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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.”