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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'.