the Melbourn player was leading by two games to one when his opponent was forced to retire, though. The hosts only other point came at fifth string where Kate Bradshaw was beaten 3-1, whilst all of Vinod Duraikan (2), Miles Jeanneret (3) and Mark Oppen (4) went down 3-0. The lop-sided scoreline were somewhat undeserved in Jeanneret’s and particularly Duraikan’s case as the former lost one game on a tie break and the latter two.
Melbourn remain bottom of the Division 1 table, and are getting increasingly isolated in that position.

Peterborough III vs Melbourn II (16th March)

Melbourn lost 8-14

The final game of the season took the 2nds up the A1 to face Peterborough. The pressure was off as it was effectively certain we would finish fourth in Division 3, which is the team’s best ever position. Could we live up to it on the night, though?

First to try was Matt Walker, who took on a super fit young player Renzo Rozza Gonzalez at 5th string. The first two games saw Renzo chasing hard, and also defending with quality. When he had the chance to attack though Renzo didn’t really go for kills. Matt had success when he pushed up the court and tried to kill, less so when he stayed deeper and tried to out-rally the home player. Matt’s attack was decisive enough to get through a tight opening game, and then a some fraught second with some interaction between the players on court and the marker. Once again Matt battled through, this time in a breaker during which both players had game points, and that was decisive as Renzo’s head dropped in game three and his effort levels with it, Matt got control of the front wall and began to volley drop his opponent to death, Matt winning 15-13, 17-15, 15-6.

The other first match on was the third string, Gareth Jones taking Jose Carlos Corriera. This was a bizarre match when the players were apparently evenly matched based on very close game scores… except the points when it bursts. Very extended bursts. Game 1 was a prime example as Gareth built an 8-1 with consistent line and length play, but then got confident and felt he could try things. Cue seven points in a row for Jose as he got the chance to play his clever kills. Gareth refocused, built another lead (up to around 13-9), got expansive again and found himself game ball down at 14-13 but saved it and then won the breaker. This got no more sensible in the later games as this pattern of Gareth controlling for half-a-dozen rallies and then Jose doing likewise continued – what was weird was these were quite extended exchanges so it wasn’t like serve was dominating, even if the server was. Gareth once again did enough to edge each game though, wrapping up a 16-14, 15-12, 15-12 victory.

The fourth strings followed the thirds on to the court, with Sean Hamilton taking on Pierre Caruso. The first games saw Sean getting caught by Pierre’s high serves, which Sean was volleying but being dragged cross court (a function of his foot position waiting for the returns) which was allowing Pierre to pounce to kill. The first pair of games escaped on the back of this despite Sean fire-fighting as hard as possible. Game three brought a change of tactics from Sean, looking to exploit height to get the ball deep and force Pierre into the back corners. There was also an adjustment in the foot position, which meant Sean was now able to volley his returns down the wall, also turning his opponent. This changed the pattern, allowing Sean to sneak through the game. Optimism leaped… and was then crushed as Pierre adjusted in turn, taking more volleys to neutralise the high balls. This saw Sean go down 7-15, 9-15, 15-13, 8-15.

Next to start was the second strings, which pitted Colm O’Gorman against Justin Snart. Game one saw Colm produce his best Squash, which is hard running tenacious defence. This was forcing errors from Justin as he strove for extra tight kills that would get away from Colm’s racquet, Colm counterpunching his way to a narrow (and excellent) opening game. This was great against a player rated higher than Colm on Squashlevels, but sadly it the intensity and speed of movement needed was too much to maintain, and with Colm slowing down just a fraction Justin was able to get the extra little bit of space he needed to play his kills rather than over-forcing. The change in balance was very minor, but it was enough to turn the opening game win into a 15-13, 11-15, 9-15, 10-15 loss.

That sent the match to a deciding rubber at top string where Jan Brynjolffssen took on Tim Millington. Tim is known for his touch shots and creativity, with Jan getting worrying hints from acquaintances in the host club that “He is in good form at the moment”. Concerning, given the relative disparity in the players ratings - ~2900 for Tim to ~2100 for Jan. Give or take. Rounded up for the lower and down for the higher.
Jan started OK, trading points as he managed to cover Tim’s boasts into his front forehand corner. But as the game progressed Tim began to find his shots, including somehow wrong-footing Jan on drop shots when Tim was in front and had his eyes on the ball rather than his opponent. Pure witchcraft! That eventually saw a good, competitive but ultimately clearly won game go the home side’s way. Jan tried to battle in the second and even held a slight lead at the mid-stage as he straightened his lines out and did everything he could to keep the ball away from the centre of the court, but once again this was a cue for Tim to up his deception levels to build a 2-0 lead. The writing was on the wall at this point, though when Jan led 8-4 in the third he did have a brief hope of at least registering a point. No dice as Tim once again stepped things up. He was even confident enough to let a stroke go on match ball, instead playing a long, drawn out, utterly lungbusting rally that saw both players move to all four corners before Tim eventually sealed things. Jan lost 11-15, 10-15, 10-15.

And with that the 2nds season was over. It hadn’t quite been as successful overall as had once looked possible – the team was top of the Division at Christmas after a 7-2 opening half – but still it was an excellent showing with 10 wins from 18 fixtures, which was good for 229 points. This left the side fourth in the final table, 36 points off the promotion spots, 12 behind third, but a clear 25 ahead of the side in fifth.

Newmarket II vs Melbourn II (16th March)

Melbourn won 18-6

Having played and lost to Newmarket 1sts at home the previous week, the 2nds looked to do better against the Suffolk club’s 2nd team… though with nearly two weeks between the matches due to prefer days for home games (Monday in our case, Thursday for both Newmarket sides) the previous loss was more of a distant memory when fighting to find a car parking space at Newmarket Leisure Centre – 6:50pm is NOT the time to show up there, clearly! Or rather it is the time, and everyone within a 20 mile radius thinks that.

Having finally dumped all cars (on pavements, in bushes, standing on their nose, whatever tiny bit of space was available) the match got underway with Matt Walker (4) taking on Gary Last on the glass back and Roger Woodfield (5) facing off with Chris Talbot next door. Roger had a clear advantage in terms of touch and shotcraft, Chris was clearly the fitter player. The key was rally construction – who could force their opponents to attempt things beyond their capacity. For most of games 1 and 2 it was Roger who achieved this for a slender, but key proportion of the rallies as he got up court to put in his super tight drops. The start of the third saw Roger dropping too deep, nullifying his attacks and allowing Chris to control the front court and make Rog run (booo!). However a deep dig allowed Roger to find the energy to maintain a decent ‘t’ position, high enough often enough to turn the game around from 8-4 down or so and complete his 15-13, 15-12, 15-12 win.

Meanwhile Matt was struggling initially with Gary’s attacking style, Matt not getting the ball deep enough so he was often playing from behind his opponent. Not a great strategy against a player who wants to end the rally early. There was also a lack of sharpness in Matt’s movement as he gets himself back into the swing of team Squash. The second saw an improvement based on sheer bloody-mindedness/determination, Matt now getting the ball past Gary, forcing recovery shots from the Newmarket player that finally allowed Matt to get in his super volley drops. Mistakes crept back into Matt’s game at the start of the third, which became tighter than ideal. What Matt needed was motivation to focus on every rally – he derived it from some marking calls that surprised him, Matt using the frustration to cut any looseness from his game in the crucial rallies. How crucial this was was evident from the fourth as Matt was finally feeling confident and able to dominate the service line, get his volley drops in consistently to complete an 11-15, 15-8, 15-13, 15-8 win.

Matt was followed on the glass back by Gareth Jones (3), who took on Oliver Pynn. The first game can be summed up as Gareth-esque, as he started extremely well, built a lead but as soon as he did so began to feel comfortable which prompted him to experiment with varying his play to keep the thing from getting boring. Not a great idea as the initial pattern, conservative choices pumping the ball deep and tight, was the right method to win rallies against a player whose biggest strength is his fitness rather than his back corner retrieving. Despite letting Oliver back into the game (“I felt a sudden haemorrhaging of points” G. Jones) but a return to ‘less fancy stuff’ in the tie-break saw Gareth get through. Rinse, shake and repeat in game two, with drop shot errors seeing Gareth’s early lead evaporate, only for a reversion to line-and-length recovering the situation once again.
This sort of turn around didn’t prove possibly in games three and four though as in these ones Gareth attempted to affect the comeback with power kills on the run. Somewhat fitness driven, but tactically unsound as Oliver was waiting in position on the service line with sufficiently quick reactions to counter-drop the low balls for winners (if they even got over the tin in the first place). Advice from teammates before the decider was to lift balls to service line height in those situations to start getting depth again. This worked a charm as Gareth built a lead, only to squander it with unforced errors. However the early running proved enough in the end as Oliver was equally generous in turn with some crucial mistakes right at the death as Gareth saw out a 16-14, 15-13, 11-15, 11-15, 15-11 success.

The second string pitted Colm O’Gorman against Wayne Bamforth. Wayne was rapid in his lateral movement and had great touch at the front of the court, with Colm attempting his scrambling game in response. This led to Wayne rather dictating the first game play, Colm haring about the place as effectively as he could but having to work through some interference to try and do so. Game two saw Colm turn things around as he found ways to get the ball past Wayne into the back corners (width, variety and lobs working wonders) which meant he was now the player asking the movement questions, which weren’t successfully answered. Unfortunately Colm was not able to maintain this in the third and fourth as Wayne was able to hold the service line once again and bring his accurate drops and boasts into play, the outcome being a 13-15, 15-9, 11-15, 10-15 for the Melbourn player.

The top string pitted Jan Brynjolffssen (1) against Paul Bragg. This was a repeat of a clash earlier in the season at Melbourn that Paul had won 17-15 in the fifth… Jan did remember that he had lost that encounter but had successfully blanked how close it had been! What was recalled though was Paul’s style, which includes lots of boasts and drops – he has lovely touch. Jan’s task was to keep the ball away from Paul on the service line and make him play up-and-down the walls, but this was not easily done against a player for whom cutting it out was key. However Jan managed to be tight enough in his lengths and quick enough in his movement chasing down the short balls to edge out the first and then take the second a bit more comfortably.
The third saw Paul find his range at the start and build a lead. From 12-9 down Jan dug in, making the rallies as physical as he could; this worked a charm as a 12-9 deficit became a 13-12 lead. The next rally was the vital as Paul played a really tight drop that Jan chased and lunged for, but more in a performative “you’ve got to try” sense than in any real belief he was going to get it. Except he did get his racquet to the ball just before the second bounce with an absolutely as powerful as possible swipe… which got just enough on the ball to creep it a millimetre over the tin for a stone dead counter-drop! A mistake from Paul on the next rally completed things, Jan taking a 15-12, 15-9, 15-12 victory to wrap up a 18-6 win for the team.

Melbourn II vs Newmarket I (6th March)

Melbourn lost 8-17

Back in the autumn the 2nds had picked up our best win of the opening half of the campaign when we won 15-7 at Newmarket 1sts. That had pushed us clear at the top of the table, where we remained at Christmas with Newmarket among the sides chasing hard. A few months down the line though things had changed as Newmarket had gone on a run of wins to take over at the top, benefitting in part from the 2nds simultaneous run of losses. There was much to play for when the sides meet again, then.

The first match to get underway would prove to be the most dramatic of the evening as Gareth (4) took on Mark Price. Gareth started well, hitting to depth and finding lengths with Mark – a notoriously dogged player – looking completely out of sorts with himself, the court and his body. Gareth was getting lots of joy in the back corners as Mark struggled to dig balls out, leading to a 15-9 first game claim. The second was even more one sided as Gareth pounded Mark back and Mark seemed disinterested in fighting. 15-4.
When Gareth built a 12-8 lead in game three a 3-0 win seemed on the cards, but a key error at that point proved costly as Mark at last woke up and began to play the sort of tenacious Squash he is known for. Six straight rallies got the Newmarket player to game points and though Gareth saved one he couldn’t claw back the game. The fourth also went the visiting players way with a late burst, and when Gareth fell 7-0 down to start game five, he and his cause seemed lost. That became 11-2 and eventually 14-8, but behind the 8-ball Gareth suddenly began to exploit Mark’s lack of mobility (he could barely move, in fact!) and saved one, two, three match balls. That became all of them, and not only that Gareth got a match ball of his own at 15-14. However, having found the pattern of push Mark back and then cut the ball short Gareth unaccountably turned down a simple drop on this point but rather started to smack the ball to the back of the court… where Mark was standing. Presumably tension, but this was Gareth’s undoing as he eventually lost the game 19-17 and was left contemplating how he had fallen 15-9, 15-4, 13-15, 11-15, 17-19.

Next door the first match on pitted Colm (3) against Matt Pearson, who has been getting some eye-catching results this season. However Colm’s game is rather made for playing against Matt, who is a high class shot-maker but not necessarily the best mover on the court; perfect for Colm’s retriever style to counter.
The first game was close throughout, with the lead changing hands numerous times. Again, the sort of battle that Colm relishes and one he won 15-13. And that set the pattern for the match as Colm was able to chase down enough of Matt’s kills and play successful counters. Matt kept pushing the play where he could, having the better of the final phase of the third game but Colm had his teeth truly in to this one and claimed a superb win 15-13, 12-15, 15-10, 15-12.

Following Colm on Court 1 was Sean (5), who took on Charlie Crisp. Sean hasn’t played all that much recently but was in decent form in the opener, particularly during a run of six straight rallies won in the mid-game which turned an 8-4 opening deficit into a 10-8 lead. After that things were nip and tuck, Charlie getting to game ball first at 14-13, but Sean saving it and then making the most of that by closing out the tie-break. This, however, proved something of a false dawn as Sean’s lack of recent court time gradually came to the fore as he tired and was unable to retrieve quite as effectively as he had. The difference was fractions of a second in speed over the deck, but that is enough to change the games from absolutely level pegging to tipped slightly but decisively in Charlie’s favour. Games scores were 16-14, 12-15, 8-15, 5-15.

Over on Court 2 Jan (2) was taking on Santiago Uribe Lewis. Jan was coming in with high confidence after a great win the previous week… but was swiftly wondering where this had gone as Santi powered into a 12-3 game one lead. What Jan was trying was simply not causing his opponent any discomfort, and despite grinding some rallies late in the game to get a few more points the first was gone. Game 2 was better from the Melbourn player’s perspective as he was able to move his opponent more, drawing errors particularly when he got the ball deep into the backhand corner. Jan even led this game 13-12, but paid for a key error at 13-all as the game escaped 15-13.  And that was that really as Santiago pushed himself back up to his first game level to close out the third comfortably and leave Jan deflated after a 7-15, 13-15, 8-15 loss.

Jan’s loss meant the match was over as a contest before Mike (1) began against Hamish Jogee. The opening game of this one had Hamish’s stamp all over it, i.e. utterly bizarre. The Newmarket player is well known on the circuit for both his skill and his wild inconsistency in applying it, with spectators breath regularly drawn in after he hits the ball – but as often as not for a extraordinary error as a spectacular winner. Mike got thrown by this and never found his usual rhythm in the shorter-than-expected rallies. However he did dig in and improve the tightness of his shots late in the game, dragging the game back to a tie-break. This started with a game ball to Hamish that he could have called a probable stroke on, but didn’t and then tinned his drop shot instead. D’Oh! And another pattern was set as the tie-break went on, and on, and on. In the end it was close to a whole extra game before it finally broke Hamish’s way 24-22.
Game two saw Hamish up the winners and reduce the errors which took it off Mike’s racquet and left him needing to win the third. This seemed in the bag when Mike raced into an 8-0 lead with some solid player that offered Hamish few chances for winners but lots of opportunity to make errors… except this was then followed by a hot spell from the Newmarket player as he won 8 of the next 9 rallies to drag the game back to 9-8! Mike managed to play the remainder of the game on his terms to claim it, but this proved a false dawn as the fourth again saw Hamish as the key player on court, which resulted in a 22-24, 7-15, 15-12, 7-15 defeat for Mike, a rare reverse for him in what has been a very impressive campaign.

After the match Melbourn skipper Jan commented “We gave it our best, but they are a strong side who will probably be champions of our Division this season, and were too strong here.”

Melbourn II vs Hunts County II (27th February)

Melbourn won 17-5

The Seconds came into this match on the back of a four match losing run, but also having put in a much improved performance the previous week at Spalding (in fact only four days prior as our home night is Mondays and Spalding’s is Thursdays). With another close to full strength team there was decent hope we could get back to winning ways despite Hunts always being tough opposition.

The evening started with a bit of confusion as 7:20pm there were enough players to play… but insufficient of us and too many of them. Once Hunts communication issues had been sorted and our stragglers had shown up, we got the first two strings on – Matt Walker taking on Billy Bremner at #5 and Gareth Jones up against a new face to us, Tom Jugg, at #4.

Your correspondent didn’t see much at all of Matt’s game, so I’m mostly going off hearsay here… but the reports are that Matt was in good form and just that bit too sharp and too tight for Billy. Especially in the second game. The other two were hard fought, Matt pulling away towards the end – in the second he managed that from the start and never relented. It all added up to a 15-12, 15-3, 15-10 victory for Matt… his first for the team since March 2020 (though to be fair he had only played three times in the intervening three years thanks to a mixture of COVID and injury).

Next door Gareth started well against Tom, who was making his Hunts debut but not his team Squash one – the records show Tom has played regularly at a good level in the Lincolnshire Leagues. The initial signs looked good for Gareth as he had control of the early rallies, but having been playing patient, well-constructed Squash in the first half of the first game the Melbourn player then got a little complacent and started going for stuff too early, which let his advantage wither away. The end of the game was especially irritating as a 12-10 lead morphed into a 13-15 reverse. This seemed to both inspire Tom and get under Gareth’s skin as game 2 was over moreorless before it had started as the away player stormed into a 9-3 lead with nice some shot-making. Gareth dug in later in the game but was still two down. Game three saw Tom pushing early as he sought to make sure it was 3-0, but then ease off in an attempt to cruise to the line. Cue Gareth rattling off five straight rallies to recover from 13-8 to 13-all. However, just when it seemed a turnaround was happening a crucial mistake gifted Tom match ball, which he took to his evident relief. Gareth was left forlorn and beaten 13-15, 9-15, 13-15.

The third string encounter pitted Aidan Hird against Rick Watson. And what to say about this? Well, it was the usual fare Aidan serves up in team matches – all shuddering power, not a great deal of the controlled rally construction we see in practice and friendly matches internally at Melbourn. The thing is Aidan’s power is so thunderous it can be effective, as Rick was left flinging himself at balls racing away from him towards the back corners. Aidan won the first two fairly comfortably, got a bit tighter in the third and added some more unforced to the mix but edged himself through 3-0 (15-7, 15-8, 15-13). Played three, won two for Aidan so far this season… maybe the belief will start to grow that he can do this Team Squash thing, and with it less nerves and more of the play we know within the team he can produce?

Aidan and Matt’s wins had us 2-1 up as Jan Brynjolffssen (2) took the court against Matt van den Bos. Jan started with their last meeting at Hunts last spring in mind, when Matt had willed himself to a 3-1 victory by claiming game four on a breaker 17-15 when seemingly out on his feet. The game plan, then – make it physical, extend the rallies. Teammate advice at the end of game one, which Matt won, was Jan was maybe taking this too far as Matt was hanging very deep and simply getting the ball hit back to him. Maybe go for the occasional drop as well? Sound tactics as it turned out as Jan rattled through game two in double quick time.
The third saw Matt get back on it after letting the end of the second go, the Hunts player building himself a lead mid-game to get 13-7 up. However Jan wouldn’t stop being tenacious and reasoned if he could make Matt have to work particularly hard to complete the game he would likely benefit in the long run. Some tough, extended rallies dragged things out, Matt took the game, but Jan did indeed feel the benefit as he once again raced through the next with a degree of comfort.
Matt evoked memories of the previous season’s match with some gutsy rallies at the start of the fifth, which had him 6-4 up at one stage and celebrating hard after point claims. Will power alone wasn’t going to be enough this time as the Hunts players feet were clearly not moving at the same speed as before, which Jan took advantage of with shots into the open court to wrap up an 11-15, 15-4, 10-15, 15-7, 15-9 victory.

That finished not long after Mike Herd and Sean Brodrick had taken to the court. Both came in with strong personal records this season, Mike on 5-2 and Sean having put together an impressive 11-3 analysis. On that basis, what followed was probably Mike’s best performance of the season as he made Sean, a very strong player, feel like he was up against someone he wasn’t going to get the better of. Mike was consistency itself, lunging well to pick balls up and keep the play on the stretch very tight. About the only point in the evening when anything other than a 3-0 home win looked possible was the first half of the third – which Sean led 6-3 and 9-5 – but having let the plateau dropped every so slightly Mike raised it up again in the latter stages of the game (don’t want to play a fourth, thanks!) to pick up a might impressive 15-8, 15-5, 15-11 win.

 Jan, who was skippering on the evening due to regular captain Colm swanning around the USofA (work), remarked “Aidan and Matt cruised through theirs. My game and Mike’s were the key ones. I’ve come close to beating my guy before, but this time he was just completely out-of-gas. Mike played superbly to not just beat a very good opponent but do so by a distance.”

Spalding I vs Melbourn II (23rd February)

The 2nds have struggled since Christmas, in part because of a slew of injuries business trips and the like disrupting us from the consistent side we managed to roll out in the autumn. However we were back close to full strength for this one… which was handy as it was second vs third, Spalding having taken advantage of our recent run of reverses to move above in the table. A potentially good, tight match was in prospect.

The first games on pitted Roger (5) against Daniel Deprez and Matt (4) against Jason Hadland. Roger had his hands full with Daniel, who is fairly new to Squash but brought considerable fitness and determination from his previous sporting experience to the party. This went alongside a “don’t die wondering” attitude that saw Daniel go for winners from the very get go of rallies. This wasn’t ideal for Roger, who took a while to adjust to Daniel’s dynamism, seeing the first game go fairly quickly. Games two and three were tighter, but Roger struggled to get up to speed at the start of each and this left too big a mountain to climb. Despite moving Daniel about the court more as the games progressed, Roger lost 6-15, 10-15, 10-15.

Meanwhile Matt got to grace Spalding’s glass back as he makes his way back into team Squash after a bunch of injuries stopped him playing for much of the past three years (other issues limited playing time for everyone over that period as well of course… but even if we could have played all the way through Matt’s elbow and back would have stopped him doing so!). Things initially looked good for Matt as he moved into around a 10-6 lead, but at this point Jason began to find a pattern that challenged Matt’s anticipation and movement at this point of his comeback. This saw game one slip away, and game two join it.
Game three seemed to be escaping fairly tamely as Matt dropped 8-2 down, but at this point he suddenly found his mojo and won 6 straight rallies to level things up. Matt was doing this as he had found his game, stepping up the court to cut out volley drops. The rate of rallies wins slowed up a little from 8-8 but Matt stayed strong in the clutch and edged the game on a breaker. Could this be an inflection point? No, not as it turned out as game four saw Jason keep the ball far enough away from Matt’s deadly volleys to draw away and send the Melbourn player to a 11-15, 11-15, 16-14, 10-15 defeat.

Second on the glassback was Colm (3) against Martin Pettitt. The first game saw Colm making hay when he pushed Martin back, particularly deep into the backhand corner, leading to a 15-12 claim despite a mid-game wobble when Colm came briefly away from his strategy. However the Spalding player struck back as Colm dropped deep himself allowing Martin to command the service line and play his kills. The third produced another upswing for Melbourn as Colm reasserted his position and once again got Martin digging out of the back corners, which was still productive (this may class as a momentous discovery in Squash tactical circles! 😉).
The switchback continued though as game four saw Colm looking tired, his footwork slowing up leading to skewed balls which once again allow Martin to control the mid-court. There was also a suspicion that Colm semi-deliberately let it go given that 9-5 rapidly turned into 15-5! We were therefore into a decider, which didn’t initially look promising for Colm as he fell a number of points behind but then a key error from Martin gave a point away he should have won, and that woke the dog inside Colm (you can take the boy out of Limerick…). Things got really tense, with especially when Colm was 11-9 down and twice rallies ended with let/stroke decisions for Martin that went for the former when either could have been the latter. Colm built on this let off to level up and get ahead to be the first to match ball at 14-13. This was saved as Colm got passive, hoping for a mistake. But it came at 14-all rather than match ball, Martin tinning a boast that was a probable winner. Rinse, shake and repeat at 15-14, this time the mistake at 15-all on a drop shot. And this time around Colm managed to be more dynamic in the rally, eventually getting the mistake to win the match in… yep, you’ve guessed it, the deep backhand corner! Game scores were 15-12, 7-15, 15-12, 5-15, 17-15.

Whilst all this was going on Jan (2) was taking on Spalding skipper Gary Slator. This was a match up that also occurred in the reverse fixture, Jan winning 3-0 on that evening as Gary never found his game. The home player was in better touch this time, whilst Jan initially struggled to have complete command of his length on unfamiliar courts, but even so the essential pattern from the first clash of Gary going for early kills, which Jan anticipates and chases down for a counter-drop still held. There were wobbles towards the end of each game, with the one in the second that saw it come all the way back to 14-13 looking potentially a turning point, but Jan held firm to win that 15-13 and also put a poor missed drop at 13-8 in the fifth behind him (eventually) with a good depth to the backhand corner and one final backhand drop shot to complete a 15-12, 15-13, 15-12 success.

Mike (1) took the court against Scott Chuter before Colm’s match had finished, so not knowing if he was playing for an overall win or merely consolation points. The first game saw Scott have slightly the upper hand with his nice movement and shots, edging out Mike 15-11. However there is a large risk-reward element to Scott’s play and this went the other way in game two as a string of errors saw him fall behind, which both embolden Mike and pushed Scott to go for ever more. This led to the Melbourn player rapidly running away with things to level up at 1-1.
By this point Colm’s match had finished and everyone knew this was now the decider of the evening. The game that followed was suitably tight for the situation, with never more than a couple of points between the players. In the end-game Mike edged ahead at 14-13 after a consistent, solid rally, but then didn’t quite find the killer touch on game ball as two forehand drop shot chances went begging to be pegged back. Scott then got to game ball instead… and converted it to go 2-1 up. That appeared to inspire the home player who took his game up a level in the fourth. Mike played well, but still fell 15-10 for an overall 11-15, 15-5, 14-16, 10-15 reverse.

Melbourn skipper Colm commented afterwards “The team put in a mammoth effort and fought for every point, just coming up short against a strong Spalding team who have their sights firmly on promotion. It’s great to see players like Matt coming back from injury and competing so well”

Saints I (Huntingdon) vs Melbourn I - 8th February 2023

Another week, another loss for the 1sts as this time the side went down at Saints 1sts (Huntingdon).

Despite the name of the opposition the match was played at the Saints other venue, St. Neots, as the Hunts courts were out of action. Which was probably a good thing as the St. Neots ones are better (warmer) according to the home side. We (Miles) did manage to take a chunk out of a side wall during a knock-up though, and not by doing anything particularly extreme – if just feel out. Re-plastering time might only be slightly around the corner… here’s hoping OneLeisure will stump for it for the Saints sake (they have already lost their best venue in St. Ives, converted to a sad and mostly empty gym).

First on was wall-destroyer Miles (3) who took on Marco Pita. Marco is extremely fast and fit, but overall quite a defensive player. This should have produced a pretty grinding match with Miles who is a bit similar – he has more to his attacking game, but still basis his approach on his silky movement. However on this night Miles head seemingly wasn’t there, as he kept to trying to attack the player looking to counter punch. Not a recipe for success, Miles losing 5-11, 7-11, 5-11 and generally looking all-at-sea and rather deflated by the experience.

Things were rather tighter next door. Much tighter in fact as Mark (4) matched himself up against the power hitting of Grant Mankee. These two have met many times before and it has always been tight – this one was no excepton. Mark had the better of the majority of the opening game, but having got himself to 10-8 up he was clearly struggling for air and looking for a rapid exit from the game. This lead to over-striving, which gave away the two game balls and saw him lose the breaker instead. Dang. However Mark responded with a superbly controlled second where he maintained his play to the death, and then edged Grant out in an extremely nervy third that went to another break. A bit of a let off followed, Grant taking full advantage to level, but Mark upped his intensity in the last to come through an epic 11-13, 11-8, 12-10, 7-11, 11-8.

As this was going on Chris (1) took the court against former Melbourn player Mumin Bilen… who Chris has also coached. It’s now a few years since Mumin featured for us at fifth string in Division 1 (that was pre-pandemic) and those matter given he was in his early teens back then. Now into his later teens Mumin has moved up to play at 2 or 1, and is doing well there generally. However Chris still had his number in this one, keep things tight and look to ask Mumin to make the play. This worked to draw errors, giving Chris the first game reasonably comfortably. Mumin attempted to dig in for the second, but whilst this was closer Chris again pulled away at the death and with that Mumin’s head went down a little for the third. Chris won 11-6, 11-8, 11-4.

Mark’s game was so long that Jan (5) took to the other court to face Johnny Nelmes, as the two matches on that were completed before the one next door concluded. Jan and Johnny had met a couple of times before, both pre-pandemic, with the head-to-head at 1-1… but the first time Johnny was rusty after a spell away from the sport and clash two had seen the Saints player win handily. Johnny was definitely the favourite, but Jan battled well in the opening game to keep things close. However Johnny still got to 10-8 up, only to hand Jan a lifeline with two unforced errors… that Jan handed straight back with two of his own. D’Oh! 12-10. Unfortunately for Jan this lead to a let down in game 2, which he lost rapidly. The legacy of that (and the previous meeting) was carried into game three, along with Johnny’s extra speed and sharpness of shot. The margins were still relatively fine, but overall it was too much for Jan who lost 10-12, 3-11, 8-11.

That meant the evening went to the second string game, which pitted Vinod against John Dewis. Unfortunately Vinod arrived at it carrying an Achilles injury suffered at a recent Masters tournament, which meant he had to adapt his game to try and cover for mobility which declined as the match progressed (and the injury worsened again). John initially appeared a bit tight, making some atypical mistakes, but from ~5-5 in game one the Saints player clued in that Vinod was operating at under full throttle and that he should be able to come through. This relaxed John in turn and led to Vinod going down 6-11, 3-11, 5-11.

Melbourn II vs Comberton II (13th February)

Hereward Cup Quarter-Final

Melbourn lost 1-4

An oddity of the fixture list meant the 2nds and Comberton played for the second time in six days, this match a Cup QF after the previous week’s 20-4 defeat for Melbourn in Division 3.

Both teams showed only a handful of changes from the League encounter – for us Colm was not available, with Roger coming in at #3 and Jamie moving up to #2. Comberton had the same top 3 as the league match, but gave a run out to a pair of teenagers at #4 and #5 in the Cup clash.

The fifth string featured two kids as Melbourn’s Will Bradshaw took on Connor Harmer, the players knowing each other from the Cambs Junior scene. Connor has a few years and a few mph on his shots over Will, and he used this well to pin the Melbourn player deep in the court. Will was left between the devil and the deep blue sea – dropping back wasn’t helping at all as he simply got stuck behind Connor, boasting out of deep corners, but when he did try and push forward Will often found himself rushed for time through the pace of Connor’s hitting. Will did construct some nice rallies to win points, but there weren’t enough of them overall and he lost 6-15, 7-15, 3-15.

