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.