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Herts Summer League - Nuffield IV vs Melbourn II, 8th August 2023

Melbourn lost 11-4

The end of the league is approaching – this was the 2nds last away trip of summer. And on paper the most difficult as it sent us to St. Albans to take on league leaders Nuffield 4ths.

First up were the third strings Will Bradshaw and Clive Barker, whose doings were streamed live via Nuffield’s YouTube channel. Which allowed Will’s Mum Kate (who plays for Melbourn 1sts) a rare chance to watch her son in action as Will finds her being their additional pressure. And for those on this website to watch on replay as well – here you go (from 1:02:45 if the link doesn’t jump automatically there):-
Game One saw both players feeling each other out, with the score ebbing this way and that. Will was hitting crisply and moving well, Clive was trying to get forward and stay there to play his drops and kills… and hope the fleet-footed youngster wouldn’t get to them. Towards the end of the game it looked like Will was getting in command as he built a 14-12 lead, only for Clive to dig in impressively on both the game points. Will was on the ‘t’ in each rally and did little wrong as he tried to find the killer length, but Clive scrambled as hard as he could to stay in both strokes which eventually allowed him to turn each around for a counter-punch winner.
The disappointment from Will on the game balls passing by was clear and he promptly lost the next two rallies to drop the game 16-14 (Kate, via text “Aarghhh! Not sure this is good for my heart!! Very unlucky") and this psychological blow saw also evident in game two as Will dropped a long way behind. Unrecoverably so, despite one serve that he managed to frame directly into a rolling nick, a move called “absolutely filthy” by the home team.
Post game analysis by Will was he was playing too many boasts and these weren’t working anyway (everyone else: yep, that’s true) so he should straight things up and drive down the walls. Good idea? Great idea as he moved into an 8-4 lead on game three. At that stage things looked good but a marking call he didn’t agree with (but was probably right) led to a period of discombobulation and the lead evaporating… only for Will to show impressive maturity by visibly calming himself down and then producing much more focused Squash to take the game to a tie-break. This proved to be an absolute epic with Will having game points but more often Clive having match balls, around four in all. All saved before Will pushed himself up to win 20-18, the clincher a boast from a seemingly defensive position that die in Clive’s front backhand corner.
Well now, what next? Another game of nip and tuck until Clive seemed to make a decisive break towards the conclusion to earn himself another set of match balls at 14-10. Will was not about to give up though, and actually produced his very best Squash of the match over the next three rallies as intensity was well combined with low-risk choices to pound his way through and bring things back to 13-14. Sadly, just when it seemed a huge turnaround was possible (Will would have been a very strong favourite in the fifth) a choice to attempt to play through some interference saw Will’s backhand dig go too high and wide. And that ended matters. Will lost 14-16, 7-15, 20-18, 13-15. So, so close to that first ever win in adult Squash.

Moises (from 1:51:20):-
Match two on the live streaming court was the second string encounter between Moises Estrelles Navarro and Keith Ragg.
After a few points scoping each other out the first player to make a run was Keith as he pounced on loose attempts to kill from Moises to counter-punch his way to a 10-3 game one lead. Moises got more conservative in his shot choices after this, which was indicative of the way forward for him as the change in approach saw the gap close back to 10-12, only for a missed forehand overhead at this stage to result in a Spanish scream of frustration and a crucial point against – Keith won the opener 15-11 soon after.
Moises had left a few points out there in game one as he had been playing the standard player and not his actual opponent. This meant trying to wrong-foot a player who hadn’t actually moved from his shot. An adjustment to take the open court when it was available (and generally adjust to a player who knew when he needed to move and when he didn’t need to) got the second closer, with the game reaching a dramatic conclusion with Moises saving a game ball at 14-13, having one of his own at 15-14, but losing that on a stroke call and again seeing the game escape.
No matter though as Moises had made Keith work very hard for his two game lead and was also gradually getting used to the idea that drop shotting and kills were not his friend given his opponents clear discomfort with extended rallies involving lots of running. Pumping the ball deep work beautifully at the start of game three, rapidly building a 9-3 lead for Moises. Errors crept in a little as the game progressed allowing it to be a bit closer, but not enough to prevent Moises closing it out with a lovely backhand drop shot into the nick to claim it 15-11 and get on the board.
By now Moises had established a pattern that worked, if he could execute it. That was exactly what he managed in game four – after  some initial early sparing has seen it get to 5-4 in Moises favour he gradually pulled himself clear winning roughly two points for every one Keith was able to scramble to claim the game 15-8.
Going into the deciding game with momentum and fitness on his side Moises was the clear favourite to win. Things appeared to be going as expected as eased 7-4 ahead, but maybe a touch of comfort sneaked its way in as Moises lost the pattern for a while and saw this early advantage evaporate into a 9-8 deficit. This concentrated the mind, a string of four straight points re-establishing the three point advantage at 12-9, which was held to the end despite some fishing for lets from both players that the marker was not having any of. Moises won 11-15, 15-17, 15-11, 15-8, 15-12.

Due to the length of Moises match Jan Brynjolffssen (1) and Alexander Craig went on to a different court to play their match. So there is no video. What a pity, as you will soon discover 😉
This was a re-match of a clash at Melbourn earlier in the summer when Alex had won 3-2, but only after letting Jan off the hook in the first two games as the Melbourn player recovered big deficits to win them 15-13. This started off in similar fashion, long drawn out rallies up and down the walls that Alex mostly won. Almost entirely won in fact as he powered into a 10-0 lead as Jan was left wondering how on Earth he could kill the ball against someone so quick. He did managed it sometimes, but only very occasionally. 1-0 and comprehensively so.
The second saw Jan trying to play more of his game rather than taking on Alex at a steady up-and-down the wall encounter which the home player was just better at. Initially it didn’t work as another big gap was opened up, but then in a reprise of events at Melbourn it started to as an 8-2 advantage was gradually clawed back to 10-12. Jan had a clear chance to go for a kill at this point, but mistimed it, the ball sitting up for a counter winner. And that was moreorless that as Alex went on to take game two 15-11 and by game three the extended nature of the rallies had drained the energy from Jan’s legs. He found himself deep and pushed deeper, which gave Alex kills in the front court that he exploited to wrap up a 3-0 win that gave the hosts victory on the night.