The fourth string also featured a Comberton kid, though in this case Isaac Broughton was up against an adult in Melbourn’s Moises Estrelles Navarro. Both had great movement, but Isaac had more control than Moises. That meant that when Isaac went in short this was a potential winner, but when Moises did… not so much. A game plan hatched after a one sided opener by Moises and his teammates to not drop at all, ever, worked to an extent… the extent that Moises was able to stick to it, basically! He did for the first stages of games 2 and 3, the second sitting at 6-7 at one stage and the third at 3-5, but as the game progressed and air in the lungs got less Moises felt he desperately needed a way of shortening rallies, so began to look again for the kills. He was right in a way – this DID bring the rallies to quick conclusions… in Isaac’s favour! Oops. 3-0, with game scores 3-15, 6-15, 5-15.

The third string clash pitted Roger Woodfield against Richard Anthony, who had edged out Jamie 3-2 at Comberton the previous week. Roger presents and entirely different challenge from Jamie, and at the start this worked really well for Melbourn as he got his deadly cut-out drop shots into build a 12-5 opening game lead. This was whittled away by Richard but not enough to deny Roger the opener. The second was closer, the players exchanging points as one went ahead and then the other. Roger had his teeth into things now though, and like a good guard dog he won’t unclamp once his jaws are locked. That saw him grind it out to take a 2-0 lead. The problem was doing that drained the tanks rather, and once Richard had figure out Roger was hanging pretty deep he was in charge. The third saw Richard race into a 10-2 lead, which resulted in a comfortable claim and though Roger was closer in the next two he was never really on terms and eventually fell 15-12, 15-13, 6-15, 7-15, 9-15.

The extended nature of Roger and Richard’s clash meant Jamie Ware and Jez Cotton went on with the match still live. This was not a good match up from Melbourn’s point of view though sa Jex is a decidedly awkward customer to play – he had already beaten both Jan and Colm 3-0 in the league this season, and both of these players feature above Jamie in our ranking order. So a big challenge then… but one Jamie rose to as he played some of his best Squash for a while (that he is playing regularly at the moment surely helps). In face Jamie got himself 13-10 up in the opener… only for Jez to take a run of five straight rallies to turn it around. The second saw Jamie ahead in the early stages, but this time things reversed from mid-game. 2-0. The third was nip-and-tuck until 9-all when Jez won a batch of points to power to four match balls at 14-10. But Jamie was not done, saving one after another to drag himself into a breaker. Could this be the start of something? Er, no, because the effort to get back left nothing to play the next two rallies and Jez came through in the breaker. Game scores were 13-15, 9-15, 14-16, which as stated above is closer than either of the players higher in our order have got to Jez this season.

The final match saw Jan Brynjolffssen (1) take on Alistair Maclean. The pair had meet at top string in the league the week before, a match that Jan felt he had thrown away by letting an opening game he led 7-1 and 12-7 somehow slip away. Lots more Squash was played subsequently, but that rankled after the eventual 3-2 loss. Well, this match was a chance for revenge and after it Alistair is almost certainly the player cursing one that got away. Why? Well, one specific point… but that was match ball at 14-13 in the third after the Comberton player had won the opening two reasonably comfortably. On that match ball Jan hit a loose shot down the middle, and pinned himself to the near wall to try and get out of the way. Potential stroke, but Alistair went for the big finish instead… but put his attempted volley nick into the tin. Four rallies later Jan had the game on a breaker, and this time the match changed in his favour as from there on he improved the accuracy and pace of his hitting and kept Alistair deep enough to stop the wrong-footing happening as frequently. It all added up to a 8-15, 10-15, 17-15, 15-7, 15-10 win for Jan.

Melbourn II vs Swavesey II (30th January)

Melbourn lost 8-15

The 2nds didn’t lose many matches in the opening half of the campaign, which made the 20-3 reverse at Swavesey stand out. Nothing went right that day, starting from players getting lost on their way to the venue and rolling on from there. There was a determination in the team to try and put on a better performance on our nicely familiar courts.

The first match on was also a significant one as 14 year-old Will Bradshaw (5) made his long awaited Melbourn debut. Will show his usual nice rally construction, and did well when he managed to get the ball past opponent Henry Spelman and into the back corners. However he also tired as each of the opening two games progressed, and also found himself pinned down by Henry’s serving especially in the later stages of games. After both the first two were close at the mid-point Will saw each race away from him. His head was on his chin from the start of the third where we didn’t see the real Will as he lost 8-15, 7-15, 1-15.

Next door it was Roger Woodfield (4) who was the experienced head as he took on Henry Miller. This match was pretty tight as Roger’s deadly drop shots were put up against the younger player’s speed and movement. The opening game was the key – maybe if Roger had taken it to establish a 1-0 lead what followed might have been different. But he didn’t, Henry won the tie break instead and thereafter was able to keep his nose in front as Roger lost 15-17, 11-15, 10-15.

The third string clashed paired Gareth Jones with Adil Rivzi. Adil had proved to be an oddly effective player back in the first clash of the teams, beating Colm 3-1 and leaving the Melbourn player extremely frustrated as his game just hadn’t been there. It looked initially like Adil’s somewhat idiosyncratic approach to Squash was going to leave Gareth seemingly unbalanced, but having lost the first the Melbourn player was able to amp things up, give more length to the ball and draw Adil into the sort of up-and-down-the-walls rallies that were clearly to Gareth’s advantage. This worked to the extent that Gareth came roaring back to win 11-15, 15-9, 15-13, 15-9.

This seemed like it had put Melbourn into a strong position as whilst Gareth was turning things around Jan Brynjolffssen (2) was building a 2-0 lead over Marcus Tsui. He had managed this despite giving away a slew of strokes in the opening game as he struggled with his hitting lines, but managed to grind out enough points to recover a deficit to level at 13-all and then win the next two points to claim the game 15-13. Jan was cleaner in the second, which he won comfortably, and then relaxed hoping to see out a 3-0. Too much, as game three started with a string of low energy rallies that gave Marcus a foothold back in the match. The visiting player took the third despite Jan attempting to battle back, and then claimed the fourth as he confidence in his high, loopy game grew (“horrid, pace-less balls” to quote Jan afterwards). Four straight tins late in game four were also costly. The decider was nip-and-tuck until the mid-game, but from there Marcus refused to make another mistake and claim a comeback win as Jan went down 15-13, 15-6, 12-15, 12-15, 11-15.

Jan’s defeat was said because it ended whilst Mike Herd (1) was putting on arguably his performance of the season against Simon Hudson.
Simon is a strong player at Division 3 level, and came into the match having won 9 out of 10 encounters this season. Mike was in excellent form though, digging Simon’s attacking shots out, lunging well to keep the ball going and showing great control when he was forced into this stretches. Most notable was a pair of backhands in game one, the first a full length reach that Mike somehow control into a perfect lob down the wall the took Simon out of the attacking position and made him lift the ball from the back wall… straight into Mike pushing up to play a cut-out volley drop that rolled out of the nick. Awesome. With play like that it was little wonder that Mike complied a 15-10, 15-9, 15-12 win that he ought to be really proud of. If he can play better than that… well it would be great to see it! 😊

Melbourn’s skipper on the evening was Jan, who commented “We won a number of close ones in the opening half of the season, so maybe that luck had to turn in the end. My match turned out to be the key one, and I thought I had it under control at two-nil. But Marcus played very accurate Squash thereafter. It wasn’t to be.”

Cambridge III vs Melbourn II (24th January)

Melbourn lost 7-16

The 2nds had stayed top of Division 3 after winning our first match of the new year against Stamford the previous week, but staying there was going to be a challenge as a somewhat new look side headed to Churchill College to take on a Cambridge team who sat in upper mid-table.

The first matches on were two of the less familiar faces as Matt Walker (4) played his first team  match since pre-pandemic (the gap being due to injury) when he took on Sanjay Poria and Moises Estrelles Navarro made his second appearance for the Melbourn winter teams against Toni Coppolaro.
In each case the home player had significant experience in the County Leagues, and made use of it well. Particularly Toni against Moises. Moises obviously had a significant edge in fitness and movement, whilst Toni was much more clued up about creating an opening for a winner and accurate with his shots when he had those gaps. As a for instance, one rally in game 1 saw Toni attempt to play four winners, Moises pinballing around the court picking them up until he had the chance to attack himself to win the point. Which was great… but simply made the score 1-7! And that was the issue. The start of rallies was immensely important: if Moises return was loose or an attempt to force a winner out which gifted Toni the front wall, then the outcome was pretty certain – point to Toni. If Moises got his lines right and got Toni into a back corner, then he had a chance. But that didn’t happen anything like often enough, resulting in a heavy 4-15, 7-15, 6-15 defeat an a very frustrated visiting player.

It wasn’t quite the same thing between Matt and Sanjay as Matt was rather cleaner in his approach than Moises. He was just rusty. And Sanjay was not about to let him get away with that. There were flashes of the old Walker with some nice volley drop kills, but there were also some tins and perhaps more importantly Matt wasn’t yet up-to-speed of a team match with his fitness and movement so was caught out repeatedly by Sanjay putting in counter-boasts. This all led to a 7-15, 10-15, 8-15 reverse. Disappointing, but also a stepping stone towards a fully fit and firing Walker some time in the near future.

Next on was Aidan Hird (3) against Neil Middleton. It was quickly apparent that this match was on Aidan’s racquet, as many are. If he could keep his nerves and error rate in some sort of check, he would win. If not, he could allow Neil to snatch it. As is often the case when Aidan is feeling uncomfortable (i.e. he is playing a team match!) the ball took the brunt of it – the hitting was thunderous rather than the more judicious mix of pace with control that Aidan produces in internal matches at Melbourn. He edged game 1 though, and calmed down a bit to show the Squash he is capable of in second. As the finishing line approached however Aidan got tight again and once more the ball was abused, but he got through it to claim a 15-13, 15-6, 15-12 success.

On the other side Jan Brynjolffssen (2) was taking on James Buckley. Jan got off to a good start, moving nicely despite the dodgy footing (the Churchill courts were somewhat slippery) and finding some good early drop shots. This built an initial 6-1 lead that Jan was just about able to hang on to as James got going to win the opening game 15-13. However, the fact that James was closing the gap was indicative of what was to come as from 6-1 on in the first James’ lines and also his knowledge of the walls and traction of his home court were winning around three points to every two Jan picked up. This saw the match level, and then go 2-1 to the Cambridge player. Jan was back in the contest in the fourth, but a couple of key errors with the score at 12-11, and then again on Match Ball (the WORST possible time!) saw him fall 3-1. The game scores (Jan first) were 15-13, 10-15, 9-15, 12-15.

The top string match had started prior to Jan finishing, which meant Mike Herd (1) didn’t know whether his game against Keith Mabey would be decisive or not. This proved important as the encounter was lung-busting, and that extra motivation was crucial to keep Mike pushing through for the short balls. Keith, who came into the match with an impressive record of just one defeat all season, was playing nice Squash, particularly when the ball was up high. Mike was also operating at an extremely high standard. Keith’s play was a bit flashier, with lovely touch on the kills, Mike was steadier and holding the ‘t’ slightly more than half the time as a result. The resulting contest was extremely even, Mike claiming the first on a tie break and then the second narrowly.
Game three saw Keith come back into it as Mike’s steadiness deserted him briefly. He had still lost his way at the start of the fourth, rapidly falling 7-1 down. However Keith was clearly breathing heavily by this stage and importantly Mike did not allow him to cruise through to claim a game he was obviously in complete command of but instead challenged Keith to work his socks off to complete the deal. That was vital for the decider that followed as now Keith’s feet were not moving as accurately, leading to him fishing for the high volleys and missing rather than killing. Mike was still moving well, one impressive chase to the front backhand corner followed by a tight straight drive and that backed up by a volley drop kill showing he was still fresh enough to play superb shots. Such play allow Mike to move steadily away through the game to claim the string 3-2. Game scores were 18-16, 15-13, 11-15, 11-15, 15-8.

Peterborough I vs Melbourn I (25th January 2023)

Melbourn lost 5-19

The 1sts made the trip up the A1 to Peterborough hoping this might be the venue for our first win of the season.

First on court were Mark Oppen (4) against Courtney Blake and Jan Brynjolffssen (5) taking on Sean Michelson.

Mark and Courtney have played a few times before, so knew what to expect of each other – Mark moving the ball around and sometimes off-boasting, Courtney chasing for absolutely everything and pulling out some spectacular kills on his forehand. The match went the way many others had done, with very little in it but Mark gradually having the breath drawn out of him by his opponents relentlessness. All three games were close, but they were only three of them as Mark lost 9-11, 10-12, 9-11.

Meanwhile next door Jan had started OK against Sean and was right in the game up until a perplexing error on what should have been a straightforward forehand drop shot at 7-8 appeared to undermine him. The next five minutes effectively decided the match as Jan brooded on the error, lost the next two rallies and then was unable to execute the gameplan in game 2 and lost that in rapid succession. The third was more competitive but by now Sean was comfortable and in control and won 3-0, the game scores (Jan first) 7-11, 4-11, 8-11.

Miles Jeannert (3) and Paul Watson were next on, but didn’t know what they were in for when they took to the court. In bare terms it was a best-of-five that involved enough squash for six full games as Miles won the opener 11-9 and then the next four all went to tie-breaks. In bare terms the game scores were (Miles first) 11-9, 11-13, 13-11, 10-12, 13-15… but that selection of numbers doesn’t fully convey how close and exciting the match was.
Rallies were extended with Miles producing his trademark languid-and-deceptively-rapid movement to dig out Paul’s tight drops and counter-punch his way to points. Paul, meanwhile, was taking more of the aggressor role, looking to work the openings for the first attack. As the game scores show these two approaches proved incredibly evenly matched. It was anyone’s guess who was going to win, but on this occasion Paul did. Eventually. After almost as close a match as one could imagine. Almost.

And if you think that was close… the match between Vinod Duraikan (2) and teenager Aiden Fillmore was even tighter. Aiden had the better of the early stages of the game as he moved Vinod around and then found some nice kill shots to exit rallies, but as the game progressed Vinod dug it and began to retrieve the tight balls, which in turn caused Aiden to back off his attacks a bit, resulting the Vinod coming back on the scoreboard as the games progressed. Despite this the home player won the game on an extended tie-break and then took the next to move two games up. However games three and four saw Vinod turning things around as Aiden got increasingly frustrated at his inability to finish the match off, which resulted in some surprising errors from the kids racquet.
Vinod took the third and fourth each 11-9 to force the decider, and this time the Melbourn player got off to a strong start – this was the first all evening when he was up midway through a game? A sign that Vinod would cruise to the line? Not at all as Aiden, back-to-the-wall, produced some high intensity scrambling to keep sharing points. Vinod got to match ball first, but Aiden saved it. Then it was Aiden’s turn at 11-10. He made an opening… but unaccountably tinned what should have been the finishing shot. And that set the pattern – one player gets ahead, the other responds. There were some let and stroke calls in the tie-break that perplexed both players (in fact there had been a number through the match, but the marker employed a consistent standard throughout demanding a higher degree of effort to go and get the ball than either player expected (how the marker himself plays, basically 😉)). The match ebbed too and fore until Vinod finally got over the line 20-18 after drawing an error from a stretching Aiden in the front backhand corner. The game scores were 12-14, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 20-18.

With the overall win decided in Peterborough’s favour after the first three strings Chris Shaw (1) was playing Callum McGurk (another youngster) for pride and whatever extra points he could dredge up for the team. Chris definitely had his moments in the match, and was leading by a handful of points towards the end of the second game, but he was grounded down by Callum’s apparent ability to get absolutely everything back. This told in the end with the third game going rapidly against the Melbourn player as he went down 7-11, 9-11, 5-11.

Melbourn I vs Towers (18th January 2023)

Melbourn I lost 8-19

Mark Oppen at string 5 had a somewhat up and down match as he struggled with his fitness on the night but thankfully his touch to the ball and shot selection helped him out as he levelled the match 2-2. With a big push in the deciding 5th game, Mark won the game 11-7 and his match 3-2 (11-8, 5-11, 11-5, 4-11, 11-7).  

Vinod Duraikan at string 2 had a close and testing (aka...epic!) opening game that thankfully saw Vinod win it convincingly 14-12! The second and third games were close but unfortunately Vinod lost these to a very close 10-12 & 9-11. The fourth game was looking to be a turnaround in levels as Vinod took control of play, executing some great lengths and injecting his excellent short shots into the game that gave him the fourth an impressive 11-2! The deciding fifth game was close again between the two players. Vinod's shots were not as tight as from the fourth game and his opponent was now adding pressure by extending out the rallies. It really could have gone either way but alas Vinod had to accept the 8-11 loss in the fifth and so his match 2-3 (14-12, 10-12, 9-11, 11-2, 8-11) 

Miles Jeanneret at string 3 was up against an experienced player whose solid play gave Miles a tough opening game but thankfully the result went 12-10 to the Melbourn player. The second game was close again and Miles had game ball a couple of times but his opponent kept the ball tight that turned the game ball advantage around and Miles unfortunately lost in the second 11-13. With the games level pegging going into the third, the Melbourn supporters were keeping everything crossed the third game was won quickly - fitness was looking to be a match decider for Miles. Indeed, it was clear from the third game Miles was struggling with his match fitness as the game points were gradually being consumed by his opponent and he lost the third game 5-11. The fourth and what would be final game of Miles' match was close as he kept going but all the willing from the crowd couldn't change the 1-3 match result as Miles lost out from staying in his match (12-10, 11-13, 5-11, 9-11) 

Mike Herd playing at string 4 had an excellent opening game, winning it 11-7 after playing tight length and by adding some of his trademark boast shots to vary play. The second game saw his opponent keeping more in the rallies, creating closer, nip-and-tuck points and although Mike had game ball his opponents’ tenacious retrievals kept Mike from converting. It was looking like Mike could have kept the game alive but it was not to be the case as his opponent gained game point and the second game was lost 10-12. The third game was very similar to the second, not much in it but Mike was looking the favourite (obviously!) and although another game ball chance for Mike, he wasn't able to convert and lost the third 11-13. The fourth and what would be final game of the match was not as close as the previous games and unfortunately Mike lost the fourth game 5-11 and his match 1-3 (11-7, 10-12, 11-13, 5-11)

Last to play was Melbourn's first seeded player, Chris Shaw. The opening game was high pace as both players worked hard to play accurate squash. Chris played well and thankfully won the first game 13-11. The second game was a good level but Chris' opponent was making less errors and Chris' length was not as effective and so the second game was lost 7-11. The third game saw Chris working hard to stay in control but some errors from his racket gave his opponent the advantage and then the game 5-11. Chris worked hard in the fourth game to keep his match alive and it was certainly a close fought game at it went to 10-10. Unfortunately, Chris wasn't able to convert this to a win and so he lost in the fourth 10-12 and the match 1-3 (13-11, 7-11, 5-11, 10-12)

Skipper Mark Oppen commented: It really was a close result, especially from Vinod's match and along with the game ball advantages Mike and Miles had the teams overall result could have been quite different.  

Melbourn II v Stamford III (16th January)

Melbourn won 19-4

The first half of the season had started really well for the 2nds, with a 20-0 win away at Stamford 3rds. It ended on a slightly more downbeat note with a second defeat of the campaign in the final week of fixtures before Christmas but given the rest of the results (and the tone set by the Stamford game) this wasn’t enough to stop Melbourn sitting pretty at the top of the tree over the holidays. But what would the New Year bring? Well, once again a start against Stamford, but at home this time. And an early one as despite the long travel the visitors were at the club and warming up ahead of the scheduled start time, which consequently made for a prompt start.

Things kicked off with the third and fifth strings, Moises Estrelles Navarro taking on Adam Brown in the later and Colm O’Gorman facing Ian Bell in the former. Moises was making his league debut for the side (though he has played for the club in the Herts Summer League previously), with his opponent almost as inexperienced in Cambs League terms. What followed was an exceedingly close and extremely enthusiastic game as both players proved to be fast, highly willing retrievers of seemingly lost causes. There was next to nothing between them in the first two games, but Moises ended them 2-0 down after the second game went against him on a tie-break. It would have been easy for the home player to be disappointed after that, but rather than folding to lose 3-0 Moises dug in impressively to claw it back to 2-2. Now he was in the ascendency… only to start game 5 slowly, falling 8-3 down. Though Moises stabilised after that the early deficit proved unrecoverable and he lost 11-15, 14-16, 

Meanwhile Colm and Ian were not only battling each other, but also trying to cope with the walls on Court 1 having gone totally unresponsive as a result of the sub-zero temperatures outside… and one of the two heaters being out of action. Oh, and extra external walls. All told, any balls not absolutely muscled were having the life sucked out of them on contact with a surface, meaning clipped shot became floating ones but also any ball muscled enough to get into a back corner dropped it’s rucksack and set up camp there in a manner that conveyed “Here will do – and I’m never leaving!” Both players found the conditions tough, but for two games Colm had Ian guessing enough to run through them comfortably. The third saw Colm lose his way and allow Ian to start dictating play, which resulted in one against the head but by the fourth Colm was back in the swing, getting the ball deep enough often enough to wrap up a 15-9, 15-7, 9-15, 15-8 success.

Jan (2) followed Colm into the icy wastes of Court 1, ready to take on David Harris who was playing his last game before zooming off to Portugal for the latest leg of the European Masters Series (David would finished 8th of 20 in that). Perhaps David’s game was already in warm weather mode but he never seemed to adapt to the deadness of the court in the same way that Jan managed, the Melbourn player deliberately wildly overhitting the ball to get enough oomph on to fly it past David and deep into the back corners where the ball felt very comfortable and extremely loathe to ever leave. This resulted in David deep in the court whilst Jan was able to hug the service line as his opponents shots had all the bite drawn out of them by the cold walls instead sitting up to be put away. It was essentially one way traffic, Jan winning 15-5, 15-7, 15-9.

Something similar was happening next door where Gareth (4) was taking on Tim Collins. Even though Court 2 was quite as arctic the back corners were still pretty lifeless and Gareth was finding that balls he powered into them were going to stay there. This was manna from heaven for the Melbourn player – tell Gareth to hit the ball *very hard* and that is the strategy and he is a happy man. That is a real “Can do, mate!” moment. Add in Gareth’s recent development of a well disguised jabby little drop shot and you had an overall package brilliantly suited to the court conditions. As the match went on Gareth got more and more confident and Tim further down, resulting in a cruise to a 15-8, 15-9, 15-6 victory.

The numbers 1, Mike for Melbourn and Neal Cooke of Stamford, waited out Gareth’s match so they could go on the warmer less cold court, no. 2. Mike started well, racing into a 7-1 lead in the opening game with Neal oddly giving up on chasing some balls – one drop shot of Mike’s in particular which wasn’t all that tight became a clean winner it didn’t really deserve to be. At that point there seemed to be a certain amount of the league position and overall match score playing a part in proceedings, with Neal subconsciously expecting to be overwhelmed when the gap between him and Mike was nowhere near as large as that. This could also explain why the games scores got gradually tighter as the match progressed and Neal got more confident that he wasn’t in over his head. But even if Mike wasn’t massively the better player he was still also reasonably obviously the stronger of the two, and his eventual 15-7, 15-7, 15-9 success came as little surprise.

Melbourn II v Peterborough III (28th November)

Melbourn lose 9-14

Our winning run came to an end, however it was close and could easily have been another win.

First up at string 5, Roger against the pacy Uruguayan Renzo Rozza Gonzalez. It was a fascinating encounter with Roger’s experience and ability to run his opponent, contrasting with Renzo’s ability to retrieve from almost any position on the court. Renzo was quick out of the blocks, racing into a 0-4 lead but Roger found his rhythm and had the game evenly poised at 8-8 and again at 13-13. Renzo got the break and took the game 13-15. In the second game, both players started well, however Renzo piled on the pressure and went on a scoring run to take the game 8-15. Roger was playing well and knew that if he could apply some pressure, he could make it interesting. Sure enough, Roger found himself dominating, sending Renzo to the corners and using his trademark drops to stay ahead. However a mis-hit drop to the tin halted his momentum and gave Renzo the chance to bring the game to 11-11 and, with his speed and accuracy, was able to close out the game 12-15 and the match 0-3.

At string 4, Jamie was playing Pierre Caruso. Jamie had played less squash in recent weeks than he would have liked and it showed in the early stages as Pierre was at the pitch of the match quickly and had all the answers for what Jamie was throwing at him. Pierre comfortably took the game. In the second, Jamie was showing signs of returning to his usual level and kept it close until 7-10, however Pierre was playing with conviction and took the game 11-15. Jamie was now at the pitch also and was starting to really compete. The third game was a marathon with Jamie digging in and determined to make his mark on the match, fighting all the way to 17-17 and ground out the win with the next two points. Jamie’s dander was up and he cruised through the fourth game  (15-6) to level the match and set up a decider. Jamie had put a monumental effort to this point and was tiring a little. Pierre was also determined to fight to the end. The game toed and froed with both players giving it everything they had. Pierre reached game point at 12-14, and hung on for a 13-15 win and the match 2-3. Credit to both players for a huge effort.

Sean who was bringing really good form, was playing at string 3 for the first time and wasn’t in any way intimidated by it, playing Carlos Correia, also left handed. The first game was hard fought and at 10-10 it was difficult to pick a victor. Both players were enjoying the forehand driving, waiting for the other to blink first. This was often followed by drops and boasts, and returning to forehand drives again, high quality squash. Carlos managed to somehow get a run of scores to take it 11-15. Sean was competing very well however and was able to just about stay ahead all through the game and took it 15-12. The pendulum swung back in Carlos’ favour in the third, staying ahead throughout to take it 9-15. Sean was up for the challenge and they traded points throughout the fourth taking it to 14-14. An unfortunate spin on the ball put it just out of Sean’s reach and while he felt the point could have been replayed due to Carlos’ positioning, it was not given and Carlos had match point. Carlos played the point strongly hitting the corners and put it beyond Sean. Another high quality and close match ending in Peterborough’s favour.

Meanwhile on court 1, Colm was playing a very experienced and powerful hitter in Alec Sarkissian. The players had contrasting styles, Colm playing a combination of drives and drops, while Alec was hitting corners, driving low and boasting accurately. The rallies were shortened by both players going for the winners. The first game was evenly poised at 10-10, however Colm kept his nerve and the ball deep to negate Alec’s ability to attack, winning 5 of the next 6 points to take the game 15-11. Colm continued with the same approach and this paid dividends, leading the second game from early on to comfortably take the second game. Alec changed it up for the third, recognising where there may be some vulnerability in Colm’s play and this meant a much closer game. Alec went ahead at what looked like the opportune time to lead 11-13. Colm however was up for the battle and took the next 5 points to take the game and the match 3-0.

While Peterborough had by now settled the match, Melbourn were racking up points and Miles had a chance to secure 3 more. He was up against Tim Millington. Tim was aiming to upset the odds and he fought tooth and nail for every ball. However as the first game wore on, Miles was establishing his authority and confidently closed out the game 15-9. Miles continued with a strong start to the second game and took a 5-0 lead, however Tim was playing well and displayed great accuracy and speed at the front of the court to make the game closer. Miles was feeling the pressure being applied and responded with positive aggression to dominate the remainder of the game and managed to grind out a 15-12 win. In the third Tim upped the ante again and surged ahead. He had subtly changed tactics with more touch play and trickery. Miles responded and showed fantastic retrieval skills to counter Tim, forcing the errors. Miles took point after point to take an unassailable lead and the game 15-8.

Team captain Colm explained ‘we were missing 4 of our regulars tonight and depended on squad depth. I’m delighted to see Roger, Jamie and Sean play so well against very strong players. It’s been a really good first half of the season for us and we look forward to the second half starting in the new year’.

Melbourn II v Newmarket II (21st November)

Melbourn won 19-3

Having gone top of the table after the previous round against Newmarket’s first team, Melbourn were keen to follow it up with a win over Newmarket’s second team. Interestingly, Newmarket’s second team had put in a good performance against their first team a few weeks previously, nearly winning on the night so it wasn't a foregone conclusion that Melbourn would win it.

First up was Sean at string 5 against Matt Harber. Sean has been playing really well, and needed to be on on his game to match Matt’s energy and skill levels. This was nip and tuck from the start but Sean continued his good form and was playing well, fighting for every point, driving well and also bringing more drops into his game. Sean was moving his opponent around the court very well and was able to hold off the challenge in the first and second games with his consistency and shot selection, each game following an almost identical pattern. Sean took both 15-12. The third was an even closer affair, but Sean's confidence in his game probably made the difference and took the game 16-14 and the match a creditable 3-0 against a tough opponent.

Gareth, playing at string 4 was next up. Gareth has been on a run of 4 wins from 4, and 6 wins from 7 in the season so far. He was up against Graham Clark. Gareth surged ahead early in the first game and into a commanding lead. However, a series of unforced errors along with good attacking play from Graham brought the scores closer before Gareth steadied himself to take the game 15-12. In the second game, again Gareth took an early lead, this time however he maintained his concentration and with tidier drives, more energy and bringing some variety to his shot selection, he maintained the lead to win it 15-7. The third game was similar with Gareth again going ahead early and he didn’t let up, finishing the game 15-6 and taking the match 3-0.

Colm was playing at string 3, against Oliver Pynn who he had played previously on a number of occasions, usually closely fought but Oliver always edging it. At 9-9 in the first it was close again. Ominously, Oliver took a 2 point lead at game point but let it slip and Colm nicked the game 16-14. The second game was 12-12 and again nothing between the players. A touch of luck and determined play by Colm gave him game ball, which he took to lead the match 2-0. The 2-game cushion seemed to enable Colm to play with a bit more freedom and in the third he went on a run of points to take an 11-5 lead and wasn’t going to lose from there. Colm took the match 3-0.

Playing at string 2, Jan had Paul Bragg to deal with. Paul had recently beaten their first team string 1 player and was really up for this match, so Jan had his hands full. The first game was hard fought to 11-11, when Jan found an extra gear and with some accurate play, deep drives and clever drops, he took the game 15-11 with a late surge. Back roared Paul who dominated the second game, getting Jan to do a lot of retrieving and then picking off winners. Paul took it 8-15. Jan was struggling a little to come to terms with Paul tactics and the third went Paul’s way also, this time 6-15 with a run of points early the game doing the damage. Jan changed it up a little, played smarter, lengthened the rallies to find better court positioning, basically playing to his strengths, and managed to deservedly grind out the game to win it 15-13. Going into the fifth game, the momentum was marginally with Jan, but Paul started strongly. Jan dug in to keep it close and brought it to 12-12. At this point, it was anybody’s, and Jan appeared to have the fitness and shots to apply the necessary pressure. Unlucky to hit the tin and then handing Paul an opportunity to get to match point, Jan still hung in and dragged it back to 14-14. Both players played bravely, and really went for it. It was a lottery at this point, and Paul was able to eek out a second match point, and taking the game 15-17 to win the match.

Miles, unbeaten so far in the season in Div 3, played Tony Archer at string 1. Tony was quick out of the blocks in the first game, playing on the edge, going for winners and getting them most of the time. Miles wasn’t phased and knew he had the squash level and fitness to bring the game back in his favour. At 11-11, Tony again took his opportunities to win the next 2 points and put Miles under pressure. However Miles was able to take 5 of the next 6 points and the game 16-14. Tony had put in a big effort to stay with Miles in the first game. Miles knew by increasing the pace and lengthening the rallies, it would be to his advantage and so it proved. Miles dominated the second game to take it easily 15-4. Back came Tony in the third to make a real fight of it, but it was a step too far and Miles again with his accuracy and excellent retrieving took control of the game, winning it 15-10 and the match 3-0.

