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.