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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.”