Team captain Colm noted ‘While on paper we were expected to win this match easily, we knew Newmarket 2 were strong and would put up a big challenge. The team responded really positively and this was demonstrated by Jan’s determination in bringing his match down to the wire, even though he knew Melbourn had already won the match overall’.

Newmarket I v Melbourn II (17th November)

Melbourn won 15-7

A top of the table clash at Newmarket was made more of a challenge for Melbourn when unfortunately, our string 5 player was unavailable at the last minute. Playing with 4 players reduced the margin of error for Melbourn.

First up at string 4 was Colm against an experienced player in Charlie Crisp. The first game was hard fought, both players struggling to find their rhythm early on. As the game progressed however, Colm managed to get a hold of the game and see it out 15-9. The second game was more closely fought with Charlie digging in the stay in touch all through. Colm was fighting hard in every rally and was rewarded by taking the game narrowly 15-13. Colm knew he needed to up the pace and increase the energy in the third game which turned out to be more one-sided, having done the hard work in the first two. Colm took the game 15-8 and the match 3-1.

Over on the other court Jan, playing at string 3, was up against a very classy Mark Price. Jan was exerting pressure on his opponent with accurate and deep shots, picking off winners while forcing Mark into errors. Jan took the game 15-11 playing well and confidently started the second game. However, Mark’s experience and style was starting to come into it more, and he was able to shift the momentum. A series of well executed winners combined with some uncharacteristic errors by Jan contributed to Mark taking the game 9-15. Jan had the energy, skill and know-how to compete with Mark, and the thrid games was very closely fought, it could have gone either way. Mark was able to somehow get ahead at the right time, take the game and lead in the match. In the fourth, again closely contested, Jan appeared to have seized the initiative and pushed hard to take the game, but with some with some bad luck and pressure applied by his opponent, he seemed to snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, unfortunately handing Mark the opportunity to win the match, which he duly did 1-3.

Mike was up next at string 2 knowing he had to win to keep Melbourn in the match. His opponent, Matt Pearson, had been playing superbly over the previous weeks and so was bringing top form. Mike was up for this however and dominated immediately, moving the Newmarket player around the court and picking off winners at will. Mike took the first game in a commanding manner. In the second, Matt tidied up his game quite dramatically and kept the game competitive throughout. In truth, it could have gone either way, but Mike was able to take the opportunity when it presented itself at 14-14 and nicked the game. Matt appeared to be encouraged by his ability to compete with Mike and again played excellently to take the third game by the scruff of the neck and deservedly took it 15-12. Faced with the challenge, Mike responded admirably and was able to halt Matt’s momentum, retrieving well and bringing some more clever deceptive shots to wrong-foot his opponent a number of times. Mike wrestled back control of the match, winning the fourth game 15-13 and the match 3-1.

Playing at string 1, Miles was facing an agile, quick, skillful and unpredictable Hamish Jogee. Contrasting styles would hopefully made for a highly entertaining game. While Miles was the better player, Hamish was able to retrieve and find shots out of nowhere to keep it close. Miles, probably feeling a little relieved, managed to take the first game 15-13. The second game followed a similar pattern, however it was noticeable that Miles was gaining more control, and while the scoreline of 15-12 was again close, there was a clear gap forming, and it would be interesting to see how the third game would go. Miles, with the cushion of being 2 games up, applied more pressure and pace from the start of the third and surged ahead, dominating with a variety of short and long, drops and lobs, taking the game 15-5 and the match 3-1. Miles had one shot of pure class in particular than needs mentioning, it will be referred to throughout the rest of the season, a deceptive-back-handed-boast-come-lob-with-spin which was unplayable for this opponent, this is not doing the shot justice. It did illustrate his potential to complete in higher divisions.

Team captain Colm commented ‘the team were up against it tonight, with Gareth who has been playing brilliantly, unfortunately not making it, and we responded with a big performance to again take the match and continue our good form’.

Hunts County III vs Melbourn II (10th November)

Melbourn won 14-8

This match pitted third against second in the Cambs Division 3 table, and it was a suitably strong affair for two high flying teams – previous Hunts vs Melbourn matches have seen Jan play Andy Budd (Buddy) at top string; today Jan was at 3 for Melbourn and Buddy at 4 for the home side!

Some high quality Squash, worthy of Hunts’ show court, was anticipated of the evening once the teams were written up on the big board on the stand (yup, Hunts County have a court which can hold a proper audience)… and we got to see it immediately as the first strings, Miles for Melbourn and Sean Broderick for Hunts, decided as they were both there, changed and ready and no-one else was that they might as well go on first [well, the no.1s don’t normally get a chance to hit the bar post match, do they…?]. The match proved worthy of its billing as the players battled it out with very little between them. Miles initially had the upper hand in game 1, but saw his lead whittled away to a tie-break. He won this, and admitted after the match that it had been crucial to the final outcome. Which was a 3-1 win for Melbourn as Miles took the second comfortably, saw Sean come back hard to take the third, but having a 2-0 lead Miles was able to conserve some energy in the latter stages of this ready to hit the fourth, which he did effectively to seal a 16-14, 15-9, 11-15, 15-11 win.

Meanwhile Gareth (5) was on the glass back next door against Ian Gabriel. Gareth started well, building a lead in the first part of the first game and then doing enough to hold it through the rest of the game. The second also saw Gareth on top, even with letting a few points go begging as Ian rope-a-doped him, standing still at the back having hit the ball short which led to Gareth racing forward with eyes on the ball and not aware where his opponent was, so pumped it deep… right back to where Ian was standing. Sneaky. Despite this Gareth saw out the game and then did likewise in the third as his length and hitting was causing Ian to chase too much. Gareth won 15-12, 15-10, 15-11.

Jan (3) followed Gareth on, taking on Paul Goodwin. Recent matches have seen Jan have problems starting both matches and individual games, and unfortunately this was another – Paul was rapidly 6-0 up in the opener as he found dying lengths that Jan was unable to dig out of the back corners. Teammates advice was clear after game 1 – “don’t fall 6-0 down!” Jan obliged – he was just 6-1 behind in the second. D’Oh! A comeback in the mid-game closed this lead down to 10-8, but a key missed (tinned) drop shot at that point was a killer, Jan losing the game 15-11. That set Paul back in charge as he once again raced into an early lead (6-2 this time) and then held on comfortably as Jan was beaten 7-15, 11-15, 6-15.

Back over on the show court, Liam (4) was up against the running and hitting of Buddy. The first game was very close, but went against Liam on a tie-break despite the Melbourn player feeling he was playing the better Squash. However Buddy’s scrambles and counter-punching were proving annoyingly effective in turning around rallies that Liam had been dictating, and that was clearly getting under the Melbourn player’s skin. Which was a distraction he didn’t need, and contributed to a 14-16, 10-15, 9-15 defeat… and a snapped racquet. Frustrating.

So we were now at two strings all ahead of the final match, which pitted Mike (2) against Matt Vandenboss. Everything looked bright for Melbourn in the opening game as Mike utterly dominated, moving beautifully to get on the ball early, allowing him to hold his shots causing Matt to guess… and the ball to go the other way. Matt was also nowhere near his best in the opener but improved in the second, at the same time as Mike lost focus and made a string of mistakes. This game went wrong rapidly, from a 6-4 lead to a 12-6 deficit, and somehow it was a game all. Game on? Well, not quite as having lost his focus Mike then refound it and kept it. Games three and four were closer than the first now Matt was playing better, but Mike’s movement was back and his holds, particularly for down-the-wall shots out of the front backhand corner, were proving extremely effective. Matt was also going redder and redder from the work his was having to put it – if he had got it to the fifth it was questionable whether he would even be able to stand! Fortunately it didn’t come to that as Mike wrapped up a 15-4, 6-15, 15-8, 15-10 success.

Mike’s win meant Melbourn had triumphed on the night 3-2, 14-8 overall. Which keeps us second in the table, and now within 7 points of leaders Newmarket 1sts after they suffered a surprise first defeat of the season. Melbourn are at Newmarket next as well…

Jan was skipper for the night. He commented “This was a very high quality match for Division 3 – both teams were basically at full strength. Miles was challenged for the first time this season, but came through it well, and Gareth was impressively clinical. Then it all fell on Mikey, and he got the job done nicely.”

Melbourn II v Spalding on Halloween night!

Melbourn won 20:1

Anticipating a big challenge, the team were at the club early warming up and getting into the right frame of mind for the matches.

First up was Gareth Jones at string 5. Gareth built his way to an ultimately comfortable win against Charlie Farrow. Gareth actually trailed for much of the first game, but gained long-term benefit from his relentless hitting in this period as Charlie's court position dropped deep to cover it, opening the front of the court for Gareth to kill into. That set up work allowed Gareth make a late turn around in the opener, winning it 15-13, and then race into a 9-3 lead in the second. The point for 9-3 was a perfect execution of the game plan, a number of crisp shots pushing Charlie every further into his deep backhand corner, allowing a simple drop volley into the front forehand one to claim the point. This all seemed so straightforward that Gareth appeared to lose his focus and, despite still working to the template, he proceeded to tin what ought to have been easy finishes in the next five straight rallies! 9-8. Hmm. Momentum appeared to be shifting until Charlie produced an equally glaring unforced error of his own in the very next rally to gift Gareth a 10-8 lead. That seemed to re-settle the Melbourn player, allowing him to cut the error rate back down to sensible proportions. With his game back under control the rest of the match was only ever going Gareth's way - he was winning two points to every one Charlie did, allowing Gareth to close out a 15-13, 15-10, 15-7 win.

Next up was Colm O'Gorman at string 4 against Philip Blake. Colm raced into a 5:1 lead but it was clear that this was not going to be a one-sided with both players very evenly matched and both prepared to lengthen the rallies in the early stages. Sure enough Philip brought it back to 6:6 and each player went point for point. It could have gone either way, Philip missing the opportunity to convert game point. Colm stayed in it to take it 17:15. The second game followed a similar pattern with Colm going ahead in the early stages, Philip coming back and going ahead at what looked like the right time, but Colm dug in again and with a little luck 'ok maybe more than a little' on his side, took the game narrowly 16:14. Colm was starting to feel a bit leggy (as usual) and Philip knew that if he could take the 3rd game, he still had a great chance of winning the match. On this occasion it was Philip who forged ahead. However Colm made it into a bit of a dog fight and took advantage of a few more lucky shots to bring the game to 13:12 even though Philip was piling on the pressure. A hard-fought rally gave Colm match point at 14:13, and then rather fortuitously to say the least, after some very strange shots, the ball popped up nicely at half court and gave Colm the opportunity to put it away taking the closest 3-0 match he can remember ever playing.

Liam Murphy faced an extremely fit and agile 18 year old in Josh Ford at string 3. Liam had the experience and game to deal with it, but it wasn't going to be easy. The first game went as expected with Liam playing solidly and at 10:10 exerted a little more pressure to drive for home and settled it 15:11. Josh was up for the fight and gave the 2nd game everything he had, retrieving really well and dropping when the opportunity arose. This was frustrating for Liam and it went down to the wire with Josh nicking it 14:16. Liam however steadied himself and evolved his tactics to suit his game and he persisted, making less errors and putting Josh under a little more pressure. Liam patience paid dividends towards the end of the game and he took it 15:11. Josh had put up a very impressive fight and this was likely taking a toll on energy levels, while Liam continued to perform at a high level. Liam was able to control the 4th game, dominating throughout to take it 15:4 and the match 3:1.

Jan Brynjolffssen (2) has had some ropey starts in games in recent matches: 0-9, 0-6 and 0-7 against Swavesey's Simon Hudson on 13th October, and also 0-6 in game one against Jez Cotton of Comberton last time out. Both matches ended as 0-3 defeats for Jan, which meant he was relieved to be on the positive end of the 5-0 scoreline five rallies into game one against Gary Slator. That start once again set the tone for the entire match, as Jan ahead through the vast majority of each game. The key pattern of play was also established in that opening phase as Jan was able to get under Gary's attempt to kill the ball and neutralise them, which encouraged the Spalding player to try and put his kills tighter yet... which just resulted in errors. Jan was also making a few, noting at the end of the first game (which finished 15-7) that he had tinned three simple backhand drops that should have all been his points. Which rather shows how much things were flowing in his favour. The closest game on paper was the second as both players got the most on top of their error count in the match, though the third also started nip-and-tuck, the scores staying level up until 7-7. Jan was to win that particular point with an attacking squeeze boast that went just up, which seemed to draw the remaining air out of Gary - the rest of the match ran past rapidly as Jan completed a 15-7, 15-9, 15-7 success.
 

Last up at string 1 was Miles Jeanneret against an excellent player in Scott Chuter, who had won 3 and lost narrowly in the other match of the division to date. The match started at a terrific pace with long rallies, both players very accurate with their shots and retrieving with ease. The game was evenly contested until the half-way stage, when Miles' superior ability enabled him to turn the screw enough, winning the big moments and in the end comfortably took the game 15:8. The second game was a much tighter affair. Scott managed to get into a lead and kept a narrow lead up to 11:13. Again however, Miles was able to apply the pressure forcing Scott back and out of position, then placing the ball perfectly and out of reach of Scott, and roaring back to take 4 points in a row and the game 15:13. Miles' confidence was evident and playing well he was able to manage the third game up to 10:10, then as expected, he applied the pressure to a tiring Scott, taking the next 5 points in style to win the game 15:10 and the match 3:0.

Team captain Colm felt the team played to their potential and was very proud of an excellent performance against a strong team in Spalding, 'everyone came to this match in confident mood that we would perform regardless of the result, and it was a really great reward to take 20 points against such a capable team'.

Melbourn I v Saints I (Huntingdon) (19th October 2022)

Melbourn lost 8-17

Melbourn's 1st team had a great opportunity after Matt S won his opening match 3-1 and then skipper, Mark O came back from being 2-1 down and 8-2 down in the fourth to battle out a 3-2 win. Vinod D unfortunately lost his match at third string 3-0 just as Mark started his match, which left us looking for Chris S and Miles J for at least a win between them.
However, Miles had a tough and close match at string 4 but managed to pick up one point for the team. The overall team result came down to Chris S' match against John D. Chris had not lost his last five matches to John and the opening game saw Chris win it convincingly. John however started to play better and with more consistency in the following games and his backhand volley drops were extremely effective at disrupting the pace of play. John won the 2nd and 3rd games and although Chris worked hard to stay in the rallies in the fourth game, his match was unfortunately lost 1-3 and so the overall team result on the night was set at 8-17.

Skipper Mark commented: it was our closest match result to date against one of the higher positioned teams in the league. We are now looking forward to our match after half-term against March 

 

Melbourn II v Comberton II (17th October 2022)

Melbourn won 17-6

The Seconds returned to action against Comberton determined to get back to winning ways following a sobering first defeat of the season last week at Swavesey (in fact only four days prior to this match due to the away game being on a Thursday and the home one on a Monday).

First on were Gareth Jones (4) and Sean Hamilton (5), who were both up against handy teenagers in the shape of Isaac Broughton and Connor Harmer respectively.

Connor was making his debut in the adult county leagues but showed few signs of nerves about this as he proved a tenacious opponent for Sean. The Melbourn player kept opening slight leads, but each time he expected Connor to fade the kid instead came roaring back. It didn’t help Sean that his natural style of pacy hitting was rather to Connor’s liking – Sean had much joy with lobbed up balls, particularly on the serve, but was patently never entirely comfortable doing this as he didn’t trust his accuracy on such shots! However experience is a handy tool and Sean was able to grind out the opening two games narrowly. He seemed to be on course to do the same in the third, getting to a 10-7 lead, but then started to push for the finishing line… which was allowed Connor to use his pace to counterpunch winners. This proved to be the high watermark for the Comberton player though as his lateral movement began to slow in game four, which, even if this was only from highly impressive to merely very decent was just enough to see Sean’s crosscourt widths start to turn Connor around. And that was enough for Sean to run away with it, completing a very hard-fought 15-12, 15-13, 10-15, 15-8 victory.

Things were just as nail-biting next door as Gareth had his work cut out dealing with Isaac’s solidly consistent game and fleetness of foot around the court. Whilst Isaac exuded consistency Gareth’s form was typically a bit more fluctuating, with the old pattern of winner, winner, winner, error, error, error back in frustrating evidence. In part this was Isaac’s doing as Gareth couldn’t just rally with the kid as however fit he is (and his fitness is decent) he was never going to outlast the Duracell bunny that was his 16 year-old foe. Going for winners made a decent amount of sense, especially when it was working as it did for extended spells… but the same approach also left Gareth’s teammates shaking their heads when it absolutely didn’t (tin “Don’t do that!” tin “stop doing that!” tin “don’t do that again” tin… D’Oh!). The first two games were traded, and the next two were just as close, but in the end experience did out, just, Gareth winning 15-10, 9-15, 15-13, 15-13. And looking very relieved to have got out of it 3-1 as well.

Liam Murphy (3) followed Gareth on to Court 1 as he took on Richard Anthony. Liam won the first game by outpacing his opponent who wanted quick and done rallies. However Liam's concentration slipped with some stunning finishes by Richard in the second and he took it. The third and fourth games saw Liam slow the game down, draw out the rallies and tire out his opponent. This approach delivered an easy win for Liam and saw out the match, winning the games to 6 and 8, closing out a 3-1 winner.

Meanwhile next door Jan Brynjolffssen (2) was struggling against a familiar opponent, Jeremy Cotton (known all over the Cambs Leagues as Jez). Jan had started the first game last week by falling 9-0 down – this week was 33% better as he was only 6-0 behind by the time he got a point on the board. The cause was different this week – it was Jez’s racquet skills, particularly his straight backhand drop. Jan never really got a handle on that in the first game, which he dropped heavily but started to figure out that he simply couldn’t allow Jez a half-court ball from the second on. Easier said than done on a consistent enough basis to prevent it ever happening – Jez getting to attack on at least every other rally, and his confidence was soaring so he wasn’t missing. Jan fought as hard as he could, but ultimately just couldn’t deal with the short stuff and lost 6-15, 12-15, 11-15.

The final match of the evening pitted Miles Jeanneret against Alistair Maclean… and it was apparent after about two rallies that this was a complete mismatch. Miles was dictating the rallies to Alistair, who simply didn’t have the fitness to constantly defend this and hope to gradually turn rallies around. Instead the Comberton player was forced into going for kill shots from unlikely positions on the court, often whilst off-balance. Even when these went up, and they often didn’t, Miles’ speed of movement was such that he could retrieve the kills anyway. It was extremely hard for Alistair to win a rally; him taking a game was never even a remote possibility as Miles cantered to a 15-4, 15-2, 15-4 win.

Skipper for the night Jan said “The team all played well. OK, most of us did. But it was good to get a win again after the shock last week. Three wins out of four prior to the half-term break is a very encouraging start to the season.”

Swavesey I v Melbourn I (12th October 2022)

Melbourn lost 20-3

 
Melbourn's 1st Squash team played away this week against Swavesey. The evening didn't get off to the best of starts with skipper Mark Oppen (string 3) and Ed Aspeling (string 5) loosing both their matches 3-0. Things improved however with Kate Bradshaw's match as she played an excellent third game calmly and with precision, that although didn't result in an overall match win, it did earn the team its first point. Vinod Duraikan at string 2 had a tough match that almost could have gone to five sets, but alas, as per Kate's match Vinod had to also settle with a 3-1 loss. Last on was Matt Sampson at first string playing Swavesey's world 76th ranked Ali Loke. Matt's opponent from the outset was playing a different style and tactic to minimise rallying as well as playing to the courts strengths that made retrievals for Matt difficult. The rallies were high quality and entertaining but it seemed the teams previous results were replaying for Matt as he also lost his match 3-1. 
 
Skipper Mark Oppen commented: this was a tough loss for the team against a side we statistically should have had a good chance against. We could blame a combination of factors but in the end our consistency and accuracy on court was not there this week. I am positive that with some work we will come back from this setback.    
 
 
 

Swavesey II vs Melbourn II (13th October 2022)

Melbourn lost 3-20

The Seconds made the trip to Swavesey aware that the Firsts had undertaken the same journey the evening before and lost 20-3 to the fenland club’s 1sts. However the Seconds were hopeful we could do better – after all, we were top of Division 3 after winning both our opening fixtures whilst newly promoted Swavesey were in mid-table with a win and a loss.
Things started to go wrong before we even got to the venue as personal life issues meant that our what was meant to be our second car-load to arrive got there before the first one! Despite the delays skipper Colm (4) rushed on to court to take on Adil Rizvi… as he had to hare straight off again to pick up his kids. Unsurprisingly Colm’s focus just wasn’t there, as he looked lethargic, making uncharacteristic errors to fall two-love down. Some of the usual battling grit was in evidence in game three as the real Colm finally made it to the venue, but having got himself two behind a few errors at key times in the fourth cost him that game, which meant the match on the basis of the opening pair of games rather handed away. Colm lost 9-15, 10-15, 15-11, 9-15.
Things went no better next door for Gareth (5) who was up against a hard-running youngster, Henry Miller. Gareth had started on top, but made something of a mental error when ahead when he caught the ball after Henry’s serve had gone smack into the middle of the out line… but that hadn’t been spotted, or critically called as such, by the marker. Never unilaterally stop the rally, always wait for the call even if it seems screamingly obvious – as rather than a point to Gareth (as it should have been) it was one against. Nevertheless he was still 10-8 up after this, but the marking error got under his skin and Gareth lost the game from a strong position. He then proceeded to lose the second from an even stronger one, going away from the play that had got him 7-1 up, holding a high ‘t' position and pushing Henry into the back corners, dropping deep instead and dropping the game as a result. The third saw Gareth dig in, but then get tight and negative towards the later portion. He had game points, but didn’t take them and eventually lost this one on a tie-break and the overall match 11-15, 11-15, 15-17. A very frustrating defeat.
Next on were Jan (2) against Simon Hudson and Liam (3) against Kamrun Patel. That these were the opponents was a sign that Swavesey had a strong side out, as Simon and Kamrun had been #1 and #2 in the previous two weeks. We will skip politely past the first game of the third string match as Liam warmed up because after that the Melbourn player definitely had his chances against an opponent who retrieved well but didn’t offer that much threat on the attack. Liam claimed the second, dropped the third, and was right in it towards the end of the fourth. However two mishits from Kamrun in quick succession that sneaked over the tin for fortunate winners at the denouement of the game, condemning Liam to a 4-15, 15-13, 11-15, 13-15 loss.
Meanwhile next door Jan lost the opening point against Simon as the Swavesey player attacked the return with a thumping kill on the wall. And the second point the same way. And the third… Ooookay, this is a bad pattern. Part of the problem for Jan was Simon was hitting with some extreme cut spin that meant despite the kills being pounded they also somehow second-bounced shorter than expected. Jan did eventually get out of the pattern, but was still at a loss for how to win a rally himself and was soon 9-0 down in the game. He finally got on the board by getting a drop shot to cling to the side wall and despite the opener having obviously gone managed to get some points to at least establish a platform. Now to start game two better. Well, only going 0-6 down this time counts as a 33% improvement doesn’t it? Once again the remainder was about just being in the fight ready for game three. But once again Simon upped his level and intensity, this time going 7-0 up. Jan finally won a rally at this stage, but it took a repeated backhand straight drop, backhand deep cross-court pattern repeated three times before it finally got far away enough for Simon’s dives to cease getting the ball back. He was clearly gunning for a bagel game! Jan had avoided that, but this time Simon didn’t ease up but instead pushed towards the conclusion, sending the Melbourn player to a 9-15, 8-15, 4-15 loss.
The final match of the evening was a first appearance of the season for Mike (1), who was up against Arran Smith who was also debuting in Div.3 for the season… but had played and beaten Ed at #5 in the 1sts encounter the evening before. This was an intense match with very little between the players – indeed the opening two games both finished 15-13 with each claiming one of them, Mike taking the opener as he got on the attack first slightly more often than Arran and then seeing things level up as this pattern reversed. Arran edged the third showing some creative shot-making, but the fourth went to a breaker. However once again this went the Swavesey players way, Mike losing a very high quality match 15-13, 13-15, 11-15, 14-16.

Melbourn II v Cambridge III (3rd October 2022)

Melbourn won 16-7

Following a great start to the league campaign at Stamford last week, this was always going to be a tougher assignment and so it proved.

First up was Colm at string 4 against Sanjay. Colm was quick out of the blocks and carved out an early league which settled him and while Sanjay fought back, Colm was able to stay a few points ahead and took the game comfortably 15-9. An experienced player like Sanjay was not going to be a pushover and in the second, he forced Colm to retrieve more than he liked, forcing errors and Sanjay cruised to a 8-15 win. The third game was neck and neck all the way to 9-9, and then Colm found an extra bit of energy, stepping forward to pick up the drops and was rewarded with a series of points to take the game 15-10. Colm kept up the pressure in the fourth, working hard to get into a 7-1 lead. Sanjay piled on the pressure to recover the situation but the gap was too much and Colm took the game 15-9 and the match.

Aidan kindly stepping in as string 2 for Jan who was unavailable, played a very fit and experienced player in James. Aidan's power and accuracy put James in a lot of difficulty in the first game and dominated, leading throughout to win it 15-11. It looked as though Aidan has the measure of his opponent and on course to win the match, however a slight back tweak all of sudden and Aidan was hampered, restricting his game. Bravely he battled through the second forcing it to 14-14, but couldn't stop James taking the game 15-17. It was becoming more difficult for Aidan, and James was energised from winning the second game. The result became inevitable but credit to Aidan for playing in the circumstances. James took the match 1-3.

Gareth was next up at string 5 and against a new player for Cambridge, Jamie. The first game was of a very high standard and very entertaining with lots of long rallies including driving, dropping and retrieving. Gareth was able to stay in the rallies, playing accurately and confidently, making almost no errors and managed to get a 12-1 lead with his opponent having played quite well. Gareth took the game 15-5. Gareth kept the pressure up in the second game, and although Jamie managing to stay in it for the first half of the game, Gareth was playing too accurately and assertively, and took the game convincingly 15-8. The third followed a similar pattern, Gareth playing extremely well again to take the game 15-6 and the match.

Miles playing at string 1 against his previous club was good for his motivation and taking on his old pal Ben, he immediately got the pitch of it, getting to 9-1 very quickly in the first game. Miles cruised to a 15-5 win. Ben started the second game like an express train, dragging Miles into a game of touch squash at the front and made the most of it to get to 1-7 up. Miles knew his tactics needed to change and once he varied his game he managed to win point after point (winning 12 points in a row!!) and very impressively took the game 15-9. While Ben also started the third game strongly, Miles was ready for it and again once he found his rhythm, he cruised to a 15-6 win and the match.

Last up, playing at string 3, Liam was up against Keith, again another new player for Cambridge and as it turned out a very strong player who could easily compete in the higher divisions. Liam made a great fight of it however. In the first game, aside from a burst of points in the middle of the game, Liam competed excellently showing his capability to match Keith's level for periods. Keith took it 7-15 but the scoreline was a little unfair to Liam. The second game was a little more in Keith's favour but again Liam was showing that he could mix it. This game was 9-15 to Keith. In the third game, Liam went for it and was rewarded. He dominated from the T and forced Keith to the corners, and played accurate and determined squash to take the game 15-7. Liam took this form into the fourth game and led early on, however Keith was somehow able to find a way to get Liam back under pressure and took a series of points in a row to eek out a 5-10 lead which he didn't give up, the game ending 7-15 and the match going to Keith.

Skipper Colm noted 'this was a very satisfying evening with the team competing very well against a strong Cambridge team, special mention to Gareth who played superbly, a thanks to Aidan for filling in last minute, to Liam for having the toughest match (a bit like all of last season) and well done Miles for overcoming the emotion of playing against your previous team mates and winning convincingly again'.

Towers v Melbourn I (28th Sept 2022)

Melbourn Lost 7-17
 
The team managed to all travel in the one vehicle this week to meet their opposition Towers. The drive to Bedford was not direct, taking many twists and turns along the route - skipper did wonder if Kate's navigating was taking the team the 'scenic' route. Some nice looking pubs, passed by, enroute!
 
On arrival, Bedford Towers Health is an impressive venue, with all courts glass-backed.
 
First to play was Chris Shaw, playing 2nd seed for the team. Chris found the pace from his opponent tricky to adjust to, as well as Chris not being quite at his usual squash levels. The first game was competitive but Chris wasn't to get to that critical 8/9th game point to be in a position to threaten his opponent and so dropped the opening game. Second and third games were similar to the first and although Chris was staying in the games to their midway points, his oppenent always had the edge to pull away in the latter points that saw him take the second and subsequently third games and match from Chris 3-0 (11-6,11-7,11-7)
 
Next on was skipper Mark Oppen playing 4th seed. The opening few points were good from Mark but his opponent pulled it back to take the first 11-7. Mark's play improved in the second as he worked harder to move forward for front court opportunities that could disrupt play or play the ball short, which payed off as he won the second 9-11. However, Mark's fitness was now in question as the third game was similar to the first but the tempo and extended rallies were not doing any favours to the questionable fitness, the third game went to the opposition. The forth game was exceptionally close, with Mark making a last ditch effort from 6-10 down to give him game ball only for the opposition to keep his match alive, bringing it back to a tie break again, match ball and then the match 3-1. Mark lost his match 3-1 (11,7,9,11,11,7,14,12) 
 
Matt Sampson at 1st string found his match was a back and forth battle with the fitter and more consistent style of the Club Towers No.1 up against the trickier and more attacking style of Matt. The first two games were quite high tempo with Club Towers superior retrieval and fitness probably being the difference in two close games.
However Matt managed to slow the pace down and improve the accuracy of his attacks in the 3rd and 4th games to start to force a few errors from his opponent who was starting to tire from the work of the first games.
The 5th was close with Matt coming back from 9-3 down to 9-8 - but with some increasingly heavy legs and heavy breathing Matt couldn't complete the come back - losing 11-8 in the 5th. (13-11,11-6,10-12,9-11,11-8)
 
Vinod Duraikan playing at string 3 was up against an experienced opponent. Before Vinod's match he said he really needed a 'good warm-up' and that he got in the first few points of his opening game as the rallies were all to the far front and back corners. Perhaps this was intentional as Vinod played very well in the first game, wining it 6-11 and fully warmed-up. The second game did see his oppenent step his game play up but Vinod was able to maintain his level of play up when it counted and he won the second 9-11. With the passing games, Vinod was looking more comfortable on court now and it was very pleasing to see Vinod win the third game 8-11 and his match 3-0. (6-11,9-11,8-11)
 
Kate Bradshaw was last on for the evening at string 5. Waiting to play clearly wasn't the best preparation for Bradshaw who, after a promisingly patient first three points, let concentration wander. After a pep talk from fellow player Vinod, Bradshaw found better form for the rest of the match. Levelling with a 15-13 win in the 2nd, and the third going back to her opponent, Bradshaw still felt strong in the 4th. It was close all the way, but a dead ball from her opponent in the back nick and a misjudged swing by Bradshaw in the last two points at 10-10 left Melbourn with another 3-1 loss for the night, instead of a fifth and final game Bradshaw felt ready for. 11-2,13-15,11-7,12-10
 
Skipper Mark commented: Towers were a tough one to play for a first match of the season but to get the seven points showed it was a close match. I'm sure after a few more matches played the team will be nearing their peak performance again.   
 
 
 
 

Stamford III vs Melbourn II (27th September)

Melbourn won 20-0

The Seconds opening match of the 2022/23 Cambs Winter Leagues was one of our longest away trips of the season as we headed up the A1 to Stamford.

Most of the journey up went OK… up until we got within a couple of hundred meters away. Then one player who will remain nameless (let’s call him J*n) confidently stated “I’ve been here loads of times before, I know the way. It’s up there” Ten minutes of random circling of the back streets of Stamford later we finally stumbled across the right turning, so instead of having a few minutes to stretch the journey from their legs no.s 4 & 5 Gareth Jones and Jamie Ware had to get rapidly changed and rush on to court. D'Oh! [Colm – see what happens when you delegate… 😉]

Fortunately this didn’t seem to affect Jamie as he swiftly took command against Jai Nairn. Jamie was to dictated the play through the match, with Jai attempting to scramble to stay in rallies. This proved to be rather effective though as Jai’s retrieves were coming back in unexpected places, catching Jamie in a kind of Schrödinger’s cat-like state of being both absolutely in position (standing where most would have predicted the ball would go) and completely out of it (…but not where it actually went!) at the same time. This resulted in some hard chases and lunging movements, of varying effectiveness, to close the thing down. In Jamie’s own words what this resulted in was “certainly not pretty, but it got the job done” as he won 3-0.

A different challenge was presented to Gareth on the other court as he came up against an athletic looking teenager, Chase Burgess. The Melbourn player was the one more likely to do the unpredictable in this match as Chase looked to have a very well-constructed game. Indeed the Stamford youngster built himself a 12-6 lead in the first as Gareth struggled to find a pattern of play that hurt his opponent. Part of the problem was Gareth was positioning himself rather deep, worried (excessively as it turned out) by a couple of early winners Chase had hit past him… which simply had the effect of giving Chase the front wall to kill it! When Gareth forced himself higher up the court the pattern immediately changed, five straight rallies clawing it back to 11-12… only for two rather horrid unforced errors to see Chase to three game balls. Rope-a-dope? Nope, just dopey, but the soft nature of these give-aways focused Gareth’s mind and the next three rallies were clean as a whistle as he saved all the chances. That set up a very nervous tie-break, with both players having opportunities to close things out before Gareth got one to cling to the backhand wall to claim an opening game he had seemed twice-over unlikely to win.
This appeared to settle the Melbourn player, who started the second game in control, leading through most of it. However things would get tight once again as Gareth still had in mind some first game drops that Chase had cruised swiftly up to retrieve, which lead to him repeatedly eschewing drop shot chances and instead hitting back to the teenager who by this stage was hanging very deep on the court and gasping for breath.* These choices saw Gareth contrive to fall game-balls down again (14-12)… but then, just like the first, he found a way to get out of the hole he had dug for himself to once again claim the game on a breaker. This was a spirit-crusher for Chase, especially after Gareth had brought himself to believe his teammates advice that drop shots were the route to victory. The third was consequently one-sided with Gareth finally making the most of the openings he had created to win 3-0.
* - Those who know Chase will be very surprised by this happening after only one-and-a-half games. Perhaps, just maybe, his pre-match prep of two full matches and a gym session was a touch on the heavy side… 

Drama was less evident when Liam Murphy (3) took on Tim Collins. Tim’s game appeared to be based on taking the ball in short and doing so early in the rallies. Not at all to Liam’s taste as he never got a rhythm going, but something he was able to deal with adequately well thanks to his long frame and good control on the lunging stretch. Tim kept searching for holes, but even time one appeared Liam soon found a way of plugging it as he kept his nose in front throughout to secure another 3-0 for Melbourn.

A very similar pattern held for Jan Brynjolffssen’s match at second string against Ian Bell. Jan was finding himself in front of his opponent for most of the opening game, both in position in the rallies and in terms of the scoreline, but he was never able to shake Ian off as every time he opened up a few points lead the Stamford player found a couple of tricksy angles to close things back up again. Jan got to game ball first though, and despite seeing one chance go by at 14-12 was able to convert at 14-13 when a held drive got too deep for Ian to dig back. The second was much the same, Jan coming through this one 15-12, and that was moreorless that as by the third Ian’s movement was beginning to slow up, Jan rounding things off in reasonable comfort.

The final match of the evening saw Miles Jeanneret (1) make his first appearance for Melbourn in the Cambs League as he took on home skipper David Harris. The first rally saw Miles move David around and force him deep, killing it off with a tight straight backhand drop. The second rally was the same, some penetrating depths creating the space for a straight backhand drop winner. And the third. And the fourth. And the fifth! Was every rally in this match going to finish the same way?!? No, because whilst the sixth rally also ended with a very tight backhand drop, this time it was David playing it! In fact it turned out the Stamford man’s drop shots were exceptionally tight, he just wasn’t getting a chance to play them as Miles pinned him into the back third of the court. The second and third games were both closer as David dragged his position forward to where he needed to be, on the service line. That gave him a chance to play his shots but was also risky as it allowed space behind that, if Miles could find it, would force David to turn and try and retrieve from tight spaces in the back corners. Whilst this pattern was better for the Stamford man than the one that had held in the opening game, and the pair produced a good number of watchable rallies from their exchanges, it wasn’t quite better by a good enough margin – Miles was still picking up four points for every three conceded, which was enough of a differential to secure the 3-0 win and see Melbourn home for the 20-0 overall success.

Fill-in skipper Jan commented “It was a bit of a curious match, really. Stamford are new to our Division so we were not sure exactly what to expect. It turned out to be a series of players with effective but unconventional styles of play that were a bit frustrating to counter. But we all found a way to get the wins. Winning 5-0 away without dropping a game is a great start to the season”

He then proceeded to give just as bad directions on the way home as he had on the way up, contributing to a post-midnight return home for the side (the A1 and A1260 being closed also didn’t help). Stamford to Cambridge is via Kettering, isn’t it???

Letchworth I vs Melbourn I (31st August)

Melbourn won 9-5

The 1sts last game of the 2022 Herts Summer League was our shortest away trip of the season as we made the short nip along the A505 to take on Letchworth.

The first game on pitted Kate Bradshaw (2) against Greg Milhouse. This was a repeat of a meeting earlier in the season at Melbourn that Greg had won 3-1 after four extremely close games. However on this evening Kate’s focus was hurt by off-the-court stuff, and she found herself unable to break out of pattern of front corner attacks that Greg was expecting and dealing with comfortably. It all led to a 12-15, 6-15, 8-15 loss for Kate.

Next up was Jan Brynjolffssen (3), who started rapidly against Jason Tinsey, racing into a 7-0 opening game lead. This fast beginning faded, but Jan was still 12-7 up late in the game and seemingly on course to claiming it… when he lost his way totally. Two horror misses on what should have been straightforward backhand dropshots at 8-12 and 9-12 took a psychological toll, Jan somehow contriving to lose a game he had complete control of 15-13! The second saw a more focused performance from Jan, who forced himself to maintain a higher court position to cope with Jason’s boasts and short power kills. This worked decently, Jan controlling the front wall again to level up.
Jason responded though, claiming the third 15-9 as Jan once again lost track of the correct pattern of play and kept hitting it back to his opponent! Teammates advice to hit into the open spaces rather than trying to wrong foot, and that allied with unexpected errors from the home players racquet saw Jan level things up again with a straightforward fourth, and then move into a 5-2 lead early in the fifth.
If Jan had managed to put away another simple backhand drop chance at 5-2 he might have built a considerable lead again, but having missed that and got fixated on it (again!) he found himself dragged into a battle once more. Jason soon had it at 5-all, and after that there was never more than a point or two between the players after that. The match got to 13-all when controversy struck – Jason put a tight drop in that Jan, up near the front wall, was convinced had clipped the top of the tin on its way back in to play after initially striking the front wall cleanly. Whatever had happened though he shouldn’t have stopped playing to appeal for this, and was somewhat fortunate to get a let out of the rally as marker Greg felt unsighted on the front wall ball. An event like that is a rare… except it happened in the very next rally as well as Greg called “stop” to the play after a shot of Jan’s did exactly the same thing he was claiming Jason’s had in the first iteration – clipped the top of the tin and popped up a bit. This seemed a fair call as, even if neither player saw it down (both were playing on), it certainly sounded like this had happened and those on the balcony had seen the trajectory change.
So match point to Jason after all, then. But now Jan really focused [should it have taken that long?!?] and saved it with a hold on a short backhand ball, going crosscourt when he felt Jason moving up to cover the straight drop. Jan then got his own chance on matchball after a loose return from Jason gifted a straightforward forehand volley drop kill… and Jan converted the opportunity as he found one of the very few dodgy floorboard on Letchworth’s very recently refurbished and otherwise generally excellent courts. For future reference of other Melbourn players, that board is deep in right-handers forehand corner… and apparently there is a similarly iffy one in mirror-image on the backhand side wall. Jan won 13-15, 15-11, 9-15, 15-7, 16-14. *phew*

That meant Matt Sampson (1) was taking on Matt Egginton with the evening on the line. Matt E (home Matt) had won all his previously matches this season… apart from the one at Melbourn when Chris beat him 3-0. He was clearly not encouraged pre-game when, as part of a general chat, Matt S noted that he had never lost to Chris, even if Matt had caveated this with “But he has been playing all summer and I’ve been out for months, so he might win if we played right now”. We will see – these guys need to do a challenge match to sort the order for the upcoming winter season (anyone want to sell tickets to that??), but Matt S’s chances of keeping his perfect lifetime record are improving as he plays more and his game reanimates itself, which there was ample evidence of to come on this particular evening.
Matt was definitely a notch or three up on where he had been seven days prior against Haileybury in this one, which was an excellent quality match from start to finish. Matt E contributed significantly to the game with his fleet footed and lung busting movement, but he was generally the play reacting rather than dictating, even when he kept the games close as he did in the first. Part of this was down to Matt S holding his shot to see which way Matt E was going… and then hitting it to a different corner, prompting an exasperated home Matt to exclaim “Stop hitting the wrong shots!”
Some of the rallies and retrieving were jaw dropping quality, with one court sprint that took Matt S from the deep forehand to the front backhand corners and saw him pick up an apparent dead nick dropshot from Matt E probably causing the most bemused amazement on the balcony. To be fair to home Matt he fought valiantly to the end, saving two or three match balls. But eventually the relentless pressure told and Matt S won 15-12, 15-4, 15-10.

Melbourn skipper Jan remarked “It all turned on my game. I made a bit of a meal of it but got there in the end. It was great to see evidence that Matt is working his way back to his previous standards.”

Haileybury II vs Melbourn II (25th August)

Melbourn lost 4-9

Melbourn 2nds played this match at Haileybury College on a very warm court despite the cool external temperature.
Roger Woodfield (3) played first against Adam Gourpinar. Roger made a slow start and struggled to combat a series of very measured boasts. With the first game lost, Roger fought back and generated some pressure and mistakes from his opponent. But this comeback was too little and too late and the match was lost 0-3.
Miles Jeanneret (2) was next against Graham Dial. A similar pattern of play initially in that Miles started slowly and Graham put pressure on with effective boasts. The difference in this match was that Miles soon picked up the pace and forced errors with more aggressive play. It was at times scrappy but Miles took the first game. After that, Miles took full control and steadily demolished his opponent’s game, a pattern often seen during this summer. Miles won 3-0.
The closest match was Mark Oppen (1) against Alistair Lee. Once again the home player made the running and controlled the first game. Mark competed well in the second game but was unable to prevent Alistair winning it 15-13. Mark responded strongly with great resolve, forcing errors and making winners to take the third game. It looked as though the fourth game would also go to Mark who had built a solid 14-10 lead. However, Alistair replied with excellent match play to win it 16-14 and the match 3-1.
Skipper Roger Woodfield said “This developed into a very close match with the result turning on the outcome of the first string match. Despite a great comeback, Mark just failed to stop Alistair winning”

Melbourn I vs Haileybury I (24th August)

Melbourn won 9-3

The 1sts last home game of the summer saw us playing host to a Haileybury side one spot above in the Herts Division 2 table – they were third to our fourth.

The first match on was the second strings, which pitted Jan Brynjolffssen against Adam Long. Adam is a talented shot maker… but this was his first appearance of the summer and indeed since the pandemic for Haileybury. Not ideal for him on a warm night where the ball was sitting up – leading to him noting remarking to the world at large that “It’s impossible to kill the ball!” That came about a third of the way through the opening game, which Jan lead in the early stages. Adam did find his range towards the end of the game, getting a lead and to 14 first. However Jan saved both game points and then went straight through to take the opener on the breaker. The second saw the home player start in scratchy fashion, falling 9-4 behind, only for Adam to repay the favour with a string of errors that saw Jan win 13 of the next 16 points to go two up. The third was better, with fewer errors from both players. Jan was the one with the lead this time, getting 11-8 up. Adam clawed that back to 13-all, but having saved one game point he wasn’t able to do so at 15-14 as Jan found an attacking cross court backhand to seal a hard fought win 16-14, 15-12, 16-14.

Next on was Matt Sampson against David Gandolfo. Like Adam L, Matt was making his seasonal debut for the summer and though he started well he began to lose his way as David, who often seems to start game 1 slowly, got his scurrying and retrieving game going. In fact from 12-4 up Matt only won on of the next 11 rallies to find himself facing game ball at 13-14 down. This focused Matt’s mind, the game ball was saved and one of his own earned… which he won when a down-the-middle serve hit Dave in the back! It turned out that was the Haileybury player’s chance gone as from then on Matt, despite clearly having to work harder than he would ideally have liked, always had control. Commanding leads were built in games two and three, with holds and then surprise boasts a particularly effect combination, to set up a 16-14, 15-6, 15-9 win.

That meant Melbourn had won before Liam Murphy hit the court to take on Rob Gibson. Liam’s form and playing standard continues to be well above where it was last winter, and once again he was stretching and defending well, using his long frame very effectively. However Rob was a hot potato to deal with, moving very well and picking everything up. The visiting player ate away at Liam’s four point mid-game advantage, but even so it was Liam who got to game point first. This was saved though, the first going into an extended tie-break… that eventually went Rob’s way 18-16. Gutting. The opener escaping seemed to throw Liam for the first half of game two, which this time he trailed in throughout. He found some form in the last knockings though to give hope for the third, particularly when a run of six straight points saw him recover from 6-3 down to lead 9-6. This wasn’t to be the only extended run of points though as from 10-8 to Liam it was Rob’s turn to string 7 on the bounce together, many of them stone dead kills played from seemingly not attacking positions on the court. The final game scores were 16-18, 9-15, 10-15.

Skipper Jan commented “It is great that both Matt and Liam are back in action now. It was a useful run out for all of us… and the win means any lingering threat of relegation has gone. We can use our final match next week as preparation for the next winter season.”

Melbourn II vs Ickleford I (18th August)

Melbourn won 10-5

First up was Moises against a very experienced player in Tony Dean. Moises dramatic improvement in just a short few months was evident as he dominated to win the first game 15:7 with excellent retrieving and good shot selection. Moises was applying a lot of energy and this continued through the second game and led comfortably before some fatigue set in, giving Tony an opportunity to come back, which he did and ground out the second game eventually 16:18, Moises a little unlucky not to have hung on.
Moises was feeling the tiredness and the match was evenly poised; however Tony’s experience tipped the balance and the 3rd and 4th games in his favour, 13:15 and 12:15. Despite losing, this was an impressive performance by Moises and as he continues to improve, he will learn how to close out these matches.

Colm played Neil Miller at string 2. Two evenly matched players again made for an exciting and close match. In the first, Colm was able to get on top, owning the front of the court, and won it 15:10. Neil managed to put Colm under a lot more pressure in the second, reflecting in the 5:15 score line. Again Neil kept up the pressure in the third and took it 11:15, but Colm was starting to find some traction and changed his tactics. This paid off in the fourth game as Colm found much more width and length to win it 15:11. Both players were tiring but the fifth game was hard fought, Colm continued to edge it and took the game 15:10 and the match.

Miles played Callum Brock at string 1. The first game demonstrated the ability of each player with some excellent long rallies. Callum put himself in position to win it, however Miles was determined not to let his few errors early in the game be costly and dug out a 15:13 win. Miles’ determination continued through the second game and his consistently string play combined with less errors gave him a more comfortable 15:8 win. In the third, Miles kept up the pressure and this was rewarded with a 15:5 win for a well-deserved match against a really good player.

Skipper Colm commented “It was a good win. Really a special mention to Moises, who showed great improvement and determination.”

Berkhamsted II vs Melbourn I (17th August)

Melbourn lost 2-12

Melbourn 1sts were hoping to bounce back from a heavy defeat the previous week when they travelled to take on Berkhamsted 2. The result of the first meeting of the teams this season, a 9-4 home win, suggested this was possible, but a closer examination led to a more cautious note – Mike, who had played #3 for Melbourn in that win was at #1 on this one… whilst Berko had gone the other way, their #1 and #2 from the first meeting playing at #2 and #3 in the return. Both teams apparently stronger at home – weird, huh?

First on court for Melbourn was Liam Murphy (3), who was also making his summer league debut after re-finding his form (and enthusiasm) recently in the internal box leagues, which saw him reverse an earlier call to sit out team squash this summer. If anyone wasn’t aware this was Liam’s appearance in Herts Summer Div.2 would have figured it out when he paused at 7-all in the first to ask the marker “Er, what are we playing up to??”. The question was indicative of more than just an unfamiliarity with the format of this league – Liam had been playing very well up to this point, producing clean, considered, classical Squash, but the sub-text was this was all a bit more draining than internal box leagues, and by 7-all he was blowing and looking for a break to recover his breath! Following the enquiry five straight points slipped away, which was the deciding factor in the opener. Game 2 followed the same pattern, Liam playing very well and competitively up to 7-all but then running on empty for the remainder to fall two down. Encouragingly Liam’s lungs and legs kept going all the way through game three, which was nip-and-tuck up to 13-all. Hopes were raised that he might sneak a game, and therefore a point for the team, only for Keith to find a great backhand length and then follow it up with another forced error to seal the 3-0 win. The game scores (Liam first) were 9-15, 8-15, 13-15.

Next on was Jan Brynjolffssen (2) against Kevin Hall. This was a nice, pacy game from the outset as the ball sat up on the warm courts, making kills difficult. Kevin was true to his shot-making style and doing most of the attacking, whilst Jan stretched and chased to retrieve and then tried to counter-punch. All well and good, but the home player was always that little fraction stronger on this pattern and therefore went 1-0 up. Game 2 followed went similarly, with Jan trying to focus on not giving up the front wall but getting drawn into doing on a handful of occasions – not many in number but of decisive effect as the game went away 15-11. Jan had found himself 6-2 down in both the first two games, but then bucked this trend in game 3 as he took advantage of a brief drop in levels from Kevin… and also got some really helpful bounces particularly out of the deep backhand corner. Jan clung to this advantage having established it, rebuilding the cushion each time Kevin threaten to close it up to pull a game back. Now on the board, it was Jan’s turn to lose concentration at the start of game four. He found himself 6-2 down once again. Groundhog Day. When this got to about 10-4 the situation looked rough, but from that point Jan played his best and most consistent Squash of the evening, gradually clawing back the deficit to draw level at 13-all and then take the next two points to level up. This was great… but swiftly proved to by pyrrhic as the effort involved left the Melbourn player drained at the start of Game 5. Kevin pounced to build a significant advantage… not 6-2 this time but instead 11-1! Oops. That was really unrecoverable, though Jan was trying as he saved three match balls from 14-4 down. Serving out on the fourth one was not a clever tactic, though. Hard fought, but still a loss overall with the scores 10-15, 11-15, 15-11, 15-13, 7-15.

Jan’s result meant Melbourn had lost before Mike Herd (1) was able to get on court against Richard Carr. But there were still bonus points to play for, and Mike started very well in pursuit of one of them pulling off some lovely drop shots as he kept the opener level pegging despite Richard catching him out a few times with unexpected boasts. Towards the end of the game the ratio of Mike’s drop winners to Richard’s boast ones changed and did so in the Berkhamsted player’s favour. That got the opener, a similar pattern holding through most of the second as Mike found himself two games down. However like Liam and Jan before him, Mike put on his best showing in the third, producing some lovely retrieving and also stepping up the court to kill when the opportunity presented itself. That saw him to 14 first. When the first of these game ball chances was well saved there was an “Uh-oh” feeling as Richard had already proved how relentless he can be when he needs it. Which is exactly what he was. Having seen mumble opportunities come and go Mike earned himself chance mumble plus one at 15-14. This time he served directly into the back nick… but Richard not only clawed the ball out, he hit it tight enough that Mike was forced to lunge to dig it up himself, which led to something the Berko player could put away. Another pair of deadly boasts did the rest as Mike fell 10-15, 6-15, 15-17.

Melbourn skipper Jan commented “I knew we were in for a tough night when I saw the team orders. Berkho had the stronger player in each match and clearly deserved their 3-0 win. But we can be proud of making them work hard for it, and particularly that all three of us refused to give up but instead made things more difficult for the home side as we got further behind!”

Melbourn I vs Radlett II (10th August)

Melbourn lost 0-12

Hmm. What to say about this match then? Well, for starters, concern about the hot weather (a Met Office amber weather warning on extreme heat was just coming in to force) lead all the games to start at 4-4, making them effectively PAR-11 encounters. That way we could have some hope that the match [checks notes] would overrun. Hmm. Turned out not to be necessary, that…
OK, to the games. First on were the second strings, Jan taking on Neal Woodburn. After some early sparring, Neal opened a lead of a few points in the first. His ability to add unexpected pace was catching Jan out. And this was the pattern for the rest of the match, really. Jan got closer in games 2 and 3 (a poor serve at 13-all in the second is still a vivid memory), but Neal always had a bit extra and never looked particularly worried. Game scores were 9-15, 13-15, 12-15.
Next on were Aidan (3) and Nick Henderson. Aidan started OK, looking a bit tense but mostly playing his shots. However midway through the opening game he went over on his ankle and appeared to hurt it. Whilst he was able to carry on his movement was clearly affected with hard pushes off that foot now avoided. This, in turn, amped up Aidan’s tension about the match which led to some mistakes. Nick’s style was also not to his liking, as rather than clean up and down the walls stuff the Radlett player was cutting the game up, asking questions of Aidan’s movement. Something he never got comfortable with as he lost 11-15, 10-15, 11-15.
That meant Kate (1) was playing for pride and hopefully a point or two against James Ockwell. The two players appeared to know each other well from the Masters Tour, and as might be expected of that produced lots of clean, classical, easy-on-the-eye Squash. The first game was nip-and-tuck through most of it, indeed for long periods it appeared no server would win a point, but at the denouement James pulled clear. Game 2 was clearly Kate’s chance to get Melbourn on the board as she built a 13-9 lead with some rallies that perfectly balanced patience with snapping on genuine chances as soon as they appeared. However having got to the brink of the game Kate then began to go for things too early and 13-9 became 13-14. She saved that game ball and then had a number of her own across an extended tie-break, but when this went against her 19-17 it was a significant blow. Game three was still good stuff, but a little bit of belief had fled Kate and James was that extra touch more sure of himself. That was enough to secure things as Kate went down 12-15, 17-19, 8-15.
Melbourn skipper Jan remarked “Yes, they were better than us and 9 times out of 10 would have won. But getting nothing from the night was a bit disappointing.”

Nuffield II vs Melbourn I (3rd August)

Melbourn won 9-3

The 1sts travelled to St. Albans on Wednesday to play a re-arranged game. Re-arranged, it turns out, to the evening of the Squash medal matches at the Commonwealth Games (congratulations to champions Paul Coll and Gina Kennedy) – oops.
That cost Melbourn the third string as the offer of a ticket to watch the action in Birmingham proved too alluring, and no suitable replacements willing to travel at (only somewhat…) short notice. This meant Jan Brynjolffssen (2) took the court against Nick Medcraft with the pressure on to win or bust. Fortunately Jan started well, and putting together a run of points from mid-game to build a commanding 13-5 lead. He then got complacent/showy, stopping doing what he had been in creating the opportunities to kill and instead looking for the out-shot too early. Nick was too good to take such liberties with and came roaring back to 13-14… but then tinned one to let Jan off the hook. Relieved, the Melbourn player put together a cleaner second game, with a neater conclusion, only allowing three game balls to go by this time (14-8 to 14-11) before converting the fourth. Dead-eyed. By the third Nick was clearly blowing, having done a lot of retrieving on a very warm evening. This time Jan not only cruised through the first three-quarters of the game but instead sustained it all the way to the end, closing out a 15-13, 15-11, 15-3 victory.
That meant the match stood at one string all when Mike Herd (1) and Douglas Hudson took to the court. The play quickly settled into a pattern of Mike controlling the ‘t’ and working Doug around, but the home player running hard and getting the ball back in sometimes unexpected places that occasionally caught Mike on the hop. That led to some unforced errors from Mike’s racquet, but a tight focus in the later stages of the game cut those out, turning a 8-10 deficit around into a 15-11 opening game. The second looked to be going the same way… except when this got to 10-all it was Douglas who produced a string of clean rallies to earn himself four consecutive game points. On the point of losing the game Mike started to swing free, saving the first three with well-constructed rallies and then benefitting from an over-ambitious kill attempt on a half chance to level up. Mike then had a game ball of his own, but now it was Douglas’ turn to play solidly, saving it well. By now it was anyone’s guess who would take the game – Douglas had two more chances at 16-15 and 17-16, followed by Mike at 18-17 and 19-18. But still we went on. Mike also had the game ball at 20-19, and this rally ended strangely when Mike played an unexpected and tight backhand drive, unexpected as his balance didn’t seem to allow that shot… which it didn’t because after hitting the ball he lost his footing! Mike was grounded in front of where the ball went, but Doug had to change direction to get it. The questions abounded – winning shot and no let? Playable straight in response and stroke?. All options were available to marker Nick, and the crowd (1 person – your author) agreed with his call of “Yes let” and his explanation of the only shot Douglas had was a boast, which Mike was not in line of. So Mike got a reprise of game ball… except he was slow to get up from the tumble and clearly testing an injury (Achilles) sustained in the fall. Eventually he decided he was good to go and proved this was right by moving fine in a longish that ended with Douglas making an error to end the breaker at 21-19. Come game three the open question for game three was which pain would matter more – the physical one in Mike’s ankle or the emotional hit Douglas had suffered by going two down rather than back to level pegging. It proved to be the latter as the home player abandoned the game plan that had been working for him (defend and counter-punch) and tried to make the play instead… which just handed Mike court position and the initiative. As with the second string game 3 was one-sided – the same score as Jan vs Nick in fact as Mike wrapped up a 15-11, 21-19, 15-3 victory.
Jan remarked “Whilst it was a shame we couldn’t get three out and give Scott a run at third string, the two of us who did travel did enough to win the night. We each made it a bit more exciting than was strictly necessary as well!”

Melbourn II vs Gosling II (21st July)

Melbourn lost 3-10

Fortunately the heat wave earlier in the week had subsided and this match was played in more typical July temperatures.
First up was Roger Woodfield (3) playing Ben Franks. Roger started well and soon established a meaningful 11-7 lead which was suddenly swept away by a flurry of powerful shots which left Roger wondering why he had just lost the first game 11-15. Perceptive comments from team mate Colm saw Roger tighten up his squash in the second game with much deeper and wider drives with less use of the drop shot on a very warm court. Ben’s 6-1 lead was turned round and at 13-13 Roger was able to exert more pressure to win 15-13. Roger continued the tactics into the third game and a run of 9 points put Roger into a strong position at 14-10. But Ben was not done and fought back hard to make the score 14-14. The momentum shifted again and Roger took the game 16-14 with some well chosen shots. This effectively was the match decider with Roger controlling the fourth game, winning it 15-8 and the match 3-1.
Meanwhile, on the other court, Sean Hamilton (2) was having a very hard time with Matt McGill who was dominating the rallies with his exceptional reach and accuracy. Sean lost the first game 6-15. The second game continued in the same vein with Sean losing 12 points in one run of play. Then we saw Sean fight back and play with his usual tenacity and doggedness. However, a run of 5 points was too little too late and the game was lost. The third game was much more competitive but Matt continued his firm grip on the game and Sean lost the match 0-3.
Colm O’Gorman (1) faced Scot Adam, a powerful player with excellent racket skills. The first game was neck and neck until Colm pulled ahead to 14-12. But Scot competed fiercely and took the game 16-14. The second game went the same way but this time Scot kept just ahead all the way and took many of the very long rallies which made for great viewing. Come the third game, Colm started to run out of steam and he could not withstand the torrent of powerful shots from Scot. The match was lost 0-3.
Skipper Roger Woodfield said “It was a very lively match played in a competitive but friendly fashion. On the day, we were beaten by a better team who were able to dominate 2 of the 3 strings”

Berkhamsted III vs Melbourn I (20th July)

Melbourn lost 4-10

An international clash opened up this evening. Spain had initially success, before England gradually figured out their opponents style and took over, ending the game as comfortable winners. There were some parallels between the Women’s Euro 2022 QF (which was on the Berko clubhouse TV) and the clash between Melbourn debutant Moises Estrella Navarro (3) and James Barron, though also key differences – though Moises did have his best spell in the early going, this merely achieved parity for most of the opening game, up to 11-all or so, rather than the lead his countrywoman held until the closing minutes. And James didn’t have to produce the equivalent of Stanway’s stunner (headline credit – basically every news organisation in England) to seal the victory – standard play got him there comfortably enough. No-one could accuse Moises of not trying, and there were a number of archetypal rallies that saw him cannonballing around the court, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to prevent defeat as James had too much power and consistency, especially on his forehand. Moises lost 11-15, 3-15, 7-15.
Next on court was Jan Brynjolffssen (2) against Anthony Chudleigh. This was cleaner, more considered Squash, albeit still high intensity (and high bounce and high sweat on a very warm and humid evening). Game one was close all the way through, until Anthony pulled clear late on to take it. Game two saw Jan straightening his lines up and trying to be more proactive in his shot choices – this worked to level things up at a game-all as Jan established an early lead and then clung on to it. Anthony tightened things up in turn in the next and seemed on course to take a 2-1 lead as he gave himself four game points at 14-10. However an error going for a spectacular kill on the first was followed by some determined defence from Jan that gradually chipped these points away. That got it to 14-all… where Jan immediately made a mistake! Having saved that fifth Game Ball and then a sixth at 16-15, Jan got his own first chance at 17-16, and took it for a big psychological blow. Game Four saw Jan in the lead from early on, as he worked his way to a 14-11 advantage – three Match Balls. He showed he wasn’t learning from his opponents errors as he frittered these away to find himself 15-14 down. A nerveless drop saved that, followed by a trickle boast that was JUST up gave him a fourth chance, and this time he converted when a good backhand length didn’t come back. Jan won 12-15, 15-12, 18-16, 17-15.
That set up Mike Herd (1) and Ryan Perry to play the decider. Mike didn’t look himself in the opener, making a string of uncharacteristic errors, mainly on drop shots, to lose the game quickly and by a distance. Unforced errors from Mike’s racquet considerably outnumbered kills from Ryan’s in this game. Mike steadied himself with some conservative rallies at the start of the second, finding his groove from this. That allowed him to get up the court and start to dictate, leading him to winning the second by a margin nearly as considerable as the gap had been in the first.  Now the momentum appeared to be with Mike… expect Ryan was also refocusing after finding the opener was an aberration and he would have to work harder than that to win games now Mike was underway. Ryan’s tactic turned out to be volley-kills, and highly impressive ones at that, particularly those dragged down from high on the backhand into the front forehand corner/nick. He pulled this off too often for it to be luck; these were shots Ryan was in control of. Mike’s focus for game four was keeping the ball tighter on drive, either by width or power, to deny Ryan the chance for more spectacular kills. This was only effective so far as despite all Mike’s efforts Ryan kept going for and making his overheads, including on match point with a ball he seemed to need a step-ladder to reach but this stretched up for and killed down stone dead. Mike lost 6-15, 15-8, 6-15, 9-15.
Skipper Jan commented “Thanks to Moises for his flexibility in stepping in at the last moment and ensuring we had three. He gave his opponent a proper work-out, which was impressive when thrown in at the deep end. Mine and Mike’s games were battles which could have gone either way. Whilst it was disappointing to lose, it was a good evening of Squash”.

Broxbourne II vs Melbourn II (14th July)

Melbourn lost 3-9

This match was played in Broxbourne on a particularly hot summer’s evening which was great for watching the club cricket match but not so pleasant for squash!
Roger Woodfield (3) played first against Warren Pickering. Roger started well enough but was soon under pressure from Warren’s very accurate boasts. His opponent showed patience and waited for the opportunities to gain points. The first game was competitive but Roger lost it 10-15. As the contest and the heat developed, Warren took full advantage and gradually took control to win the next 2 games. So the match was lost 0-3.
Sean Hamilton (2) was pitched against Peter Iszatt, a particularly experienced and tricky match player who has won most of his matches in this summer league. The first game was close but Sean could not quite press home what looked like a winning streak and lost it 12-15. Once again, the Broxbourne player gradually took control of the game with steady squash and few mistakes. Sean battled hard but could not break down his opponent’s game. He lost the next 2 games and the match 0-3.
Miles Jeanneret (1) played Shola Bello, a somewhat mercurial character, capable of some really exciting and magical squash. The first game was tight and could have gone either way. As is standard with Miles, he chased everything and consequently put his opponent under unrelenting pressure. A couple of forced errors saw Miles take the first game 17-15. Shola started to show frustration at not being able to put the ball away on what was now an incredibly hot court. He tried to end the long rallies with some switch hits and drops, most of which were unsuccessful. Shola then resorted to hit the ball even harder which didn’t work either. Miles comfortably took the next 2 games by playing controlled squash and making far fewer mistakes than his opponent. Miles won 3-0.
Skipper Roger Woodfield said ‘This was a fair result with our second and third strings well beaten. Once again, Miles put in a great performance and dominated his opponent with some excellent match squash’

Melbourn I vs Gosling I (13th July)

Melbourn won 12-3

It was a sunny and bloomin’ hot night, with flies buzzing around irritatingly… no, this doesn’t work, does it?
Anyway, yes, a very, very warm evening. Very. As was evident in the opening rally between Jan Brynjolffssen (3) and Jon Noonan, which was genuinely pushing 100 shots and lasted at least a minute if not more. Fine for the pros to do stuff like that, but for us amateurs rallies like that really test the fitness (and muscles). Hearing the score called as only “one-love” at the end of it was rather deflating. Fortunately the rallies that followed in game one were not as long, and their outcomes were more fluctuating – Jan having the better of the opening, Jon taking over in the mid-game but Jan fighting back (aided by a couple of key unforced errors from Jon’s racquet in the latter stages) to recover form 13-9 down and win the game. Errors continued to leak from the Gosling player’s racquet in game two, but he tightened things up in the third and fourth, and crucially also began not only to reach Jan’s drops but counter-drop them for winners of his own. That took us the distance, with Jan digging in to produce a more concentrated, and the key, a more assertive performance, taking more risks on his shots rather than simply hanging in the rallies and letting Jon have the first attacking shot. That said Jan’s best point of the final game was a counter-punch, racing forward to try and pick up an expected drop shot, but Jon had hit it deeper… only for Jan to conjured a top-spun half-volley counter-drop a centimetre above the tin for a winner. Doubly impactful as that made the score 13-9, Jan going on to win 15-13, 15-5, 11-15, 9-15, 15-9.
Mike Herd (2) was next on, up against the skilful and powerful Scot Adam. This made for a contrast in styles as Mike employed his long frame, his stretch and his tenacity to grind Scot down, forcing the Gosling player to play another ball, and another, and another when what he was after were kills (or tins, but rally over here and now either way!). The first two games were initially nip-and-tuck, but as they progressed Mike gradually pulled away to win both comfortable. Game three was a bit of a mess from the Melbourn player’s perspective as three early unforced errors (drops that should have been simple winners going into the tin) left him trailing. It wasn’t really a night for huge effort turning deficits around so Mike somewhat let that game go and chose instead to focus on the fourth. And this time he wasn’t hamstrung by early errors, coming through 15-10, 15-8, 7-15, 15-7.
The final match on court pitted Chris vs Chris, Shaw of Melbourn taking on Ginn of Gosling. Some early sparring and lunging saw the first ten or so points shared reasonably evenly – Chris S was a couple up after it – but as the game progressed Melbourn-Chris’ ability to absorb everything and then when he got a sniff of a chance to press in and push ultra-tight drop shots taken early was causing Gosling-Chris no end of problems. In fact from around 8-5 in the first this ceased to be much of a contest as Chris S cruised through for the loss of only a handful of points – establishing 7-0 leads in both the second and third games was pretty killer. Chris Shaw won 15-5, 15-4, 15-2.
Melbourn skipper Jan remarked “We might not all have had to dig to the same depth for our wins, but we all got there in the end. Maximum points from the evening keeps us pushing the top two in Div.2 nicely.”

Melbourn I vs Letchworth I (29th June)

Melbourn won 10-3

Melbourn 1sts took on Letchworth this week, subjecting the Division 2 leaders to their first beating of the season.
Aidan Hird went on first against third string Jason Tinsey. In warm conditions and with a sticky new ball, both found the court unforgiving of inaccuracy, the back corners proving elusive. This was to Aidan’s benefit as the less mobile player, and he was frequently able to confine his opponent to the back half of the court using excessive power that might have been disastrous on a different day. Jason didn’t make it easy, hitting back with his signature opportunistic boasts, a promising approach which left Aidan resorting to risky cut kills to close out a tight third on increasingly wobbly legs, giving Melbourn the early lead.
The second-string match saw Kate Bradshaw take on Greg Millhouse, two well-drilled players producing some neat-looking rallies. Kate took a close first game, looking confident. As in the third string match, the grippy ball repeatedly exaggerated any inaccuracy in hitting up the walls and things began to become less tidy. This looseness played to Kate’s characteristic precision short game, but Greg worked to counter this and the second and third gradually crept his way. In spite of a better last game, the fourth also escaped Kate, leaving the fixture tied.
Finally, Chris Shaw took to the court with Matt Egginton. As perhaps foreshadowed by friendly pre-match discussion of the players’ SquashLevels ratings, the outcome of this never seemed in doubt. Chris adopted a high-energy approach, arriving on every ball early and releasing a relentless barrage of accurate and well-selected shots to allow very little time for recovery during rallies, with his deceptive fast cross-court from the front left being notably difficult to handle. Spectators were treated to several long, high-quality rallies before Chris walked off the victor in three.
Kate, skippering Melbourn for the evening, said of the game “It was another great team performance. Aidan played with excellent control against an opponent who often draws others into his style of play, while Chris offered up another textbook win, beating one of the strongest players in the league with his speed, stamina and shot execution.”

Letchworth II vs Melbourn II (30th June)

Melbourn won 9-4

Roger Woodfield (3) played first against Stuart Pyper. Roger made a slow start which gave Stuart the upper hand to exert steady pressure with generally well constructed rallies. Roger didn’t make up the lost ground and lost the first game 11-15. In many ways the next 2 games followed the same pattern. Too many errors put Roger into a last ditch position from which he couldn’t recover and he lost those games and the match 0-3.
Thomas Higginson (2) was pitched against Russell Bennett in what turned out to be a one-sided contest. Thomas played fast aggressive, attacking squash which Russell struggled with. In truth, some of the rallies were randomly constructed but, such was the power and intensity, that it had the desired effect. Thomas took the first game 15-7. Russell attempted to respond but was never able to gain any serious momentum. Thomas took the second and third games 15-9 to secure a comfortable 3-0 win.
Miles Jeanneret (1) faced stronger opposition in Jon Miles. A strong racket player, Jon exerted considerable pressure on Miles with both deft touches and powerful drives. Miles was up to the challenge and battled hard to win the first game 15-13. It looked as though the second game would go the same way but Jon put in a very determined effort and forced a 15-12 win. Miles then upped the pace and covered the court extremely well cutting out any cross-court returns with clinical precision. This unrelenting pressure started to show with Jon tiring and getting frustrated with being unable to reach many of Miles’ testing shots. It became inevitable that Miles would come out on top and he efficiently wrapped up the next 2 games to win 3-1.
Skipper Roger Woodfield said “After a slow start we made very good progress with strong performances from Thomas and Miles. In the end , it was a very convincing 9-4 win”

Haileybury I vs Melbourn I (22nd June)

Melbourn lost 11-5

The youngest Melbourn 1sts side for some considerable time, featuring two out of three players in their 20s (whatever next?!?) went down to an equally spritely in spite of being slightly more experienced (*ahem*) Haileybury team in an engrossing match.
Haileybury’s courts are at the public school, though the sports centre is not as palatial as the stuff outside. Once in the walls of the place a sports centre is a sports centre, really. And the players were all Hertford area local rather than pupils… who will all be doing their exams at the moment anyway. That meant Melbourn’s Tom Higginson (3) was holding up the banner for youth (aged 20) against long standing Herts county leagues player Karl Pyle. It was soon clear the match was going to be feature many extended rallies, with the ball hard to kill. This fitted into Tom’s retrieving style and allowed his great movement to show up as he made it hard to Karl to kill the ball. That gave Tom the opener, before Karl got on a run of inch perfect shots to level up. Game three saw Tom back in charge, forcing errors from Karl as he went for his winners, but then the fourth was a bit or a ‘mare for Tom as out of nowhere he lost his rhythm. Or was he saving his energies for the decider? Maybe that was it because Tom was back on it from the outset, though the most notable period was a string of perfect points from around 8-8 to build a 13-8 lead. This was enough to see Tom home for a hard-fought and impressive 15-12, 13-15, 15-9, 4-15, 15-9 success.
Melbourn’s own greybeard Jan Brynjolffssen (2) was next on but pleased to find himself pitted against the similarly aged Andrew Humphries (within months as few found out in the bar later). Shorter rallies were guaranteed, because that was what both players wanted. By unspoken agreement shot 20 was the final one of any rally, whatever the circumstances! Not that many rallies in game 1 got close to that far as Andrew produced a string of unexpected errors to hand a slightly bemused Jan the game. The home player came back in the second and was right on it in the third, which he won comfortably as his superior shot-making came to the fore. Jan battled back, working hard to extend rallies (no, really) and from that was able to grind out the fourth. The Melbourn player was looking the fitter of the two ahead of the decider, but Andrew always had the greater touch. And that proved to be decisive as the errors of the opener were replaced again by clean killing that left Jan disappointed but not really believing he could have done more. Jan lost 15-12, 11-15, 6-15, 15-9, 5-15.
This set up Miles Jeanneret (1) to take on David Gandolfo with the match on the line. Miles started very well, moving sweetly around the court. As was remarked he never looks like he is working super hard, he just gets to where he needs to be really fast – a clever trick if you can pull it off (it’s called accurate footwork!). Steady shot making back this up to produce a good lead in the early stages… but then home player David began to get his own game going. If Miles is fast, David is lightning around the court, and this began to get under the Melbourn players skin as shots that are winners against almost anyone else were coming back. However after losing points in bunches in the rest of the first Miles steeled himself to the need to play four stone-cold kills to win each point. This lead to a very close second game that was only decided by the smallest possible margin when a sharply hit shot at him forced Miles to put a potential kill down. The third was also as close as it can get, though that was down to David digging in as Miles had led the game 12-7 at one stage. A comeback to 12-all made for an epic ending, with some extraordinary retrieving from both players – these last few rallies were clearly the highest quality ones of the evening. Sadly for Miles and Melbourn three of the four went David’s way – the fist-pump when he killed the ball at 14-13 was entirely justified. The game scores were (Miles first) 8-15, 13-15, 13-15.
Melbourn skipper Jan remarked “This was an excellent night of Squash, that Haileybury probably just about shaded. But we gave them a real run for their money.”

Melbourn I vs Berkhamsted II (15th June)

Melbourn won 9-4

Kate Bradshaw (2) was the first match on against the wiley drop-shot master Keith Farnham. The first game started with both players trying to suss out each other’s game plan resulting in a nip and tuck game that took us to 14-14 all. Unfortunately for the home team, Keith managed to nick the next two points and the first game. The second game started much the same before both players started to use their deft attacking drop shots to greater use. Kate, in particular, hitting some lovely cross court winners and giving herself two game points. Unfortunately, that’s when Keith started living up to his nickname giving him the second 17-15. The third went the same way as the first two with both players hitting some fantastic winners and a very close game went all the way to the wire again. Unluckily the third was snatched by Keith 15-13, giving Berko a very close 3-0 win in the opening tie. 
Next on was Chris Shaw (1) making his first appearance for Melbourn this summer and what a debut performance it was to be. Chris started the match against his opponent Kevin Hall at a high pace, setting the tone for the rest of the match, with the first rally being no less than 40 shots. The tempo stayed high for the remainder of the first game with Chris moving his opponent around with ease; taking the game 15-4. The second game started as the first finished with Chris keeping his opponent at the back of the court and ensuring Kevin always had to play one shot more than he wanted. The second game went the same as the first, finishing with Chris taking it 15-4. With the high tempo of the first two games and warm court temperature, the crowd thought the third game would be a slower affair with more attacking shots. How wrong they were. The third carried on in the same vain as the first two with Chris looking to close out an emphatic 3-0 win by keeping his opponent on the back foot throughout and claiming the third 15-4. 
With the match poised delicately at 1-1, it was time for Mike Herd (3) to enter the heat (quite literally) of battle against the imposing Roger Greenfield. The first game started with both players probing away and building rallies before attacking. It was also noted by all watching that neither player seemed to want to ask the marker to make any decisions, with both players deciding to play through any interference. Mike managed to take a 3 point lead at 8-5, which he held onto for the rest of the game; winning 15-12. The second was a scrappy affair with both players losing their line and length and making too many mistakes. Mike, having saved three game points, succumbed to the fourth; losing 17-15. With the match tied at 1-1, the third game was an important one to win. Fortunately for Melbourn, Mike found his line and length in the third and managed to move his taller opponent around the court, building a significant lead which he converted to a 15-5 win. The fourth was a closer affair with the Berko player hitting more winners than he had managed in the previous game. With both players continuing to play through any interference, the fourth was equally as close as the first two. Mike with a 14-13 lead was sent to the back forehand corner. Roger knew the only shot available to Mike was a boast and Roger positioned himself to receive it early at the front of the court…Fortunately for Mike the boast rolled out of the nick winning the game 15-13 and clinching the match 2-1 for Melbourn.

Radlett II vs Melbourn I (8th June)

Melbourn lost 4-12

The 1sts got back on the horse after a two week break due to a bye and a withdrawal from the league with a trip inside the M25 to take on Radlett 2nds.
Mike Herd (2) was the first match on against Neal Woodburn. The first game started with both players probing away at each other until Neal suddenly lost his aim and made a string of errors, tinning attempted kill after attempted kill. Mike did what he needed, stay steady, to win the opening game by a distance. The second remained on Neal’s racquet, but to Mike’s detrminent this time as he cut the error rate down (not to zero, but low enough) to even things up. Neal was observed to be flexing his leg in the second and appeared to have an injury… between points! During them he was moving well enough, and took the third as Mike struggled to re-establish the control he had had in the first. The fourth went the same way as Mike fell 15-6, 10-15, 12-15, 9-15.
Next on was Jan Brynjolffssen (3) against Jordan Clements, who had recently visited Melbourn with Radlett 3rds to play Tom H (Jordan won that one 3-2). Jan had been on the gallery then, so should have had some insight into Jordan's playing style. Unfortunately this only consisted of “nice player, no obvious weaknesses, maybe could drop more, very fit”. Not a lot to go on there. The first game was good clean squash with the ball being worked up and down the walls by both players. The key point came at 13-all as Jan found a dying length in the backhand corner… or so he thought. With no space at all Jordan somehow managed to boast the ball back, and Jan, caught unprepared at having to play another shot, clumped the next shot into the tin. Oops… The game finished 15-13, with Jordan taking the second much more comfortably, despite at one point barely clearing the tin with a serve! Jordan was also up in the third and seemed on course for a 3-0 win until he made a number of out-of-character unforced errors (striving for the finishing line?) to hand the game away. That gave Jan a second wind as he produced his best game of the night, getting a higher court position and taking the ball early on the volley to level things up at 2-2. On to the decider, which was nip-and-tuck as Jordan (who had looked shot physically at the end of the fourth) dug deep into his reserves. The key passage of play came from 8-8 as the Radlett player produced 6 straight really clean rallies. Jan attempted to save the 6 match balls, managed 2 and then gave away a stroke to fall 13-15, 8-15, 15-11, 15-12, 10-15.
The final match on pitted Kate Bradshaw (1) against Ben Bradly. Kate started the match with a stone-cold return volley kill, and that set a pattern of very short rallies. Ben cleared adopted an approach of lob and kill, possibly reasoning that if he didn’t get his kill shot in immediately then Kate would beat him to the punch. This made for a staccato game, with Kate making key errors in shot choice at the later stages as she looked for the even earlier than normal kill. Game two started with a more patient approach from Kate, who produced a succession of cleanly constructed rallies, forcing Ben deep and only then cutting the ball off to get herself 8-2 up. At this point Ben patently gave up on the game to concentrate on the next two, which did nothing to add rhythm to the already chopped up style of play. A good choice on his part as a solid start built him a substantial lead in game three, and though Kate came back towards the end of it this proved sufficient. By now Kate’s head was dropping a bit, game four going much the same way as game three but without the near comeback. It finished 3-1 against Kate, or 11-15, 15-5, 11-15, 6-15 to be precise.
Melbourn skipper Jan commented “On another evening we might have won any of these strings, but overall Radlett clearly deserved their win. Everyone contributed at least a point to the team’s league position though, which is nice. Despite the outcome it was a very pleasant and enjoyable evening of Squash – we look forward to playing Radlett again in the second half… and maybe there will be a different outcome to the evening?”

Melbourn II vs Radlett III (26th May)

Melbourn lost 5-9

Another strong Melbourn 2nds selection had high hopes of springing an upset on Division 3 leaders Radlett 3, who had picked up 35 out of a possible 36 points this season prior to this clash.
Thomas Higginson (2) was first up against Jordan Clements in what turned out to be the most entertaining contest and also the decisive one of the evening. Thomas started confidently and soon built a convincing lead in the opener with strong attacking shots and impressive defence. He took the game 15-11. Jordan responded in kind and piled pressure on Thomas to take the second 15-7. The momentum shifted again in the third and at 8-8 Thomas surged ahead to take it 15-9. Jordan was not done and fought back hard and forced a strong finish at 15-4. In the fifth Thomas was just about keeping up with Jordan but at 8-9 Jordan pulled away impressively to win the game 15-8 and the match 3-2.
Roger Woodfield (3) struggled to impose his game on John Batten who developed strong winning positions often with some well-judged attacking boasts which put Roger out of position. Having lost the first game, Roger relieved some of this pressure by lifting the ball to the back of the court but John maintained his grip and took the second game 15-10. In the third Roger started to fight back but his 6-5 lead was quickly snuffed out by a run of lost points. At 7-13 it was too late for a comeback and the game was lost 10-15 and the match 0-3.
Miles Jeanneret (1) faced Tony Stewart and steadily built a solid lead in the first game. Tony pulled the score back to 12-14 but Miles efficiently took the game 15-12. The second game was neck and neck until 10-10 when Miles pulled away to win 15-11. The reality was that Miles played controlled squash with few unforced errors while Tony was not as consistent and his mistakes were more in number than his winning shots. As the game progressed Tony visibly tired while Miles had sufficient reserves to win the game. It was the same pattern in the third and so Miles won that (also 15-11) and the match 3-0.

Skipper Roger Woodfield said “The result turned on the second-string match which was fast entertaining squash with many long exhausting rallies. The momentum swung back and forth and Thomas was unlucky to lose the match 2-3. As always Thomas played very good squash and gave his all. Although we lost the match we did pick up 5 valuable points”

Gosling II vs Melbourn II (19th May)

Melbourn won 12-1

Melbourn's second team travelled to Gosling Squash Centre this week and with their strongest side to date.
First to play was Thomas Higginson at string 3 and his nights squash got off to a very good start winning his opening game convincingly. The second game was almost 15-0 to Tom but his opponent (Ben Franks) managed to save himself from a bagel by one point! The result was never really in any doubt as Tom cruised through his games, winning his match by an impressive 3-0! (15-4, 15-1, 15-7)
Next on was Miles Jeanneret playing second seed. The opening game saw Miles playing very well although his opponent, Matt McGill, did make efforts to tighten his game which put Miles under a bit more pressure. However, Miles' tenacious game play kicked in, by not letting up on the rallies that rewarded him with his opening game. The second and third games were closer but Miles always looked the better player and so it was great to see Miles win his match by an excellent 3-0. (15-8, 15-12, 15-12)
Finishing the evening squash off saw Mark Oppen playing first seed. Mark played well in his opening game and it looked like if this play could be continued the match was in the bag. However, the second game looked tighter as Mark struggled maintaining his pace and opponent Scot Adam won the second game to bring the scores level. The third game was close but Mark won this and it was a relief the fourth game was straight-forward squash that gave Melbourn a 3-1 win and a point for the opponents...not so impressive as Miles' and Tom's score lines! Game scores were 15-8, 5-15, 16-14, 15-6
Stand in Skipper Mark Oppen said “A fantastic evening of squash from the team with only the one game dropped...but that's a skipper's prerogative! Gosling were great hosts, held at a super little pub up the road - the IPA Neck Oil went down a treat and the sausage and mash was-a-smash!!”

Melbourn I vs Berkhamsted III (18th May)

Melbourn won 12-4

First on was Jan Brynjolffssen (3) vs James Barron. Jan won the spin for serve, headed for the right service box and was ready (all very standard)… expect marker Kate was asking “Er… who is serving?” – the confusion was that Jim had positioned himself in the left service box with his back tight to the wall – very unconventional and conveying a clear intent to avoid playing backhand returns. Tactic 1 in response to this was for Jan to serve high on the wall above Jim’s head. Nope, didn’t work – Jim just arched his back to forehand volley those served with deadly accuracy. Cue tactic 2 – try and hit the side wall waist high where Jim had positioned himself. Theory – tuck him up. Practice – his hands were too good for this and Jim was able to kill serves directed here stone dead. Hmm. Unable to win rallies on his own serve, Jan was at least taking most on return as the scored stayed nip-and-tuck through most of the game. As it reached it’s conclusion however Jan got drawn into trying to outhit Jim, the ball pinging around the court crazily as a result. And the game escaping.
The message from teammates after the game was to slow things down, use the drop shot… oh and (tactic 3) – serve down the middle from the right box, keeping it away from Jim (this was an already Jan had already hit upon himself late in game 1). This unusual variation gradually worked in games 2 and 3 Jan getting rallies started on his own serve ay last (somewhat fundamental to winning them!) and as a consequence being able to move Jim around enough for Jim’s foot speed to begin to slow a little. The down-the-middle serves were proving particularly effective as Jim’s stretching returns were trying to go in behind Jan’s forehand… but Jan was already standing there and able to intercept these shots, putting the ball deep into the forehand corner in response, forcing Jim into court sprints. Now thoroughly in charge, Jan built a 2-1 lead.
Game 3 saw a new return idea from Jim (maybe his own, or possibly thought up by a teammate?) – kill into the front backhand corner, with the off-boast as a variation. Both shots took advantage of Jan having to stay wide to keep out of the way of his down-the-middle serves. Hence tactic 4 – still directed down-the-middle, but now intended to bounce square of the service box to leave Jim with the options of a half-volley or letting it bounce and play the off-boast from the back, which would have enough hang time to Jan to reach them. Jim would probably have found yet another counter-move to this latest change up in time. But he didn’t have that, Jan winning 11-15, 15-8, 15-4, 15-11.

Next on was Mike Herd (2) against a very talented teenager Natalie Main… who was out for the evening despite being midway through her GCSEs (exam the following day!). Only ~16 and already playing at the level of string 2 in Division 2 – Natalie is definitely a name to remember as the chances of her popping up on the PSA Tour in a few years are high.
Game 1 of this started pretty evenly, with points exchanged up to 8-all. Natalie was mixing stinging power (indicative of sweet timing given her lightweight frame) with nice touch, holding her short shots to catch Mike out on his movement. This is no mean feat as he is both fast and very stretchy. Mike’s counter-play to this was classic stuff – force Natalie to run the corners, getting her gradually out of position until Mike could close her out and drop to finish off the rally. Natalie also tired as the game progressed, Mike winning 7 straight points from that 8-all position to claim the opener.
Natalie put together a stronger finish to game 2, digging in to take things to 13-all, then producing a good backhand squeeze and a power backhand cross-court kill to win the game. This turned out to be her high point though as Mike settling back in to claim the next two in similar fashion to the first, draining Natalie’s energy and belief as the game progressed to run dominate the late game rallies and  wrap up the match. Mike won 15-8, 13-15, 15-8, 15-11.

The first two strings each going to four games was making it look a long evening, prompting Kate Bradshaw (1) and Anthony Chudleigh to start their match on court 1 in parallel with the ongoing Mike-Nat encounter. That meant Kate and Anthony went on with the match still live (we were only one string up at that point)… but also unfortunately with no spectators. Or a marker! Therefore we only have Kate’s own description of what happened in the opening game “I was up, but then changed away from what was working!” – it turns out Kate had got to 11 first, but ended up 1-0 down.
The crowd had moved across for game 2… and saw a similar pattern unfold, Kate once again to 11 first but losing it 15-12. If she could just reprise the first two-thirds in the key rallies. And what was that exactly? Well, superb movement, good hitting but especially cutting out Anthony’s attempted cross-courts at the service line and when doing so winning the points with wrong-footing volley-drops. This game-plan once again established an 11-5 lead in the third, something that it appeared Kate might allow to slip again as Anthony came back to 11-9. However a refocus to go back to basic and stop striving for the finishing line of the game (a pretty conscious effort it seemed) worked wonders as she was this time able to convert that mid-point advantage into a game.
Now the pressure was on Anthony – could he shift the narrative back? Not in game four, which went the same way as game 3, Kate reaching 11 first, wobbling briefly going for drops early in rallies when deep behind her opponent (but for fewer rallies this time: 10-6 to 10-8), but then steeling herself to work the points and wait for the right attacking opportunity, just as she would with the score 5-5 and consequently levelling matters.
The final game saw Kate in command as all the running and twisting that Anthony was doing had drained his batteries. Not that Kate hadn’t been flying about the court herself, doing her fair share of  pivoting and direction changes, but all that fitness work for the Masters Internationals was there to fall back on and she was clearly the fresher of the two on court. The mind was also completely locked in now, with no let up at all this time as 11-6 was converted into 15-8 and a 12-15, 12-15, 15-11, 15-12, 15-8 victory.

Skipper Jan commented “This was three lung-busting games, and each of us was asked tough questions by the Berko guys and girls. But we all figured out the answers in the end to claim a good win.”

Melbourn II vs Broxbourne II (12th May)

Melbourn II lost 2-12

Playing for Melbourn for the first time, Miles Jeanneret (1) was first up against Tremaine Fry. From the off, this looked like it was going to be a hard-fought close match. And so it proved to be with both players making steady progress. At 8-8 Miles pulled ahead with probing shots which forced some errors. He hung onto this advantage and won the first game 15-10. Tremaine responded purposefully, chasing everything and developing his own brand of pressure with fast aggressive drives which put him 10-6 ahead. Nonetheless, Miles showed his mettle and fought back to 11-11. Then more pressure from Tremaine saw him take the game 15-11. The third game proved to be the decisive one with both players initially notching up a good run of points. At 9-9 neither player could secure a telling lead and the score moved to 14-14. Fantastic play ensued with both players having several games points, eventually Tremaine won an amazing game 21-19. By now Miles looked tired and an early lead of 7-4 was reversed by Tremaine who then powered his way to win the game 15-10 and the match 3-1.
Sean Hamilton (2) faced a tough opponent at no2 string in Shola Bello – who showed moments of great power and accuracy, tempered only by a few mistakes, to win 3-0. Shola started very strong and won the first match 15-7. However, the Melbourn player returned to court determined to try and claw back. Sean raised the tempo and chased down everything he could. Under a little more pressure, Shola started hitting some balls down and threw away too many points. The game went all the way to 18-16, with Sean reaching ‘game point’. Unfortunately for the home side, Shola held his nerve and took the second game. Sean started well in the third but was showing signs of fatigue towards the end – ultimately losing 9-15.
Roger Woodfield (3) started well against Peter Iszatt and crafted several winning rallies. Peter responded and edged ahead 11-10 when Roger seized the opportunity and pushed hard to win 15-11. Peter then established control with well worked winning rallies. Despite a late rally from Roger, Peter took the game 15-11. After that Roger was unable to break down his opponent’s game. Peter then dominated proceedings and won the next 2 games and the match 3-1.
Skipper Roger Woodfield said "It was disappointing to take just 2 points from this match. Undoubtedly, the highlight for us was Miles’ debut. He gave his all and played some excellent squash in a thoroughly entertaining match"

Gosling I vs Melbourn I (11th May)

Melbourn won 10-4

Melbourn and Gosling ‘1sts’ convened in Welwyn for the second week of the Herts Summer League Division 2 season, though injuries and unavailability meant neither line-up bore much resemblance to the sides either club thought they were going to be sending out as their strongest team this summer.
What was essentially a Division 3 match masquerading as a Division 2 one got underway with Tom Higginson taking on Jon Noonan at third string. Tom’s fleetness of foot, a combination of balance, strength and speed (aka youth!) has undermined many opponents this season. But Jon swiftly came upon a method: holding his shots, waiting for Tom to move and then wrong-footing. This was leading to lots of false movements from Tom, and rallies staying short which was not in his interests. He was also getting trapped behind rather often as he lost the first game. The second was a battle of wills – could Tom wait long enough for Jon to be forced to play, and then chase the ball down? Often enough yes, he could and the match was reset to one-all. However Jon responded by breaking up the game even more, edging a narrow third and then building a lead early in the fourth as Tom got frustrated and dispirited. He eventually found the method right at the end – keep it very basic, make no mistakes, force Jon to make the play. However this only came when seven match balls down at 14-7. Four were excellently saved, but on the fifth Jon got a nice squeeze on the backhand wall and the match was over. Tom went down 10-15, 15-7, 13-15, 11-15.
Meanwhile the second strings, Aidan Hird and home player Mike Byrne, had started next door. Aidan started like a house on fire, his power play forcing Mike very deep which in turn led to atypical errors from the Gosling player’s racquet. The second game threatened to get close as Aidan lost his way for a spell in the middle after a promising start, but then cleaning things up with some good controlled play down the walls saw him stretch away from 10-7 to make it 2-0 pretty comprehensively. The third was nervy however as Mike began to find holes in Aidan’s movement and shot choices. It all got a bit tight and scrappy, which was also how it ended as two unforced errors from Mike’s racquet saw Aidan home from 13-all for a 15-4, 15-8, 15-13 success.
That sent it all to the first strings, where Jan Brynjolffssen took on Scot Adam. It was quickly apparent that Scot had plenty of shots, but if Jan could extend the rallies by staying steady and recovering to the ‘t’ decently these would favour him. This produced a contrast of styles, but evenly match ones as the first game was tight, all the way to a tie-break in fact. Scot had the first chance to wrap it up in this… and proceed to serve straight into the back nick, and when Jan dug out a good tight boast in response put a lunging drop tight over the tin and into another nick – an impressive (unstoppable?) way to see out a game. Game two also started nip-and-tuck, but this time around Jan’s grinding approach worked when it was expected to, in the latter stages, as he pulled away from being level pegging midway through to claim it 15-12. The same was true for the third, and more decisively so as Jan was up the court ready to volley-drop when Scot attempted cross courts. Game four started with Jan building a 7-3 lead, helped by a couple of stretching (read: desperation) counter-drop winners that drew audible incredulity from Scot (fair enough – they were lucky!). These shots arguably had an effect somewhat latter, but in the meantime Jan worked his way to 14-12 up after a number of lung-busting rallies (the one at 10-all was particularly epic). However Scot saved these match-balls and then earned a game-ball himself at 15-14. Jan saved this by pulling off the only backhand flick drop he attempted in the match (where did that come from??), then got himself another match ball with a tight backhand length, which was converted when Scot tinned a forehand drop – the effect of going too tight after the earlier pick-ups? Maybe, just maybe… Jan won 14-16, 15-12, 15-9, 17-15.
Jan, the 1sts skipper this summer, commented after the game “It was nice to win a competitive evening. Aidan getting a 3-0 victory on a rare appearance for the team was particularly pleasing – it would be lovely to have him playing more often – and I did just enough to see it out. Winning meant we have picked up decent points from our opening two games and are set up nicely for the season ahead.”

Biggleswade II vs Melbourn II (5th May)

Melbourn II lost 0-12

Melbourn 2nds travelled to Biggleswade for the opening match of the Summer League.
Sean Hamilton (2) made a slow start against Chris Hunt and was soon 0-6 down. He then settled into his game and fought back to level the score. As the game progressed,    Sean was often undone by high deep lobs to the back of the court. He lost the first game and the next 2    games followed a similar pattern, match lost 0-3.
Roger Woodfield (3) started well enough against Jack Wright. The players were evenly matched and both made some unforced errors. The players tracked each other’s scores until the end of the game when Roger missed critical opportunities and lost the game 11-15. Strangely, the next 2 games ended up the same way, match lost 0-3.
Thomas    Higginson (1) was pitched against Marcus Gary, an extraordinarily talented player drafted in from a higher Biggleswade team. Marcus’s ball control and positioning was remarkable. Once again, great use of the deep lob put huge pressure on Thomas who chased and fought for everything. Very entertaining, this contest often involved long hard rallies, often at great pace. Thomas played very well but could not break his opponent’s game down. The 0-3 result does not do justice to the way Thomas competed.
Skipper Roger Woodfield said "All in all, this was a tough opening match. On another day we might have snatched a couple of points, but we were well beaten"

Melbourn I vs Nuffield II (4th May)

Melbourn lost 4-10

The Herts Summer League returned after missing two entire seasons (reasons) with Melbourn 1sts in Division 2, just as we were way back in pre-history (2019) when we finished 3rd. But given the water under the bridge since then and the associated player churn, the new season brought more questions than normal – mostly how would a bunch of new look teams do?
The first challenge for the 1sts was taking on St. Albans side Nuffield Health 2nds. First on was skipper Jan Brynjolffssen (2), who was up against Andrew Green. The opening game was nip-and-tuck as Jan was able to stay up the court and avoid being picked off by Andrew’s touch shots often enough to battle through 15-12. The visiting player picked up his accuracy and speed getting forwards in the next two games though to completely dominate as Jan found himself pinned deep and dropped to death. Both ended 15-4. The fourth was also over by the mid-stage as Andrew built another substantial lead, though Jan showed some late resistance to get back out of the pattern of being pushed into a back corner and then dropped, winning enough rallies to close to 9-12 at one stage before finally going down 3-1 (15-12, 4-15, 4-15, 9-15).
A withdrawal on the day of the game due to injury had resulted in a scramble to find a third player. We eventually got Tom for a debut for the 1sts… having first got him to stop the solo practice session he was having at the club when the phone call came (commitment!). Tom should no ill-effects of the 20 minutes already in his legs as his movement was at its usual exceptional level. This clearly got into opponent Douglas Hudson’s head, a few incredulous looks to the balcony early on as if to say “how did he get to that?!?” being followed by the standard string of errors from trying to be too tight as Tom turned a 7-2 deficit around into a 15-10 first game success. Douglas cleaned things up in the second, with Tom maybe getting a little passive towards the end as this game went the Nuffield player’s way 15-11, but Tom stepped up and fought back to claim the third 15-13 (Douglas is probably still having nightmares about serving out when 13-12 up!). The key to this game was Tom slowing things down and moving up the court even more, and these tactics worked a charm in the fourth as Tom built an big early lead and then cruised home as Douglas’ confidence drained away. Final score 3-1 (15-10, 11-15, 15-13, 15-2).
With the top two strings taking a while to complete Mark Oppen (1) and Teejay Sognuro moved next door to play their game. Which means I didn’t see that much of it (being on court at the same time). But it appears that Mark played pretty well in the opener, albeit with more Oppen-boasts than is totally advisable (one is too many!). Except these shots were so unusual they were catching Teejay out. He began to read them coming in time though, and his own excellent kills came into play to win the game. Oppen-boasts are often a sign that Mark is struggling physically, and the second game escaped fairly quickly as he struggled to stay on the power. But a bit of a breather helped for the third, which Mark succeeded in making reasonably tight, though he was mostly on the defensive and not in the end quite tight enough to claim a game from the evening. It finished 3-0 to Teejay, the game scores (Mark’s first) 12-15, 7-15, 11-15.
Skipper Jan commented “It was a good evening of Squash, but in the end they were just a bit too strong. Tom played really and looked every inch a first team player.”

Cambridge II vs Melbourn I (15th March)

Melbourn won 16-7

Already the Division 2 champions and with their last match of the season to play, Melbourn's first squash team travelled to Churchill College to play Cambridge's 2nd team. Having not lost a single match throughout the season, Melbourn were committed to maintain this record, regardless of their division crowning. It should be noted; Cambridge had not won many of their matches in the first half of the season but had made a 'significant' turn-around in the second half of the season, beating all the top teams (Ely, Stamford, St Neots) in recent weeks. 
First up for Melbourn, Mike Hird playing his Cambridge opponent, Miles Jeaneret at string 5. Miles played 3rd string in the first half and so would be strengthening his Cambridge teams defences significantly at 5th string. Mike had a very good opening game, playing with good control, length and making use of his well timed pressured boast shots to move his opponent in the wrong direction all helped Mike win an excellent opening game 15-12. Miles in the second game was looking more nimble, reading Mike's boast shots earlier and generally tightening up his game. Mike was still playing well but the improved consistency from his opponent made the rallies tighter and unfortunately Cambridge levelled the game scores 1-1 (9-15). The third game was much closer and Mike stepped up his game to keep the score-line level. Miles was now into his rhythm and although close, Mike lost out on the third game 12-15. The fourth game started well for Mike initially, but likely the previous games had taken a physical toll and it was not long before Miles had gained a comfortable lead and although Mike put up a fight to stay in the game, it was a shame his fourth game was lost 8-15 and his match 1-3 (15-12/9-15/12-15/8-15).   
Ed Aspelling was next on, this time playing Christopher Thorpe [Chris had played 1st string in the first half against Matt!!] at string 4. Ed started his opening game very well, playing sharply, reading the ball well and generally looking in charge...although close, Ed won his opening game 15-13. The second game was similar but his opponents uncanny movement and return shots made the rallies close and unfortunately Ed missed out on the second game 13-15. The third game was a similar situation to the first, Ed made great efforts to stay in the rallies, but wasn't quite able to gain that key half-a-stride advantage often enough that could put him in the attacking positions. The third game was close but alas Ed missed out on it 12-15 and was then faced being 1-2 down, going into a match saving fourth game. The fourth was not as close as Ed would have liked, as his opponent continued to rush the level of play that made it difficult for Ed to take control. It wasn't without trying but Ed missed out on the fourth game 8-15 and his match 1-3 (15-13/13-15/12-15/8-15).
With Melbourn's team now facing the very unusual prospect of being two strings down before the 1s, 2s & 3s had played, it befell Melbourn's skipper, Mark Oppen to try to keep the teams unbeaten run alive. Mark's opponent, Adam Jackson, looked a stylish player in the warm-up and this showed in the opening game. However, Mark this week was finding his line and length shots were playing particularly well for him [or perhaps the Churchill courts were playing to his rhythm] as he eased through the first game, not looking in any real trouble - Mark won the first game 15-12. Fortunately Mark's level of play continued to go well for him as he eased through to take the second game 15-9. The third game did see his opponent make more effort to keep his match alive but this wasn't enough so it was very pleasing (and with some relief!!) to see Mark win the third game 15-12 and his match 3-0 (15-12/15-9/15-12).  
Vinod Duraikan was next up at string 2, again with the added pressure of maintaining Melbourn's unbeaten history. Vinod's opponent, Ian Wilson was looking a challenging adversary and the first game was playing out to be a very close affair. The level of play was good from Vinod but the rallies were disrupted with some difficult calls for the marker around players [singular] movement to the ball, this made for some spicy play but Vinod kept cool and concentrated on his game. It was a tie-break opening game but Vinod managed to take the first game 17-15. The second game saw Vinod play the ball wider to keep the gaps between his opponent and that clearly helped as the game flowed better and it was great to see Vinod win the second game to a more recognisable 15-8. The third game was looking more like the first game again as Vinod's opponent made more effort to the ball but fortunately Vinod was able to keep ahead as he took the third game 15-13 and so his match 3-0 (17-15/15-8/15-13). 
Matt Sampson at string 1 was next on, but now with all the pressure passed onto him from his team mates to try and keep Melbourn's unbeaten winning history alive! His opponent, Grant Bryant, was not known to any of the Melbourn team [that's somewhat worrying] but had played already for Cambridge, so all within the rules then. This was going to be an interesting match and the spectators were not to be disappointed on that front. The opening game it was evident Matt had not played anyone in the league this season of Grant's level as his play was at another level, playing tightly and his speed and retrievals were impressive. Matt was playing well, if not with the speed Grant had around the court and the first game was very tight as it went to a tie-break. Matt was playing at a high intensity, accurately and calmly that helped him eke out a small advantage to gain game ball and then convert with a winning low hard cross-court drive into the forehand back corner. Matt won the first game 16-14, but despite that it was not going to be a typically straightforward match win for Matt this week! With the team going to support Matt before the second game began [plenty of water needed please!] this was going to be a match for preserving Matt's fitness more than anything. The second game again saw no let up from Matt's opponent as he eased around the court but Matt stayed with him as best he could. It looked as though Matt was suffering physically and it showed as his shot selections were not as good as normal, allowing Grant back into the rallies. So it was with some trepidation that we found Matt loosing the second game 12-15, somewhat tired, playing his toughest opponent this season. There was perhaps a slight hint that Grant was also suffering physically [anyone that 'thinks' they are fit can test it by playing Matt!] in the third game as he made a few more mistakes that gave Matt the front of the court or drive shot option into the back, side wall [nick!] corner. The game was never certain but Matt somehow kept his accuracy levels up, made Grant work hard for the ball that eventually produced an opening for a winning kill shot. Matt won his third game 16-14! So with Matt seeing there was still a chance to stay in the match, he needed to continue his level of play into the fourth game. This was an epic game, seeing some amazing squash that kept the spectators on the balcony on their toes as well. Matt really had to dig deep to stay in this game and it showed as he was physically [Oxygen please!] struggling. However Matt kept with his opponent all the way to level the fourth game on a tie-break. Grant's movement was still the challenge but he did make [occasional] mistakes at the front of the court that meant he couldn't get to Matt's cross-court drives. Incredibly Matt managed to save two or three game balls to Grant to take the fourth game 18-16!!! So a very, very well deserved match win 3-1 (16-14/12-15/16-14/18-16).
Skipper Mark Oppen commented on the evening "we did a fantastic job to beat a significantly strengthened Cambridge side, Matt's match was an incredible win that finally maintained the teams unbroken 16-16 win record. I'm so proud of the teams achievements throughout the season, it has not been easy but everyone worked hard to help contribute towards our excellent Division 2 title win and guaranteed entry into Division 1 next season"

Melbourn I vs Peterborough III (9th March)

Melbourn won 20-0

Melbourn's first men's squash team were hosting at home this week to Peterborough's 3rd team. The outcome of this match for Melbourn was important as at least 17 points would guarantee them the division 2 league title and entry into the 1st division for next season. However Melbourn did have a back up of their last match of the season (away at Cambridge Squash Club) if they fell short of the points required in this one.
Unfortunately for Peterborough a last minute illness meant that their usual 1st string player couldn't play. With their regular 2 also unavailable that left their 3rd seeded player, Neal Cooke, at the number 1 spot for their team! With Neal playing up two positions, meant Peterborough's remaining team members would, most likely, all be playing a higher seeded player - this is a tough pill to swallow for any team facing this challenge. Neal is a good player, but playing against Matt, the money had to be on Melbourn's number 1 winning. To make matters worse for Peterborough, they couldn't find a fifth player to fill the gaps from losing their 1&2 players so conceded the fifth string to Melbourn before the night had begun. For Melbourn this also meant a last minute change to our line-up, but fortunately Kate offered to step out from her squash duties to have a well-earned rest after all her recent nationals' matches.
With Melbourn's line-up confirmed and the team already 3 points towards their 2nd division title, the night's squash got off with Ed Aspelling playing at string 4 against his opponent, Alec Sarkissian. Ed started the first game positively, playing his shots low and hard that tested Alec's movement and retrievals to the ball. The first game had some good rallies and Alec's racket skills and boast shots disrupted the flow, but Ed's speed around the court made up for any accuracy from Alec's racket and Ed won the first game 15-10. The second game followed similarly to the first, seeing Ed maintain his movement and shot selection that handed him the second game, again 15-10. It was not looking like Alec was threatening to take control of the third game, with Ed continuing his excellent level of play and it was a very positive to see Ed win the third game 15-9 and his match 3-0 (15-10/15-10/15-9).
Next up to play was captain Mark Oppen at 3rd string. Tim Millington, who Mark had played some years before, hadn't played for the team in the first half of the season. Tim can be a very difficult player to overcome and although Mark had a positive start to his first game he wasn't playing as well as he could and although the first game he won 15-11, a match win was not a certain. The subsequent games were much closer seeing Tim with game ball in the second game twice, but fortunately Mark was able to prevent him from converting and won a very close second game 17-15.  The third game was a replay of the second but Mark was able to keep ahead when it counted and also with a little fortune, Mark won the third game 17-15 and so his match 3-0 (15-11/17-15/17-15). This match had the makings of a 3-2, but thankfully for Mark that didn't happen!
Following on to steady the ship after the wobbly performance seen from Melbourn's skipper, Vinod Duraikan came on court to play his opponent, Jeff Fillmore at second string. The first game saw Vinod easing into his rhythm, taking half the game to find his shot range and lengths. Jeff's movement wasn't as good as Vinod's and although he made great efforts to keep in the rallies, Vinod always had the upper hand, taking the first game 15-8. The second game saw Jeff up the ante, attacking from many angles. Vinod responded by adapting his play to try and keep the shots clear and wide of Jeff's line-of-approach to the ball. This worked for Vinod (and for Melbourn's marker) as the rallies became less contentious and the points flowed much better. It was never looking like Vinod was troubled by the play and the second game went to Melbourn 15-9. The third game saw Jeff's movement hampered and maybe with some frustration Vinod's opponent came off court early and Vinod took the game 15-2 and his match 3-0 (15-8/15-9/15-2).
So with Melbourn's team win confirmed already, Matt Sampson was next up to play Neal Cooke at first string. Matt was looking good in the first game, maybe not quite in his groove but to his credit, Neal did put up a valiant fight and the rallies were at a level that gave Matt a good workout. The first game Matt won 15-6 and the second game went to a similar score-line 15-5. Matt was certainly working hard to maintain his level of play but for Neal it was to be a three game straight loss, with Matt taking the third game 15-7 and so his match 3-0 (15-6/15-5/15-7).
The evening was finished off with an excellent get together and Thai red chicken curry meals supplied by the Queen's Head, Harston.
The skipper’s comment on the evening was "It was an excellent 20-0 win for us, which got the points we needed for the 2nd division title. It was unfortunate Peterborough's team were weaker than they would have liked, but the squash was still competitive on the night".

Cambridge University II vs Melbourn I (28th February)

Melbourn won 20-2

Melbourn's first team travelled to Cambridge University's Squash Centre to play their third from last match of the season with the hope of retaining the full house of wins and to not miss out practicing the letter W in calligraphy.
As Melbourn arrived to meet and greet with the opposition, it was evident the five courts at Cambridge were jam-packed with players. This was a positive spectacle to behold, however there was an air of unusualness to this new landscape as we approached (in retrospect looking wee sheepish) our opponents. It soon all became clear that there had been some over optimism of available courts-to-players-ratio, so we all hovered about in anticipation as calls and discussions were made by our hosts, another venue was being sought out pdq - during which we witnessed some eye watering return shots from some of the keen improving players in action, clearly learning the hard way about why the 'stroke' rule came into place. Meanwhile, Matt who had not seen the rush hour scenes with the courts had already commenced changing into his squash gear to get his obligatory pre match warm up, unaware of the ongoing hiatus. As Cambridge's contacts came good, we were offered not one but two alternative venues to play our matches and shortly after Trinity was chosen - Matt appeared at the similar time and who was then quickly having to reapply his trousers and we were all off on an adventure to visit new courts, for most of us it transpired had not experienced these courts, including the opposition.     
Once acquainted with the very impressive Trinity courts and changing facilities, Ed Aspelling finally started the team's night of squash off. Ed's opponent, Daniel Jensen, who Captain Oppen had played in the first half, is a good player if you let him loose. It was a similar story for Ed, as Daniel’s speed around the court and tight and lengthy returns meant Ed needed to focus on his shot selection. The first two games were competitive, Ed working hard to win them. It was noticeable that Ed was particularly flushed, reporting back that the courts were 'incredibly' warm before going back on to play the third game. Daniel showed a little more control in the third and Ed had either lost some concentration or was recovering from the first two games and although it was close, Ed lost the third game 16-18. The fourth game saw Ed regain his shot control and at times the rallies were constructed so well that it produced either the drop shot or open court drive to win the rally. Thankfully Ed's efforts paid off and he won his match at string 4, 3-1 (15-10/15-12/16-18/15-5).
Next up at string 5 was our latest team member, Mike Herd. Mike started well but found opponent Dougie Dolleymoore was not quite in his groove and the first game was a reasonably straightforward affair. The second was similar but Mike sensed that if Dougie was given the opportunity to find his groove, the match outcome could be in the balance, maybe. Mike continued unabated with his playing level to reduce the chances of the match turning, thankfully Mike won the third and so his match 3-0 (15-11/15-5/15-5) and in a very quick time too.
Captain, Mark Oppen at string 3 was on next to a very focused opponent, Hannah Blythe, who came on court clearly meaning business. The warm-up gave Mark an indication that her playing standard was also looking competitive and the opening game was a confirmation of these early insights. Mark had to work hard to control the ball and as it turned out to check where his opponent was; nothing it seemed was going to stand in Hannah’s way of returning a shot. However, the standard of play was good and Mark's shots were tight and although the courts were very warm he was able to play the ball in shorter at times to disrupt the flow and win the points with a tight return or interception. Mark won the first 15-11 but in the second lost concentration and missed out on the 2-0 lead, losing that game 8-15. Regrouping for the third and fourth games, Mark played much tighter and controlled his shots better that handed him the match win 3-1 (15-11/8-15/15-9/15-12)
Vinod Duraikan at string 2 was next on and his opponent, Jai Matharu, was looking extremely skilful in the warm-up. Once play commenced, the warmup signals from Jai were not coming through into the game play and Vinod found he was able to control the ball well, finding his targets to win the first game 15-11. The second and what would be final third games were also similar, although Jai worked hard in the third to keep in the rallies, Vinod always had an extra gear or two up his sleeve to keep up. The final match score was 3-0 to Vinod (15-11/15-10/15-13)  
With the team result already in the winning bag once Mark had won his match, Matt Sampson was playing to close out the evening’s squash. His opponent, Ellie White, was a good player, playing calmly and accurately. This however may have played to Matt's forte as his excellent racket control and shot selection added to Ellie’s qualities and the rallies were very clean and flowing. With the courts playing at record temperatures, Matt was seemingly able to make the court conditions look ten degrees cooler from his excellent touch and racket skills. The first game was competitive but Matt was able to dictate play to take it 15-9. The second game was closer but still it looked like Matt had it under control and this game was won 15-12. The third and final game of the match was perhaps looking more like a practice routine but entertaining all the same and Matt took this game 15-10 and his match 3-0 (15-9/15-12/15-10)
After our games, we were hosted on at the Churchill college bar for some excellent pizza, drinks and discussions.
Skipper Oppen commented on the evening, saying, "It was an excellent win (20-2) for us again, and with just two matches to play before the end of the season our position is very good. It was also a pleasure to play against Cambridge University II who were excellent hosts"

Melbourn II vs Spalding I (28th February)

Melbourn lost 17-7

The 2nds last match of the winter season [what, already – yep, the downsides of an 8-team Division that] pitted us against Spalding.
There was little to play for in terms of league position as the visitors were mid-table and we were sure to finish 7th after results from the penultimate week, and will have to wait and see if that means we are back in Division 4 next season. So this was potentially a last chance for a while to test ourselves against Division 3 standard opponents.
The first to try were Roger Woodfield (5) against Philip Blake and Sean Hamilton (4) vs James Bowser. Roger started his match slowly, falling 7-1 down in the first game, and was always up against it from that point on. Philip was getting forward well and picking up Roger’s drops, and then countering for winners. Despite Rog using all his guile to try and figure out a method, he was simply overmatched here and lost 7-1, 6-15, 9-15.
Sean also started slowly, losing his opening game, but gradually worked his way into it as he chased and harried James. The Spalding player took the second to add to the opener, but Sean was really in the match now as James was visibly tiring, the Melbourn player’s retrieving allow him to turn rallies around that he often seemed to have no right to win. 2-0 became 2-2 to take us into a decider… which followed the pattern of the match as James came out hard and caught Sean cold for a 6-1 lead. At 13-7 down things looked all lost, but a one-rally-at-time approach and laser like focus on no errors was getting Sean back – all the way to 11-13. This was the turning point rally as Sean scrambled across to a drop shot in his front backhand corner, lobbing an out-of-position James. Except the Spalding player somehow not only leaped high enough to get his frame on a ball that was seemingly over him, he also managed to direct his desperation volley into the nick! 14-11 rather than 13-12 was a massive momentum shift, and one Sean couldn’t recover from as he lost the next point as well to fall 10-15, 14-16, 15-9, 15-8, 11-15.
Whilst this was all going on Colm O’Gorman (3) had got underway against Gary Slator over on Court 1. The first game was nip-and-tuck as Colm scrambling and movement matched up with Gary’s attempt to hold the ball to get space for kills. However some clutch rallies at the death saw Colm through 15-13, and from there on it was relatively plain sailing when Colm was on it as Gary looked increasingly lost in the search for winners. One brief interlude in game 2 where Colm attempted to beat Gary at his touch game aside, the Melbourn player was bang on the plan and won 15-13, 15-10, 15-6.
Liam Murphy (2) looked to continue his good form following his convincing win in the last match. However, it became clear early on that his opponent, Clyde Finch, was going to be a tough competitor. Liam was the most impressive when he attacked with his powerful drives and deft drop shots. Clyde’s style was more measured and consistent. The first game was tight but Liam edged ahead to 13-11 and was able to hold off Clyde to win 15-12. The second was just as close until Liam forced a 10-7 lead. Clyde recovered and 11-11 became 14-14 but Liam, impressively, took the game 16-14. By now, Liam was visibly tired and could not keep up with Clyde’s relentless pressure and the third game was quickly lost 5-15. The next game was crucial. To his credit, Liam found new energy and competed well but was always just short of points and Clyde efficiently wrapped up the game 15-13. The final game followed a similar pattern and, despite giving it his all, Liam lost 10-15 and the match 2-3.
Jan Brynjolffssen (1) was up against Scott Chuter. Jan arrived at the game in good form, and the opening rallies featured some clean up-and-down the wall Squash from both players. The only problem from a Melbourn perspective was Scott won them all (well nearly, 15-4!). Encouraged to break the play up a bit by his teammates, Jan made more headway in second game catching Scott out with a number of drop shots. But even so he still trailed all the way through. The third game was more comfortable again for the visiting player as Jan slipped to a 4-15, 10-15, 7-15 defeat.
That made the final score 17-7 to Spalding, which is a rather standard score for the 2nds this season. We have competed and given other teams good games… but only to ultimately loss most of them. Just 3 wins and 11 defeats overall, and 2 of those 3 wins were against a Cambridge Uni side a little out of their depth.
Skipper Roger Woodfield said “Another tough match to finish our league campaign. The highlight was Colm’s impressive 3-0 win. Sean and Liam battled well and were both unlucky to lose 2-3. There’s no doubt that our first season back in Div 3 was very challenging! We ended up in 7th position but would always argue we are better than that!”

Saints II (St. Neots) vs Melbourn II (25th February)

Melbourn won 17-6

Playing away last Thursday to St Neots, Melbourn 1st team are in a very strong position in the league. However, matches still have to be won and Ed Aspelling got the team off to a fine start at 5 string with a 3-1 win. A competitive first game (15-7) then gave way to an outstanding bagel from Ed, taking the second game 15-0! Following this error-free game, Ed’s concentration must have wandered and he lost the next 9-15. Fortunately, he regained his focus for the fourth and final game taking it 15-6. Meanwhile, skipper Mark Oppen was battling his very tricky and experienced opponent next door. Although viewers never thought Oppen was really going to lose, well-executed drops and excellent retrieval from the St Neots player made each game a challenge. Oppen came through to win 3-0: 15-9, 15-10, 15-13.
Kate Bradshaw was somewhat outsized by her very tall opponent, but made an excellent start, going 13-7 up in the first. However, another slip of concentration let her opponent back in and she let the margin slide to a 15-17 loss. Bradshaw wasn’t able to take control of the next game which she also lost 12-15 and, although she had game point in the third, much like the first, she was unable to convert that opportunity. What could have been 2-1 to Bradshaw ended up as a very tight 3-0 loss.
Vinod Duraiken had one of the toughest matches of the evening – an epic 3-2 battle with a former Welsh masters international player. With huge amounts of skill and high quality of shot play from both players it came down to tenacity, fitness and will to win. Vinod always has these three attributes in spades, and won a fantastic match 13-15, 15-5, 15-17, 15-3, 15-6.
Matt Sampson at 1 string was up against a familiar opponent who can prove very difficult to play. Sampson didn’t feel he ever got into the match and that it was a bit untidy, but this still resulted in a 3-0 win for the Melbourn player, 15-12, 15-11, 15-8.
Skipper Oppen summed the evening up, saying, ‘St Neots are a difficult side to beat, but the team delivered another excellent win that maintains our league position.’
There was also good news for the 1sts from elsewhere in Division 2 after title rivals Ely suffered a shock defeat at Cambridge. Those results put Melbourn top of the table by four points, and with a game in hand. All with not very much of the season left.

Melbourn II vs Cambridge III (21st February)

Melbourn lost 16-9

Ooooh, so close. But not ultimately close enough. But let’s start from the beginning…
In a break from the normal pattern the evening began with what is more typically it’s conclusion as the first players on were the top strings, Jan Brynjolffssen taking on Cambridge’s Stephen Casey. The pattern of the play was swiftly established, with Stephen looking for variation and kills early in the rallies and Jan attempting to retain a high court position to reach these and counter-punch his own winners. For most of the first game this was effective for Jan, but Stephen sharpened things up from 13-10 down to win the next five rallies and go 1-0 up instead. Disappointed but not downcast, all Jan needed was to tighten a few aspects (most notably serve) and that should suffice. 10 minutes later it had, the second game being won to level the match. The key was being extra focused once the game reach 10-7, with the thought process working equally well in games three and four as Jan came through 13-15, 15-10, 15-10, 15-9.
The first match on court 2 (which is on a 20 minute stagger, so got underway a bit later than the court 1) saw Jamie Ware (5) get off to a good start as he held Rupert Sharrock’s big hitting in check and won the first game 15-10. At times, the game degenerated into a crash-bang-wallop affair and Jamie missed some opportunities to take control with some more structured squash. The game see-sawed and eventually reached 2-2 (10-15, 15-10, 12-15 over these three games). In the fifth Jamie started to impose his game and was edging ahead quite nicely and got to 10-8. Some fortunate mis-hits, however, enabled Rupert to get back in and pinch the game 15-11 and the match 3-2. At the end of the day, the result could have gone either way and Jamie can count himself unlucky.
Following Jan on Court 1 was Thomas Higginson (4), up against Miles Jeanaret. Thomas started out with his normal superb movement and defence, which threw Miles for a loop early on in the first as he struggled to think of a way of killing the ball against a lightening fast player who can seemingly get everything. Thomas’ play was working… but it was also hurting as Miles was making him work ultra hard for his points. Maybe it Tom had won the first 15-8, which looked on when he lobbed a ball into the sky at 12-8… only for Miles to climb an invisible ladder and not only claw it down but volley it into the nick. After that it got close, and though Tom did edge through 15-13 it was rather pyhrric as he was blown by the effort involved (and those who know Tom will be aware he is ULTRA fit, which shows how much running he had had to do). Thereafter Thomas wasn’t as quick or as able to lean into his shots, his situation not helped by Miles maintaining a staggeringly impressive length. It was still a great game, but it was always tipped the Cambridge players’ way, particularly in the last few points of each game. Thomas eventually went down 15-13, 7-15, 8-15, 10-15.
Colm O’Gorman (3) struggled early on to impose his game on James Buckley who was playing fluent squash with few errors whereas Colm was making too many unforced errors. The first game was lost 6-15 and the second went the same way 6-15. James’s confidence grew as Colm’s diminished. However, finding himself 3-9 down in the third, Colm raised his energy level and application and played well to get to 12-14. But he had left himself too much to do and lost that game 12-15 and the match 0-3.
Liam Murphy (2) was returning to the team after a spell of COVID and, understandably, was concerned about fitness. In the event, he need not have worried as he quickly got into gear after a slow start in the first game. A good run of attacking strokes saw him recover to 14-15 but he narrowly lost the first game 15-17. Realising his opponent, Ben Knappet, was less assured on his backhand, Liam piled on the pressure and won the second game comfortably 15-7. The third game followed a similar pattern until Ben pulled back to 10-10. Liam held his nerve and won it 15-11. By now Ben’s head was down and didn’t like he would get back into the match. Impressively, Liam retained control to win the fourth 15-9 and the match 3-1.
Skipper Roger Woodfield said “This really was a close contest. Jan and Liam got us into a strong position but Thomas and Colm were up against very strong opposition. The match turned on Jamie’s game and he made a great effort but was narrowly beaten 2-3. We were naturally disappointed to lose but, as always, we gave it our best shot.”

Melbourn II vs Newmarket I (7th February)

Melbourn lost 17-7

The Seconds had a tough match on paper when we hosted title chasers Newmarket 1sts.
Things started well though when Thomas Higginson (5) put in a typically energetic and tenacious performance to defeat Charlie Crisp 3-0. Thomas was in good touch from the off pressurising his opponent relentlessly and not allowing him to gain any solid advantage. Make no mistake, Charlie is a strong match player but Thomas did not allow him to settle. Since the start of the season Thomas’s game has developed, introducing more shot variety and a tighter serve, all resulting in convincing squash. The first game was competitive with Thomas winning 15-12. After that Charlie could not keep up with Thomas who played with increasing confidence and authority. He won the next 2 games 15-9 and 15-8.
Meanwhile next door Gareth Jones (3) was up against the experienced Matt Pearson. The first two games were nip-and-tuck towards the latter stages, but sadly for Gareth once each reached 10-all or thereabouts errors crept into his game… and were eliminated from Matt’s. One of these methods is more effective! All was not lost though as Gareth had worked Matt very hard in the opening two games, and by now the Newmarket player was positioning himself very deep, allowing Gareth the front court to attack. He took advantage to win the third, though it took a tie-break after Gareth saw a late game lead wiped out (again the same pattern). The fourth was once again nip-and-tuck until, for the fourth time, Gareth was unable to sustain things at the crunch. He did resist well at the very death, saving a couple of match balls but Matt converted the third as Gareth fell 11-15 / 9-15 / 16-14 / 13-15 – and left the court wondering what might have been in a winnable match.
Up second on Court 1 was Mark vs Mark – Melbourn’s Mark Asker (4) taking on Newmarket’s Mark Price. The initial exchanges had Mark A struggling as Mark P’s preference for taking the ball in short on the drop or boast caught the Melbourn player on the back foot and too deep on numerous occasions. However Mark A is a tough competitor, and he scrapped and scrambled, recovering the deficit and instead getting himself to game-ball at 14-13. A rally ended with a drop shot in the backhand corner from Mark A and a turn away in celebration. However only he had seen an apparent second bounce, Mark P believing he had retrieved the ball and none of the balcony seeing one either. Mark A actually had to be called back on court to hear it was 14-all and not 15-13. Four rallies later he left it again, 1-0 down rather than 1-0 up 😲. Some advice from teammates saw Mark A adjust his court position to be much higher, which did two things for the second game – it induced feelings akin to vertigo by being further forward than is comfortable but also worked as planned as Mark A was now getting to Mark P’s attempts to go short, which instead became set ups for the Melbourn player to pounce. Sadly for the home side though the effort needed to get far enough out was draining Mark A and as he tired his court position dropped deeper again… and Mark P was able to make hay in the front court once more. It all added up to Mark A’s first reverse for ages in a team match, losing 15-17 / 15-8 / 8-15 / 11-15.
Colm O’Gorman (2) was playing his first game back after a recent bout of Covid, and despite a successful fitness test the day before was a little concerned pre-match about how his energy levels would hold up. Colm started well and scoring was even up to 8-8 when his opponent, Santiago Uribe Lewis, put in a convincing run of 5 winning rallies which Colm could not claw back. The first game was lost 10-15. A similar pattern followed in the second game when at 7-7 Santiago pulled away again to win 15-10. Undoubtedly, a lack of game time was Colm’s undoing whereas Santiago looked comfortable and waited patiently to make a winning shot or force Colm to make an error. Colm made a great effort in the third to get back into the game and the result of the third was in doubt until 12-12 when Santiago forced a 15-13 win and an overall 3-0 win.
That result meant Jan Brynjolffssen (1) was playing for pride and consolation points against Hamish Jogee. The match started ice-cold, with each player making a horrendous unforced error, gifting the opening two points to each other. But once they got to 1-1 the match could start properly! It was quickly apparent that Hamish was looking to attack early and short, Jan doing his best to stay high and give himself a chance to pick up the touch shots and power kills. Despite lots of lunging retrieves from Jan, Hamish was still able to take the opening two games. The visiting player seem on the brink of a 3-0 win when a nip-and-tuck third appeared to be going his way as 12-all went to 14-12 to Newmarket. However a lung-busting rally saved one game ball and then Jan tried a risk/reward quick serve, Hamish going for the expected volley kill… and tinning it. Four points later Jan had game three pocketed, and the match was ON. Game four started even, but a burst of points from 5-all put Jan in command and had Hamish (who had already been showing signs of tiredness in game three) really blowing. Some easy kills polished the game off and had Melbourn confident the turn around could be completed. However it turned out that Hamish was saving his remaining gas for the fifth, which started in complete contrast to the first with one spectacular kill a piece, but then gradually unravelled for Jan as Hamish pulled out all his shots to take it and the match. Game scores were (Jan first) 10-15 / 10-15 / 17-15 / 15-9 / 8-15.
The overall result was a 7-17 loss.
Seconds skipper Roger Woodfield commented after the match “This was a typically dogged Melbourn performance with everyone giving their all against a strong Newmarket team who deserve their position near the top of the table. Thomas continues to impress but Jan’s heroic effort was the highlight for me”

Melbourn I vs Peterborough II (9th February)

Melbourn won 18-6

Melbourn’s 1st squash team enjoyed a home match against Peterborough 2 last week. However, playing without their number 1, Matt Sampson, meant the match was likely to be more of a challenge.
Vinod Duraiken went on early at 1 string and this start time clearly suited him. He eased through his match and was always in control, winning 3-0, 15-8/15-11/15-12.
Ed Aspelling at 4 string had a score to settle in his match feeling of all matches from the first half, this was the one where he let himself down. Playing with real purpose, he stormed to a 2-0 lead. All hopes that his opponent’s head would go down were proved wrong by the next two games which were hard fought by both but taken by the Peterborough player. Coming down to a fifth and final game, it was a matter of who had the greatest mental and physical energy and determination to win. Thankfully, it was Ed who kept a clear head, controlled the rallies, and took the fifth game and a 3-2 victory: 15-5/15-9/9-15/7-15/15-6.
Mike Herd is a very welcome recent addition to the Melbourn team and he did an outstanding job on his first outing. Looking the classier player from the off, Mike controlled the games with calm and sagacious play. Although he dropped the third game, the result was never really in doubt and he notched up a 3-1 win, 15-6/15-10/12-15/15-12.
Captain Mark Oppen’s match often looked out of control, but this was largely down to the somewhat frenetic play of his opponent which sometimes drew him into that more reactive style of play. Oppen took an extremely tight and frantic first game 16-14, then managed to introduce enough composure on his shots to outplay his tricky opponent and proceeded to take the next two more easily 15-11/15-8 and a 3-0 win.
Kate Bradshaw moved up to 2 seed for the evening and started well by taking the first game 15-13. Although not as frenetic a game as Oppen’s, Bradshaw too found herself getting dragged into her opponent’s style of harder hitting which favoured him. She tried to re-impose her game plan but couldn’t maintain adequate consistency towards the back end of the games. The only match going against Melbourn of the evening, Bradshaw lost 3-1, 15-13/12-15/12-15/8-15.
Pleased to get through his own game and with another team win Mark Oppen commented “With everyone having to play against a higher seeded opponent, the pressure did show at times but thankfully some steady and controlled game play gave us another well-earned win”

Hunts County II vs Melbourn I (1st February)

Melbourn won 19-5

Melbourn men’s 1st squash team travelled away to Hunts County this week. This had been a fairly uncontested match in the first half, followed by excellent food and drinks at the Plough – a very enjoyable evening. However, this second half re-match was going to prove a little more taxing for the travelling team.
All started well at 5 string with Ed Aspelling controlling his usual match nerves with a positive outlook against a keen opponent. Both had solid match play and high levels of effort, but fortunately it was Ed who held most of the finishing touches enabling him to have a relatively simple 3-0 win: 15-7, 15-8, 15-5. Mark Oppen at 4 enjoyed the luxury of playing on the show court and very much looked in control in the first. His opponent had other ideas and challenged Mark in the next two, with the Melbourn skipper unexpectedly going 2-1 down. Redoubling his efforts and finding better focus and greater accuracy, his opponent began to tire allowing Oppen to capitalise and take the next two and a 3-2 victory: 15-9, 12-15, 9-15, 15-11, 15-9!
Kate Bradshaw had been showing some good form of late and went on court feeling confident. This played out as hoped with Bradshaw taking a fairly easy 2-0 lead. That was all about to change... With a marked lowering of standard in the third game from Bradshaw who lost focus, her opponent managed to edge his way back in, finding some luck with his shots. Losing the third, Bradshaw tried to up her game again for the fourth. At 8-10 down she served, moved to the T, but was then struck in the back of the knee by an errant ball off her opponent’s racket. Time was called for ice to be administered but after a ten-minute break, play restarted. It was an exceedingly closely contested game but one which Bradshaw lost 15-17. The fifth played out all too similarly. The Melbourn player just couldn’t quite find the form from the first two games and allowed some frustration to creep in. The match ended up 3-2 against Bradshaw, 13-15 in the last game – a salutary lesson in not losing concentration when the going is all too easy..!
The final two matches were much less dramatic with both 2 string Vinod Duraikan and 1 string Matt Sampson playing reliably solid and sensible squash. Duraikan’s opponent had some lovely touches and delicate drop shots, but his fitness was not up to the same standard and the Melbourn player was able to win convincingly: 15-10, 15-5, 15-4. Sampson’s opponent is a quality player who unfortunately has an ongoing injury. There was plenty of top-notch squash at the back of the court and down the walls, but as soon as Sampson took the ball in short, his opponent was in difficulty with his movement. The Melbourn number 1 took his match 15-6, 15-8, 15-5.
So, another broadly successful night for the Melbourn team, with a couple of very tight matches in the middle. Skipper Oppen commented: “the match was won convincingly from our 1, 2 & 5 seeded players. Although at 3 & 4 seeds it wasn't as straight-forward, the points from those matches helped achieve the 19-5 overall team result - which was only one point less than our first half result showing we are consistent”.

Hunts County III vs Melbourn II (3rd February)

Melbourn lost 15-8

Hunts vs Melbourn was sixth against seventh in Division 3, with the situation unclear whether it is one or two to be relegated with the Division playing short numbered with just 8 teams this season. With just 5 points between the teams at the start of play (in Hunts favour) it was a biggie.
First on court were Sean Hamilton (4) against former Abottsley player (and Cambs County back in the day) Tony Barker and Thomas Higginson (5) against home skipper Billy Bremner. No, not that one…
Thomas and Billy had had an epic in the opening half that Thomas won 3-1, by basically wearing Billy out (he is very fit for a 50 , but more than twice Thomas’ age). The opening game saw Tom struggling to get enough blows on Billy to win the game. He looked quite frustrated after it. Wrongly because whilst Tom might have been one down the greater damage had been done to the home player. Properly pyrrhic stuff – with more victories like this all would be lost. Or indeed with no more victories as Thomas’ lightness on his feet and fleetness of foot, combined with solid and sensible hitting up and down the walls gradually took command. It was never easy, but the match gradually tipped further and further the youngsters way until he had collected a 12-15 / 15-11 / 15-8 / 15-11 win.
Meanwhile taking on Tony was not a good match up from Sean’s perspective – the Hunts player’s movement might be nowhere near where it once was, but all the racquet head control is still there. Put a ball loose and it was dead. Not the style for someone whose preferred method is to run and chase, coping with the occasional loose ball by retrieving response, which is Sean’s method. Tony soon had Sean’s number, putting the ball high to his backhand and then moving straight to the front corner expect the short reply – when it came it was counter-dropped for a winner. Sean was having more success when asking Tony to move rather than play shots, i.e. attack the weakness rather than the strength, but maintaining it was the problem. Apart from a spell at the start of the second game, which Sean clung on to win in the face of a fight-back from Tony, this was always heading in one direction really – Sean lost 6-15 / 15-13 / 8-15 / 12-15.
The next string to start was the seconds, with Liam Murphy taking on Andy Budd. Liam came into the game feeling rather under-Squashed – he hadn’t been on court since a team game nearly three weeks prior due to a combination of work and illness (that one). Initially this resulted in a freshness in Liam’s player we haven’t seen recently as we got flashes of what he is capable of – one lunging backhand dropped that was flicked fast into the opposite nick showed the racquet skills at his command. He was initially coping with Buddy’s own flicks and boasts… but then the lack of court time (and lack of confidence from only a few wins this season?) came to haunt Liam as he got defensive when 13-8 up in the first game. This eventually went away 17-15, and Liam’s head appeared to be dropping when the second followed it 15-8. Game three brought a second wind though, Liam working hard to fashion a 13-11 lead late on. Could he pull one back? Limping with a sprained ankle wasn’t helping (apparently this had actually happened in the first game, but, reader, I only noticed it in Game Three). It began a nasty mix of not wanting to make mistakes, wanting the rallies over quickly, and Buddy being on it. The match ended with a 15-17 / 8-15 / 14-16 defeat. So close to something morale boosting, but not quite.
Meanwhile next door Mark Asker (3), who absolutely, definitely totally isn’t on a long winning run in team games that I’m banned from mentioning again, took on Simon Joyce.
This was a little and large encounter, with Mark taking the roll of the big bully. His power and his ability to use his frame to shield his shots had Simon in the same place as many other opponents previously – scrambling around behind for balls that came powerfully and short. And, basically, that was it. Mark was always in control of this, able when he needed to string two, three, four point runs together to pull gradually clear and win 15-6 / 15-8 / 15-8.
That sent it to the first strings, where Jan Brynjolffssen took on Matt van den Bos. The opening game was nip and tuck as the players exchange points, Jan finding himself able to chase down most of Matt’s boasts and variations, but then not quite as adept at putting the ball away from the front of the court. Too many cross kills. There was very little in it but from 13-all it was Matt who took the next two… at the cost of his favourite racquet, though. A new weapon lasted for a chunk of game two, though Matt was already suspicious of it when he started (already broken I believe). However when he change to a new wand this proved effective as Matt accelerated away to leave Jan slightly bemused to be 2-0 down. Hmm. However by now Matt was clearly struggling with the pace, his breathing already laboured – and that told in game three as whenever a tough rally was played Jan was able to take the next two double quick thanks to out-of-gas errors. Back to 2-1 and the Melbourn man confident. Misplaced as it turned out as Matt changed up his tactics at the start of game four, keeping the rallies short and loopy, which meant his still had some air in his lungs for the denouement. This went as far as a tie-breaker, and Jan had a game ball for 2-2 (and a big favourite tag), but he couldn’t covert, then lost the next two points stretching but not making it to drops into his forehand corner. Which meant a game that really could have gone either way ended as a 13-15 / 8-15 / 15-10 / 15-17 defeat for the Melbourn player.
And that meant a 15-8 overall defeat that extended the gap between the teams from 5 points out to 12. Dang.
Jan was skippering for the day as Roger had sent Thomas out in his place (Billy was VERY grateful for that!), so it was left to the stand-in captain to comment “It was a really tight match overall. On another day any of me, Liam or Sean might have won our strings – we all had our chances. But the clear performance of the night was Thomas, who played excellently to grind down a solid and experienced match player.”

Melbourn I vs Ely I (26th January)

Melbourn won 16-8


Wednesday was billed as the crunch match for these two Division 2 teams, both hoping to move up to Division 1 next season. By far Melbourn’s toughest match of the first half, we were at full strength this time to make sure of the victory.

It kicked off with Ed Aspelling (5) who had played a key part in last half’s victory. Matched up with the same opponent, this could almost have been a rerun, but for the opposite result. Both players battled hard, and it was nip and tuck all the way, although it felt like Ed had the better game to win. However, the ebb and flow of the game was not with Ed this time, who lost out in 5 games, 15-17 and 14-16 in the last two; sometimes it’s just the way it goes.

Skipper Mark Oppen (4) was on the other court hoping to bring a better result for the team this time round. When he played calmly, with good height, width and shot choice, there was no contest. However, from time to time, he let this plan slip and allowed his opponent, whose shot-power might challenge Cameron Pilley’s, into the game. Luckily, Mark managed to swing the balance of play in his favour and notched up a very important 3-1 win for his team.

Kate Bradshaw was keen, like the skipper, to make amends for her first half performance. However, her opponent has been unbeaten as number 3 for Ely all season and he was unlikely to want his record blemished either. The first game saw Bradshaw a bit timid in her approach, getting on the end of her opponent’s shots, but not being able to do much with them. A pep talk from Melbourn number 1, Matt Sampson, after this helped Bradshaw to find some confidence in her game and she very nearly took the second, just losing out 13-15. The third also fell away in the final part, but again she challenged the Ely player most of the way. Still  a little disappointed, but happy with some very good spells of play, Bradshaw lost 3-0.

With the scoreline sitting at 2-1 to the away team, the next two matches were to be critical. Vinod Duraikan at number two also faced the same opponent from the first half. This had been a tough match first time round and this occasion was to prove no different. Duraikan was as reliable and hard working as ever, knowing how crucial this match was for the team. Drawing on years of experience and summoning all his energies, Duraikan fought hard and went 2-1 up with all games going to 15-12 one way or the other. By the fourth he was clearly determined not to cut his opponent any slack and mustered a fine finishing game, taking it 15-4 in the fourth and a second win for Melbourn.

With the match level, Sampson equally knew his was the match to win now! Knowing his opponent could be dangerous, Sampson was prepared for a challenge this week. However, the challenge was never given a chance to turn into anything sustained. Sampson’s shrewd shot choice, disguise and excellent rally building enabled him to outplay his often skilful opponent, whose cross court drop flick was a dangerous weapon, and seal a victory for Melbourn with a 3-0 win, 15-9, 15-7, 15-7.

Team captain, Mark Oppen, was delighted with the result, commenting: "It was a superb team win that puts us just one point behind, but with a match in hand, on the league leaders. The team still has a way to go, but if we can continue with our solid play each week, that should put us in a strong position before playing our final match of the season."

Melbourn II vs Cambridge University III (24th January)

Melbourn won 20-3

The Seconds were hoping for better fortunes against the Uni 3rds than in their previous two matches where they had been overmatched.
The initial signs were not promising though as Sean Hamilton (4) was all twisted around whilst comprehensively losing his opening game against Nicholas Choustikov. The problem here was unusual – that Sean was trying to do the right things! Or at least the right things generally, but unhelpful with this particular match-up. And that was hustle out of the back corners after retrieving to try and regain position on the ‘T’. However the vast majority of Nicholas’ attacks were towards the back corners and what kept happening was Sean would be rushing forwards as the ball fizzed past him back to where he had just come from! D’Oh… So, horses for courses, Sean was instructed to stay deep. This was never natural and Sean rarely looked comfortable doing it (you could see the worry about leaving the front corners undefended to drop shots (which weren’t happening!)), but he managed to make it effective enough to claim a 7-15, 15-11, 15-12, 15-13 victory.
Things were smoother for Mark Asker (3) next door against Nick Chornay, at least for two games as Mark’s huge wingspan and powerful drives kept Nick penned back behind hm. To his credit the Uni player’s head never went down and in game three he really challenged Mark as things became close. Fitness might have been an issue if it had gone to 2-1, so Mark was visibly relieved when he got through the third 15-13 to complete his 3-0 win (15-4, 15-8 in the first two – I did say they were comfortable).
Roger Woodfield (5) followed Mark on to court 1 to take on Matt Levine. And the pattern of the match was extremely similar to what had preceded it, Roger starting well on top but gradually being figured out. The infamous deadly drop shots were working really well in game 1, but as the match progress Matt began to predict they were coming and get more back. However Roger is a tough-as-teak match-player and he seized on whatever loose balls Matt offered him to keep himself a point or two ahead through the second and third games to close out a 15-8, 15-12, 15-13 win.
Court 2 was not a happy hunting ground in opening games for Melbourn as Colm O’Gorman (2) mirrored Sean by losing his first against Mansoor Ahmad comprehensively. Colm had started ice-cold, dropping 10-2 down at one point if I remember right, and was generally looking nothing like his normal springy self. Instead we got a heavy-legged and overly defensive performance, Colm’s court position in the first only getting up towards the ‘T’ in the latter stages. However these last few points did give hope as Colm was reducing arrears with this move lively approach, too late to claim the first but setting a platform to take the second and three by a good distance. Closing it out in four would have been too easy so Colm didn’t, losing the fourth before dredging up the energy to win the fifth and finally close out a 10-15, 15-7, 15-6, 12-15, 15-8 win.
That game was still going on when Jan Brynjolffssen (1) and Molly Woods hit court 1. The opening game started very well for Jan as he found himself dominating the front court, opening up a 11-2 lead. It was all a bit too easy initially, which encouraged a period of slack play that Molly demonstrated she was well equipped to take advantage off, closing to 11-8 before Jan refound his form to close out the game. The second was more focused, Jan keeping the pressure on throughout. However Molly was not going to go without a fight and she upped her level impressively in the third, which was suddenly close. Rallies became drawn out as both players sought openings, with there rarely more than a point or two between the scores. At the death though Jan produced a solid rally ending with a backhand volley kill to go 14-13 up, and then got a forced error on the first matchball as Molly couldn’t dig a ball out of her deep backhand corner, which had been a profitable area for the home player throughout. The game scores were 15-8, 15-5, 15-13.
Skipper Woodfield remarked “Although the University team is bottom of the league table, we knew we would all have to focus and play well to ensure a successful outcome. Everyone did just that, showing good concentration and determination, the 20-3 win was well deserved”

Saffron Walden I vs Melbourn II (19th January)

Melbourn lost 17-3

Another week, another very strong opposition for the 2nds.
Just like Comberton the previous Wednesday, Walden are pushing for promotion to Division 2 and looked every inch a side of that level. Their top two appeared particularly strong on paper… and also on the court. But we will get to those games later.
First on though was Mark Asker (5) against home skipper John Goodfellow. John was briefly a Melbourn player, featuring for the 2nds in 2018-19 and playing in our internal leagues. He and Mark had actually ever met in those, but the two had come across each other twice before in team matches. And on each occasion Mark had run out the 3-0 winner. Well, make that three out of three, 3-0 once again as the stylistic match-up worked heavily in Mark’s favour, his powerful game keeping John pinned deep as the Melbourn player came through 15-10, 15-11, 15-8. Mark is now 19-2 all time in team games for us, and on a 13-match winning run that extends back to October 2019… we really have to get him out more often!
Our other realistic chance of winning points came at no.4, where Gareth Jones took on Kirk Archibald. This one was nip-and-tuck all the way through each game, two of which got to 11-all and the other to 11-10. The problem for Gareth was the only period of games that proved one-sided was the most crucial one – the last handful of points. Three times it came to the crunch, and three times errors came. Frustrating as Gareth found the right tactics at various stages through the match… but never seemed to want to stick to them. The game scores were 12-15, 11-15, 11-15.
We won’t spend long on strings 2 and 3 as Liam Murphy (2) and Colm O’Gorman (3) struggled significantly against Will Blower and Mark Scott respectively. Liam started OK, but his head dropped towards the end of the opener was he figured out Will’s level was not going to vary, whilst Mark’s shot making was too good even for Colm’s recently impressive movement and defensive skills. Both finished 3-0, neither Melbourn player threatening double figures in any of their games.
That just left Jan Brynjolffssen (1), who wasn’t expecting much joy either against Simon Goddard as the Walden player hadn’t lost a Div.3 match, um, ever. Or even a game recently, Simon having won his previous 13 matches at top string all 3-0. Oh. Jan gave it his best shot though, attempting to defend as much as he could and when he could get Simon behind him attempt to pull the trigger on any attacking chances. That worked to some extent, also helped by unexpected errors of Simon’s racquet to mean Jan had achieved his aim for the match, get to double figures in a game, after just the first (only just, 15-10, but hey). An ill-judged comment about a loose serve on the first point of the second fired Simon up to provide a masterclass for the rest of that game (begging the question of just how hard the Walden player had been trying in the first) but the third was back to being close as Jan’s attempt to battle was proving more successful than he could have hoped for. In fact, if a backhand drop that Simon had given up chasing at 12-10 to Jan had gone up… but it was in the tin and that was the encouragement Simon needed to up his intensity for the last few rallies to send Jan to defeat 10-15, 2-15, 12-15.
Jan was the stand-in skipper for the day with Roger not playing. His comment after the match was “I knew we were in for a tough evening when I saw their team. Simon, Will and Mark are extremely strong players for the top three at this level. I thought Mark always had a good chance of beating John at fifth string and he delivered excellently on that, and on another evening Gareth would have taken at least one game of his, but we were always up against it overall.”

Comberton I vs Melbourn II (12th January)

Melbourn lost 18-4

Melbourn 2nds ran into a very strong Comberton side that had added a new 1 and 2 since the first half clash between these sides, and consequently suffered a heavy defeat. In fact, without an unfortunate injury to one of the hosts, we likely would have got even fewer. But more on that further down.

The first matches on were Sean Hamilton (4) against Graham Broughton and Roger Woodfield (5) versus Stuart Elms.

Sean battled hard against Graham through the first game but was generally behind over the course of 90% of it. Fortunately the majority of the 10% where he wasn’t behind was the final couple of rallies as Sean retrieving and if we are honest some unforced errors from Graham gave the Melbourn player the opener 15-13. Unfortunately this wasn’t really with the balance of play, and once Graham had got the error count in check the match turned around, Sean trying his hardest through but falling 3-1 (15-13 / 5-15 / 10-15 / 3-15).

Next door Roger was finding things tough against Stuart, who was forcing the Melbourn player into a very deep position on the court and then going short. Simple tactics, but highly effective ones. Roger again fought as hard as he could and made the second relative close, but the 3-0 end result to Comberton always looked by far the most likely outcome. Game scores were 8-15 / 11-15 / 6-15.

Gareth Jones (3) was next on court taking on Tom Parker. Who had played #1 when the teams met at Melbourn. Knowing he was up against a strong player Gareth was talking about playing with patience. But once on court his normal attacking instincts couldn’t be reined in. Sadly this wasn’t an effective strategy against a counter-puncher would made hay to win comfortably 3-0 (5-15 / 6-15 / 5-15).

Colm O’Gorman (2) also looked up against it as Nathan Taylor, a new recruit to the Comberton cause and making his debut for them, wrapped up the opening game 15-11 and built a 10-4 lead in the second. Colm was doing all he could to fight and scramble, which was asking Nathan to play a number of extra balls each rally. Ultimately this paid dividends but not in a way anyone was happy with as a stretch resulted in Nathan doing something very nasty to the back of his knee. He could barely stand after this let alone play on and had to retire hurt thereby handing Colm a 3-1 win.

The top string match pitted Jan Brynjolffssen against Harry Hennessey. This was an enjoyable game with both players looking to play clean Squash, a number of rallies seeing many shots traded along either wall. The first game saw nip-and-tuck, Jan holding a 12-11 lead at one point but not quite being able to see it out and losing 15-13. The second was out-of-keeping as Jan failed to keep the pressure up, Harry got very confident and produce a number of increasingly impressive winners. This one finished 15-2 to the home player. A refocused effort from Jan made things competitive again in the third, starting to draw errors from Harry’s racquet again. However once again despite being tight (15-12), it was the Comberton player who won the key final rallies to complete his 3-0 victory.

2nds skipper Roger opined “This was probably the toughest side we have faced so far this season. As always, every Melbourn player competed as hard as possible and made the Comberton players work hard for their wins”

Stamford vs Melbourn I (12th January)

Melbourn won 15-8

Liam Murphy playing at string 5, his first appearance for the 1st team, started well mixing and varying the play. It was looking to be a close opening game. Unfortunately his opponent had other ideas in some of the front court exchanges, driving the ball long and out of reach into the back corners. Liam fought well to control his play but just missed out on the first game 11-15. The second game was similar to the first, with some close-quarter exchanges again at the front of the court, but alas, the second went 11-15 following the same score line as the first game. The third game saw Liam play some improved length that pressured his opponent but this wasn't enough overall and although a close 11-15 (it's a hattrick!) score line Liam lost his match 3-0. 

Ed Aspeling (4th String) started extremely well, playing with an aggressive style that saw him win the opening game convincingly 15-4. His opponent however started to find his own game in the second, seeing him produce some crafty drop shots and with a mixture of pace. Ed unfortunately lost the second game 7-15. His opponent continued this play into the third game and Ed was soon faced being 1-2 down. Although Ed made some great efforts to level the points in the forth game, executing some excellent low hard kill shots that produced a string of points this wasn’t enough in the end to change the final game score and his 1-3 match loss. 

Skipper, Mark Oppen (3rd string) back from injury didn't have the easiest of starts, loosing the first 15-13 and then the second game similarly, this had taken its toll on him physically. 2-0 down, fortunately Mark's length and lobbed shots improved, removing the midcourt from his tricky opponent. This changed the game, creating more opportunities for playing short balls off of the front wall from a forced boast or loose return. It was a battle but Mark won the vital third game 15-13 (but no cigar!) and to save the match. The fourth game was better again, seeing improved shot selection that drew the match out to 2-2. The hard work paid off as his opponent was clearly tiring and Mark won the deciding game 15-9 and his match 3-2.   

Vinod Duraikan (2nd String) Started well against his opponent, taking the first game 15-6. With a combination of his opponent gaining more confidence and Vinod relaxing, his opponent picked up more points in the second and third game, but not enough to threaten the final result. Vinod won the final two games 15-9 and 15-11 and so his match 3-0. 

Matt Sampson (1st String) was up against a youthful opponent but this 'youthfulness' seemed like it may have been elsewhere on the night as his game was not at all at the level to create competitive play. Even after Matt kindly adjusted his shots to help generate some sort of rallies, that still couldn't enthuse his opponents game and although Matt won comfortably 3-0 (15-7/15-8/15-6) , it was not the most gratifying of wins.  

Skipper Mark commented on the evenings play "It was great to see Liam Murphy in his debut match for the team, although not the result he'd have liked, the games were still very close. The overall team result on the night was far tighter than expected, the third string match was the recovery of the night" 

Melbourn I vs Cambridge II (8th December)

Melbourn 1sts squash team went into their final match of the first half last Wednesday, confident of a good result with a full strength team. Ed Aspeling went in at 5 string against the experienced Sanjay Poria, who had been brought into the Cambridge side at the last minute. Ed started well, taking the first game fairly comfortably, 15-9. The next two proved trickier - he took the second 18-16 but missed out in the third 14-16. This must have tired out his opponent, however, who then suffered a 15-8 defeat in the fourth, giving Melbourn the match 3-1.

Skipper, Mark Oppen, went on next not so confident, largely due to an ongoing injury he hoped had healed. This was not the case; struggling with movement, his game was off and he lost 3-1.

Kate Bradshaw (3rd string) was next on court against a tall opponent with a great reach. Nonetheless, Bradshaw started well taking the opening games 15-11, 15-9. Feeling strong and in good form, Bradshaw was disappointed, if not surprised, at a dip in concentration which resulted in her being on the wrong end of the third game, losing it 6-15! Redoubling efforts was not enough to secure a tough fourth which she narrowly lost 16-18. Fortunately, Bradshaw regrouped in the nick of time and with increased patience and improved shot decisions, took the final game 15-8 and a hard-fought 3-2 win.

Vinod Duraikan would have been no stranger to his 2 string opponent who, although appearing unwarrantedly disgruntled at times, knew that he was on a hiding to nothing from the off, given the superior skills of his adversary. With the court getting ever-colder due to the opposition’s desire to turn off the heaters, Duraikan did well to hold concentration and form to deliver a 3-0 victory (15-10 / 15-2 / 17-15) for the team. Matt Sampson also hit the court very much the favourite. His match was a swift affair with his opponent unable to put up much fight. The all too squash-savvy Sampson rolled out the fourth and most convincing win of the night, 3-0 (15-3 / 15-1 / 15-5).

The two teams then enjoyed their final post-match dinner of the first half at the Plough at Shepreth. Sadly this was to be the last visit to this extremely hospitable and welcoming pub, which closed its doors on the following Sunday. As ever, they delivered a hearty and incredibly tasty meal to replenish the players’ energies, who even enjoyed birthday cake for dessert. A huge thank you from the Melbourn squash teams to the Plough for their unfaltering catering and service over the last few years – you will be missed.

Peterborough III vs Melbourn I (29th November)

Melbourn won 15-10

The 1sts, somewhat depleted by self-isolation and also carrying an injury, just survived one of their tightest matches of the season so far to maintain their 100% winning record in Division 2.

The first matches on court pitted Ed Aspelling (4) against Jeff Filmore and Jan Brynjolffssen (5) up with Alec Sarkissian. Both visiting players struggled in their opening game, each losing it heavily (Ed 15-6 and Jan 15-8). However following a tight second which he nicked on the break Ed got his mojo going with crisper hitting and tighter play to come through 3-1 (6-15 / 16-14 / 15-9 / 15-8). Jan also looked like he might claim a 3-1 as he won his next two and got narrowly ahead late in the fourth. He lost that one on a tie-break however, though the effort it cost Alec to scramble level made a difference at the start of the decider as Jan established a handy lead. This got whittled down a bit as closing nerves kicked in, but Jan eventually came through 3-2 (8-15 / 15-11 / 15-12 / 15-17 / 15-11).

It was soon apparent that Mark Oppen (3) was struggling with a leg injury as he battled against both that and Neal Cooke. Mark was moving sort of OK during rallies, but was obviously pulling up in obvious pain at the end of them. This had a cumulative effect in games as Mark saw late, albeit narrow, leads evaporate in the first two games. The third was nip-and-tuck, but once again a close one went against Mark as he lost 3-0 (15-17 / 13-15 / 15-17). In truth it was a remarkable effort on one-and-a-half legs!

Kate Bradshaw (2) was up against a player of distinctly contrasting style in Ady Payne. The Peterborough player was clearly after a powerful length game, but that isn’t Kate’s style as she player her usual aggressive cut-out Squash. Which player had the upper hand kept changing, the first two shared on tie-breakers before Ady claimed the third. Kate looked on course for the fourth when she established an 11-6 lead, only to get cautious, sending her drops 20 centimetres above the tin instead of the previous 1 (which had been driving Ady up the wall). This, sadly, saw her advantage evaporate as she lost 1-3 (15-17 / 17-15 / 12-15 / 12-15).

That meant Vinod Duraikan’s match against James Best at top string was the decider for the evening. When Vinod was edged out in the opening game it meant Melbourn had lost the first of all five strings. However in four of these we recovered to win the second, Vinod effecting the greatest turn around of all as he took his 15-4! At this point and in the third Vinod had James on a string, working him all around the court. However in the fourth the home player dug in, leading to far-and-away the best Squash of the evening. Errors were few and far between and winners very difficult for either to come by as the game went the distance and then sum. However the question of whether younger necessarily meant fitter was left unresolved as Vinod eventually claimed it 18-16 to avoid a decider and instead complete his 3-1 (11-15 / 15-4 / 15-7 / 18-16) success, to his teammates relief. Thanks for bailing us out!

The hard-fought win meant the 1sts stay second in Division 2, but will overtake Ely for the halfway lead if they win their final pre-Christmas game this coming week as Ely have already completed their first half of the season programme.

Spalding I vs Melbourn II (25th November)

Melbourn lost 5-20

 

Melbourn 2nds travelled to Spalding for what turned out to be a particularly demanding contest.
Liam Murphy (1) went on first to play Scott Chuter who displayed great control and power and made few unforced errors. Liam was playing well but could not match Scott’s impressive performance and he lost 0-3.

Thomas Higginson (4) put in a characteristically strong performance and there was a flow of very entertaining rallies. But Thomas’s play was matched by Martin Pettitt’s consistent stroke-play which forced Thomas into making errors at crucial points in all 3 games. Thomas lost 0-3 but competed very well with the scoreline not really reflecting how close this match was.

Roger Woodfield (5) started strongly and dominated the first 2 games with some well crafted rallies and drop shots. The crunch came in the third when Roger was 13-11 ahead. His opponent, James Bowser, came back strongly and was able to win the game 15-13. James then gradually took control and won the next 2 games so Melbourn lost this string 2-3.

Roger plays a typically crafty drop shot

Gareth Jones (3) struggled to get into his match making several errors and lost the first game. To his credit Gareth responded well and convincingly won the second game with some attacking squash. His opponent, Gary Slator, also recovered well and played consistent squash which Gareth could not counter and he lost 1-3.

Colm O’Gorman (2) was in good form taking the first game in style. Although he lost the second, he restored control to take the third. It seemed that Colm was set to win the match but Clyde Finch had a different agenda and really dug deep to win the next 2 games. Colm lost 2-3.

Colm in action at Spalding

Skipper Roger Woodfield said "Although we were beaten by a stronger team, it was disappointing not to come away with more points, particularly as we were so well placed to win the second and fifth string matches"

Melbourn I vs Cambridge Uni II (24th November 2021)

Melbourn won 20-1

The 1sts went into their game against the Uni 2nds as strong favourites to win even with the absence of regular number 1 Matt. That was because of the respective league positions of the sides; our boys and girls were second in the table, but only just and with a game-in-hand that would take them comfortably top if they win it, whilst the Uni 2s were propping up Division 2 with just one win from their previous five matches.

The students were obviously determined not to give us an easy ride though, as Ed Aspelling (4) in particular found. Ed actually won his opening game against the hard working Dougie Dolleymore fairly decisively, but he dropped the second as Dougie’s work rate and retrieving often caught the Melbourn player flat-footed. Fortunately for Ed he got annoyed with himself at this, the frustration well channelled into a step up of level that saw him take the next two with rapidly increasing comfort to triumph 15-9 / 11-15 / 15-11 / 15-3.

First on next door was Mark Oppen (3) against Daniel Jensen. Mark trailed for much of the opening game as he allowed Daniel to set the pace of play. In fact he got so far as game points down, and then came within centimetres of serving out on one of those. Talk about flirting with disaster. Having survived the close call Mark was able to take greater command of the match from then on out. Which allowed the shots to flow. His overhead backhand volley powered down short for a dead nick, the extravagant shot winning the penultimate point of the match, was absolute the pick. Mark’s game scores were 17-15 / 15-6 / 15-7.

Jan Brynjolffssen (5) followed Mark on to Court 1, and obviously regarded his skipper as a template as he also got himself 14-12 down as he found Patrick Nichols ability to move at high speed to retrieve apparently dying balls pesky to deal with. Jan was within a referee’s decision of losing the game 15-12, calling for a let that he hoped would be a stroke on Game Ball, only to find the marker was hedging more towards No Let! *ulp* Eventually given a second chance, Jan forced a breaker which went on-and-on (not helped by both players following each other in serving out!). However Jan finally got it done 21-19, and whilst never absolutely comfortable was always ahead thereafter as he won 21-19 / 15-10 / 15-8.

Kate Bradshaw (2) came off court after her match apologising to opponent Andrew Jeffery and berating herself. Had she lost? No, it turned out she had won 3-0. Kate sets high standards for her performance! What was apparently frustrating her was not closing out the second game as ruthlessly as she would have liked, an 11-0 lead turning into just a 15-12 final game score. But if it wasn’t quite as clean or efficient as she wanted, Kate’s accuracy and springiness of movement were still enough to see her through 15-11 / 15-12 / 15-11.

Last on was Vinod Duraikan (1) against Benj Chester. From the opening exchanges the pattern the match would take was clear – Benj was working very hard, chasing and retrieving, but he was struggling to lay much of a glove on Vinod, who was moving in that unruffled but if you timed it extremely quick way of his, and dropping with typical deadly accuracy. Points were accumulated with a minimum of fuss despite Benj’s efforts as the match moved swiftly onwards, to progress to match ball for Vinod. The Uni player saved the first of these in spectacular style… cutting a millimetre perfect drop into the front right corner from deep in the court. He then somewhat undermined this by immediately serving out… Vinod won 15-7 / 15-8 / 15-8.

Skipper Mark commented about the evening “Even with our number one [Matt Sampson] missing this week and everyone having to move up a position, it was another superb win from the team. Although we are doing really well in the league standing, we mustn't let this distract us. Continuing our excellent levels of play as we head towards the half-way-stage is really all we need to focus on now.”
Melbourn go to Peterborough 3rds on Monday for their next match. They currently trail Division 2 leaders Ely 1sts by 6 points, but have played a game less than the Cathedral City side (108 points from 6 matches compared to 114 from 7). 

Cambridge III vs Melbourn II (16th November 2021)

Melbourn 2 squash team faced fearsome opposition from Cambridge 3 – rapidly losing the first four matches without claiming a single game.

It fell to No1 string Liam Murphy to save face with a 3-2 victory against Ben Knappett, breaking his own run of four previous losses. But it was an overall 4-1 defeat for Melbourn, who were playing away at Churchill College’s courts.

First on court was Jamie Ware who lost his first two games to highly experienced player Sanjay Poria. A motivational talk from his teammates fired Jamie up who laid it all on the line to make it 15-15 in the third game. However, a dramatic dive for the final point was not enough and Sanjay took the match.

Melbourn No 4 Thomas Higginson came close to winning his third game with a run of six consecutive points which brought him back to 12-13. But Miles Jeaneret closed him down to win the two final points – winning the match 3-0.

Sean Hamilton, playing at No3, was no match for Cambridge player Christopher Thorpe. The Melbourn player was constantly frustrated and lost his match 15-4, 15-8, 15-5.

Melbourn’s Colm O’Gorman put in an incredible performance against James Buckley, fighting hard for every point. He managed to accrue significant points, losing 15-13, 15-10, 15-11, but failed to win a game. Colm’s broke a string in his racket at a crucial moment in the first game when he was 13-12 ahead. But he lost the next three points with his replacement bat, and never got ahead again.

Liam’s No1 match was incredibly tense to watch. He lost the first game 15-13, then won the next two 13-15 and 12-15, before losing the fourth 14-16. However, he dialled up the pressure in the last game to win it 16-14.

Melbourn 2 are now in sixth place in the league of eight after winning two matches and losing four.

Melbourn I vs Saints 2 - St. Neots (17th November 2021)

Melbourn won 17-4

The Melbourn First team latest match was against the unusually named Saints 2nds – St. Neots. It appears St. Neots and St. Ives have combined resources to be a single ‘Saints’… but the team in this league is mostly ex-St. Neots players, and is playing their home games there as opposed to… er, Hungtindon. Whatever. It’s confusing.
Anyway, this Saintly evening started unusually with the first string match as the opposition player, Jason Burgon, needed to play and dash. Although keen to make tracks, he probably wasn’t so pleased to get away in double quick time due to Matt Sampson putting in a very convincing performance, completely outplaying his opponent to take a 3-0, 15-11/15-8/15-6 win for Melbourn.
Ed Aspelling had a longer game to play, with his often vocal opponent (Andrew Montieth) producing some challenging play which took him to 16-14 in the second and a 1-1 scoreline. Ed managed to recompose himself and steadied the ship in the third with a 15-11 win, after which he proceeded to a more comfortable result in the fourth (15/7), taking the match 3-1.
Captain, Mark Oppen, was next up and in good form. Taking the first game 15-11, the match might have looked balanced, but he upped his game with good width and shrewd play to take the next two 15-7/15-6, cruising to a solid 3-0 victory over Sam Morris.
Kate Bradshaw had hoped that she’d take inspiration from the world’s best squash players, having watched some live matches at the Canary Wharf tournament the previous night, but in practice, it turned out to have the opposite effect. Bradshaw played below par for the entirety of the match albeit against a player, Harry Aldridge, who had some very decent spells of play, but who also was prone to unforced errors. The differing strengths of the players might have made for an excellently contended match on another night, but not this one. Bradshaw lost out 8-15/8-15/10-15.
Reliability returned to the courts in the form of the evergreen Vinod Duraiken. His was also an interesting match up, playing Grant Mankee, well known for his ability to keep running. However, Duraiken’s game-play knowledge and accuracy was too much even for the willing legs and lungs of his opponent, and he didn’t entertain the thought of a lengthy battle, winning out 3-0, 15-5/15-8/15-4.
Mark commented on the evening “It was another great result from the team against an experienced opposition. St Neots were missing their number 1 player on the night so we should prepare for the return match in the second half being more of a challenge.”

Newmarket I vs Melbourn II (11th November 2021)

Melbourn lost 19-6

Melbourn 2 suffered a comprehensive beating away to Newmarket 1, who are top of the league, on Thursday November 11 – losing four of their five matches.
The local side were outclassed by an excellent Newmarket team, yet to lose this season, which had depth across all five players.


Only Thomas Higginson, at fifth string, was able to secure a victory, clawing back from 0-2 down to eventually win the match 3-2 against Charlie Crisp.


Sean Hamilton, playing a no4, lost 0-3 to Mark Price. His opponent played a precise lob and drop game which proved impossible to disrupt.
Third string Gareth Jones had the hardest-fought loss of the evening, losing eventually 2-3 to Matt Pearson.


Colm O’Gorman managed to clinch the first game but opponent Santiago Uribe knuckled down and saw off the next three in quick succession.


Melbourn’s No1 Liam Murphy was frustrated by Hamish Jogee’s speed and accuracy, losing three all games.
The total tally was 6 games to Melbourn versus 14 games to Newmarket – equating to 6 points to 19.

Melbourn 2nds are now mid table at fifth spot (out of eight in the Cambridgeshire Third Division) after five games. They travel to Cambridge Squash Club next to face Cambridge 3.

Peterborough II vs Melbourn I (9th November 2021)

Melbourn won 17-4

1sts @ Peterborough (l to r): Kate, Mark, Vinod, Matt, Ed

The Melbourn First team travelled away to Peterborough for their match on Tuesday night – with a full team and no major injuries, hopes were high.
Ed Aspelling kicked off the evening on the club’s new glass back show court. Ed’s opponent was keen from the start and didn’t give Ed much of a chance to get into the first game. Ed picked his play up in the second, but unfortunately couldn’t quite nick this game which he just lost. The Melbourn player didn’t recover from this against an opponent who never gave him a chance to find his rhythm and he lost 3-0, 7-15 / 13-15 / 7-15.
Meanwhile team captain, Mark Oppen, playing on another court, had a relatively straight forward match. Using the lobbed backhand shot into the back corners removed all but a boast option from his opponent that enabled Mark to kill the ball off with a drop or low hard drive. Mark was also able to take advantage of his opponent’s loose backhands that fell midcourt to seal a 3-0 victory, 15-9 / 15-10 / 15-6.
Kate Bradshaw was on the new court after Ed and was struggling even in the warm up to find a decent length or width. Fortunately, so was her opponent in the match. He was also challenged by Kate’s high lob serve which put him into trouble throughout and gave easy opportunities for Kate to put the ball away at the front of the court. It was far from plain sailing for the Melbourn player, as she succumbed to end of game nerves in the second, losing out after a 14-7 lead! Determined not to let this happen again, she dealt with a similar scenario better in the third and then took the fourth more comfortably for a 3-1 Melbourn win, 15-11 / 16-18 / 15-12 / 15-11.
Vinod Duraiken at number two showed a solid game plan from the start. He aimed to reduce his opponent’s retrieval rate by playing a raft of superb, short, cross-court drops from forehand and backhand sides, often rolling out of the nick. This caused his opponent to move forward, but even if he managed to pick them up, Vinod positively nailed them into the back corners. The third game saw his opponent have a run of good points but the eventual scoreline was never in doubt with Vinod taking the match 15-7 / 15-3 / 15-8.
Matt Sampson stepped on court for the final match of the night. Much like his opponent from last week, the Peterborough number one looked somewhat defeated before the game had started. He had cause for this by the end of a quick first game that saw Mark outplay his opponent with excellent high lob retrievals from drops, and deceptive hold on the ball disrupting movement patterns. The second game was similarly barely contested and it looked very much like everyone would be in the bar shortly. However, the Peterborough player rallied in the third, putting Matt under a lot more pressure with some high quality play and outstanding nicks. Despite this run of better form, Matt was able to retain control and took a 3-0 win for Melbourn, 15-7 / 15-4 / 15-12.

Melbourn I vs Hunts County II (3rd November 2021)

Melbourn won 20-0

Melbourn’s First team had the luxury of a home match last Wednesday evening.
Following a narrow escape at Ely before half term, the team were keen to give themselves more breathing space. Ed Aspelling (5) was up first and did a great job of holding his nerve again. With characteristic solid play, he overcame Lee Palombo 3-0 relatively quickly. The key passage in the match was the second game where Ed trailed 8-2, but a refocus on length and positivity saw him turn it around to take it 15-10. It was plain sailing thereafter.
Captain Mark Oppen was next up against Jonathan Pittmas, a tall and rangy player at 4 string. Having not found form a fortnight ago, Mark was looking determined this week. Although the opposition was not as tough as at Ely, Jonathan was still tricky to play against given his height and reach. To counter this Mark focused on keeping rallies short and going behind Jonathan to make him turn. Gladly this worked as Mark won through, again 3-0.
Kate Bradshaw was back at 3 string for this match and, like Mark, keen to make amends for a below par performance in the Ely match. With improved levels of concentration, her serves hit the mark well and caused her opponent, Tom Horton, a lot of trouble. This enabled Kate to capitalize on weak returns which she chopped away into the front of the court. Her calm wavered for a few points, but she quickly regained control in the 3rd to take another 3-0 victory.
Vinod Duraikan came in at 2 for Melbourn and played his usual well-measured, calm and clever squash. He felt a little slow to start but some lengthy, high pressure rallies at the end of the first game saw opponent Matt Ainley tire and Vinod then took control for the rest of the match ending in a comfortable 3-0 win.
Matt Sampson went on against an opponent, John Williams who already showed signs of defeat before the match had started. Although the outcome was never going to be in doubt, John was struggling with movement due to injury and knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up with Matt’s play. The Melbourn 1st string, playing the ball with disguise and hold, along with variety, made quick work of the match and brought in another 3-0 scoreline in favour of the home team.
Skipper Mark commented "We played very well. There were a couple of close games where Hunts could have taken a point of two, but we upped the pressure in those moments. Everyone played solidly, particularly when it counted most."

Melbourn II vs Hunts County III (1st November 2021)

2nds side (l to r): Colm, Gareth, Liam, Mark A, Thomas

Melbourn won 17-6

Melbourn 2nds continued their winning form to record an impressive result against an experienced team from Hunts County.
Melbourn made a strong start with Mark Asker (4) dominating a very skilful opponent, Ian Gabriel, who was unable to keep up with Mark’s persistent and powerful squash; it was a convincing 3-0 win for the Melbourn player.
Colm O’Gorman (2) was faced with a tough task against talented left hander Andy Budd. Colm played well to take the first game 15-11 but then his opponent had to withdraw with injury and we were denied the spectacle of a very entertaining contest.
Gareth Jones (3) had a terrible start losing 10 points on the trot to lose the first game to Rick Watson. To his credit he then dug in and recovered well to win the second game 15-13. The match then see-sawed with neither player playing great squash with all the remaining games going to 15-13. Importantly for Melbourn, Gareth won the fifth 3-2 with characteristic doggedness.
Thomas Higginson (5) impressed in the first two games with consistent organised squash. He then lost some concentration allowing his wily opponent, Billy Bremner, to impose his style of squash to claim the third 15-12. The fourth saw Thomas re-focus and restore control and systematically win the game 15-9 and the match 3-1.
Liam Murphy (1) struggled to impose his game on Sean Broderick, a highly organised and skilful player who made few unforced errors. Murphy could not disrupt his opponent’s game and lost the match 0-3.
Skipper Roger Woodfield said “This was a strong team performance against a very experienced team. We now need to carry this momentum into the next match with the league leaders”

Cambridge Uni III vs Melbourn II (20th October 2021)

Melbourn won 15-8

2nds recorded their first win of this Cambs Div 3 campaign away at the University Sports Centre. However, it was not the best start for Melbourn with Gareth Jones (2) struggling to compete with a very accurate player who made few mistakes. Despite playing with his usual gusto, Jones was unable to break down his opponent’s game and lost 0-3. Meanwhile, on the other court, Thomas Higginson (4) was playing his first match for Melbourn. It became clear this was going to be a long contest between two evenly matched players. The first game was eventually won 18-16 by the Melbourn player. The second game was equally tight and Higginson again just secured the game 15-13. His opponent was as committed and stubborn as the Melbourn player and he pulled the third game back, again very close at 16-14. Fitness was now an issue but Higginson battled on and pulled away for the first time and won the fourth 15-10 and the match 3-1. It was a great performance against a very good opponent. 
Sean Hamilton (3) soon found himself up against it, losing the first game. He recovered well to win the second game but was worn down by his opponent who chased everything relentlessly. Hamilton narrowly lost the third 13-15 and, whilst he staged a comeback in the fourth, he could not prevent his opponent winning it and the match 3-1. Skipper Roger Woodfield (5) also had to battle in another close event but was able to produce winning shots at the right stage in each game. Carefully judged drop shots and wrong footing his opponent made the difference. In the end, Woodfield ran out a fairly comfortable winner 3-0.
So the scene was set at 2-2 for a deciding match between the two first strings. Colm O’Gorman (1) lost the first game 13-15 but then steadily took control of the match. His opponent was unsettled and disputed several decisions from the marker which, undoubtedly, did not help her performance. O’Gorman finished the contest clinically and won 3-1.
Skipper Roger Woodfield said “Obviously, we are pleased to win our first match of this season. We needed solid performances to come out on the winning side of many very close games. Special mention goes to Thomas Higginson who was making his debut for Melbourn. He won the tightest contest of the match with a most impressive performance”

Ely I vs Melbourn I (20th October 2021)

Melbourn won 14-9

Melbourn I got the better of Ely Squash & Leisure 1sts by three strings to two in a see-saw evening of Squash.


First on court was Jan Brynjolffssen (5), who was up against Chris Hornby. Things looked rather bleak for Jan seven rallies in, after he had lost them all making game one unretrievable. Substantially improved Squash from Jan, getting the ball past his opponent and cutting out at the service line and dropping accurately, saw the Melbourn player win the second… only to give away an early lead in game three and lose that to fall behind again.
Refocusing on the gameplan worked to level things up to 2-2, and a good start to the fifth had Jan 10-6 up. Then he got nervous about the finishing line, shanked two balls… which both dropped for winners! Helpfully that put it 12-6 up, but the nerves did their thing as Chris clawed back 5 of the next 6 points to close to 13-11. However, a slightly surprising error from the home player in response to a deep but not devastating shot gave Jan matchball, which (nerves mysteriously now absent) he converted with a forehand power kill from deep. That completed an 8-15 15-10 12-15 15-10 15-11 win.


Meanwhile next door Mark Oppen (3) had been in a game one battle with Ben Mitchell… and with his own game as he struggled with the line of his shots and also to get the pace of the Ely courts. Oppen was in trouble after the opener slipped by on a tie-break, in part because his own form was somewhat off on the evening but also due to Ben looking a very handy player for third string at this level. The next two went by with Mark struggling, both in Squash terms and in getting enough oxygen down as he lost 15-17 4-15 8-15.


Ed Aspelling (4) followed Mark on to court to take on Paul Sherwood. This game involved lots of power as both players looked to hit through the other, but also some sweet touch from both players. When either managed to slow things up a little they looked in control, but neither was maintaining this for longer than four or five points at a time. That resulted in streaks of points for both players, and the opening two games shared.
From game three on though Ed was able to stay on top for slightly longer streaks than Paul managed, and that was the key as Ed fought through to a 16-14 8-15 15-11 15-9 victory.


Kate Bradshaw (2) had been in good form recently, but she looked to have a task on her hands against Jack White. In a similar way to Mark, Kate was struggling with the pace of the courts, and also the lines she was finding (or not) for the ball. This would have been a problem against most players; against Jack, who showed jaw-dropping accuracy on the drop shot at times, it left Kate nowhere to turn. Games two and three were less one-sided than the opener, but overall the 3-15 7-15 7-15 loss was as comprehensive as the scoreline implies.


Which all set up Vinod Duraikan (1) and Chris Purkiss to play a deciding rubber. Vinod started like a house on fire, moving superbly, both in terms of covering the ground to pick everything up but also in the lightness on his feet to twist and turn. Chris initially seemed nonplussed by the onslaught, Vinod racking up an 11-2 opening game lead.
That was converted into a 15-5 first game win, but from this point things became a little closer as Chris got more of a measure of both his own and Vinod’s game… and Vinod started to make a rare error or two on the drop rather than the near perfection he had shown over the first ten minutes of the match. Even so Vinod was ahead through the majority of game two, an advantage he converted into a 2-0 lead. The Melbourn player trailed through most of game three though, but he tightened things up at the death, cutting out the errors. Having fought back to 13-all, Vinod played a very solid rally to force an error and get to matchball, which he won with just one shot as Chris went for the spectacular return… and tinned it! Game scores were 15-5 15-12 15-13 in Vinod’s favour.
Skipper Mark said of the evening “The team really came together to make up for the two lost matches and the inevitable 1st string decider that was played so well by Vinod. It was a great night of competitive squash.”
Melbourn sit fourth in the Division 2 table going into the half-term break, but that is a little deceptive. We are the only unbeaten side left in the Division but having had a bye week keeps our points down a little.

Melbourn II vs Saffron Walden I (11th October 2021)

Melbourn lost 7-16

Melbourn II lost 2-3 to Saffron Waldon (11 games to 7) in their second match of the season in Division 3 of the Cambridgeshire squash league.
First man on court, Sean Hamilton, at No5, ground his way back from 2-0 down to eventually beat Chris Dorman 3-2.
Playing in the fourth spot, Melbourn’s powerful Mark Asker dominated the court and defeated John Goodfellow 3-0.
The third string saw home player Gareth Jones take on Christopher Gray. Gareth moved quickly to secure the first game. But Chris came back strongly to win the next three games, leaving the final score 1-3.
Melbourn did not win another game the rest of the evening, despite some intense rallies.
Even his newly found fitness was not enough for Colm O’Gorman to keep up with Will Blower. Colm found some form in the second game but Will closed the match 3-0.
Last on court was Liam Murphy who battled hard against Simon Goddard in the top match of the card. Their pair had some thrilling rallies but the visitor’s relentless speed and accuracy won him the match 3-0.

Melbourn I vs Stamford II (6th October 2021)

Melbourn I won 20-2

Ed Aspelling at 5 string was playing his inaugural match as part of Melbourn’s team. Feeling the pressure of starting for a new team and being the first match play for well over a year, he admitted to a few pre and on court nerves. This was not reflected at all in his play. Dealing well with some hard, loose hitting from his opponent with skilful drops and using his consistently pacy and accurate forehand drive, he came away with an excellent 3-0 win.

Mark Oppen at string 4 had a good opening game, taking full advantage of playing the ball early and in short to the front wall as his opponent made some loose returns. There was a marked improvement from his opponents shot making in the second game but he was able to keep ahead and in control. The third and what was to be final game of his match was the closest but he found his line and length when it counted and came away with a 3-0 win.

Kate Bradshaw walked on court for Melbourn at 3 string with some match practice already in hand. Feeling confident, she focused well and served accurately and, by cutting out loose returns, quickly reached a 2-0 lead. However, the match was not in the bag yet…wavering concentration and some improved passages of play by her opponent led to the match squaring up at 2-2. Determined not to let self or side down, Bradshaw pulled through in a see-saw 5th game, taking it 15-13 and the match 3-2.

Vinod Duraikan at string 2 had an uncharacteristic up & down opening game as he adjusted to the courts speed and temperature. Nonetheless, he was able to keep ahead in the vital latter points to win a close opening first game. The second game saw his opponent attack more which gave him more opportunities to test finding his range and rhythm. The second and third games saw some good rallies but ultimately his opponent was unable to turn around the inevitable 3-0 win to Vinod.

Matt Sampson string 1 was up against a youthful player whose speed and agility made for some entertaining rallies. This didn't faze Matt as he held his tee position to produce some pin-point accurate short balls that made it extremely hard for his opponent to retrieve. This standard of play continued throughout his match and culminated in an excellent 3-0 match win and overall team win of 5-0.

Skipper Mark commented “This was a fantastic team win to mark the start of the season. It was great to see everyone so focused and enjoying their squash again after such a long layoff. It was also a superb win from our new team member, Ed. Thanks goes out to the The Plough, Shepreth for the excellent meals and hospitality afterwards.”

Melbourn II v Comberton I (4th October 2021)

Melbourn II lost 9-16

Melbourn 2nds hosted this first round match of Cambs League 3 having been promoted in March 2020 when the pandemic stopped all sports activities.

First up was Mark Asker (4) who quickly found himself in a very tight encounter with a very experienced and skilful player. He narrowly lost the first game but came back well to take the second. His opponent then built a meaningful lead to win the third and then started well in the fourth. Unfortunately, injury struck and he had to retire, leaving Asker the winner 3-2. Colm O’Gorman (2) started well and won the first game 15-11. His opponent responded vigorously and worked really hard to get back into the match. He won the second and then never lost control of the match so Melbourn lost the string 1-3. Playing his first match for Melbourn, Liam Murphy (1) struggled to find his rhythm and lost the first game. He then fought back well to win the second 15-13. But his opponent re established control and won the next 2 games with some relentless pressure and some devastating drop shots; the string was lost 1-3. Gareth Jones (3) simply outplayed and outgunned his opponent with unrelenting pressure and forced a fairly comfortable 3-0 win. With the match situation at 2-2, Jamie Ware (5), also playing his first match for Melbourn, quickly realised he was in for a tough match. The pace was fast and furious at times but Ware played well to take the first game 15-10. His opponent responded well to narrowly win the second game. Although every point was fiercely contested, the Comberton player was just a bit more consistent and was able to win rallies with some fine shots. Comberton won this final string and the match by 3 strings to 2.

Skipper Roger Woodfield said "This was tough fixture for our return to Cambs Div 3. Our team competed really well but, in the final analysis, were just beaten by a stronger side. Nonetheless, we picked up 9 valuable points. Great to see Liam and Jamie play their first matches for Melbourn and strengthen our squad"