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Melbourn II vs Peterborough III (16th October 2023)

Melbourn won 15-9

Week four of the season brought with it a clash of unbeaten teams as Peterborough made the trip down the A1 to face us.

Pre-match was characterised by late chopping and changing in our side as Ed and Aidan dropped out from their planned games at 1 and 5,* which lead to strings 2-4 moving up a spot and Sean Hamilton and Matt Walker coming in at #4 and #5 for their first appearances of the season.
* - Yes, Aidan was really going to play #5 in Div.3. Given what happened in that string (see below) this would have been very interesting. Maybe we can get him out at that number for the return gam instead?

Matt (5) found himself up against a 12 year-old… but a very talented one as young Josh Fillmore is in the top handful for his age group nationally. It was immediately apparent in the knock-up that Matt would have his hands full as Josh belied his small stature by absolutely hammering the ball around the place. Pure timing… imagine what it will be like when he grows and adds muscle as well?!? *gulp* This wasn’t really the match that Matt was looking for as he attempts to work his game back into the state it was at prior to around three years of injuries. Too many errors from his racquet resulted in key points against as the kid battled with impressive maturity. There was so little in in… but Matt’s chance of beating Josh went by as he was beaten 11-15, 16-18, 15-12, 14-16. All his teammates were sympathetic… and glad it was him rather than us (and also hoping that Josh will be up into Peterborough 2nds before any of the rest of us have to try and cope with him!).

Sean (4) was facing a rather more experienced player in Peterborough skipper Pierre Caruso. These two have met before and that was very tight… and this was the same. Pierre was playing clever Squash, changing his angles around and Sean was getting frustrated as he felt he wasn’t hitting the ball clean, not really realising this was because it kept coming to him in (deliberately) awkward positions. When Sean did get a clean strike on to push Pierre back he could control rallies and dominate the front court, though. The phrase “there was nothing in it” is swimming towards this report, but actually there was a single fine margin there – Pierre won the clutch points in every game. That’ll do it – Sean lost 3-0. The final point of the match was typical of Pierre’s clever strategy as he got a service winner with a serve deliberately played with more angle, Sean rushing towards the wall to cut out any possibility of a dying serve into the corner… and finding the ball right up against his tights as a result. Sean lost 14-16, 12-15, 15-17.

OK, so we were two down. All on the top three then, starting with Gareth Jones (3) against Joe Eggins. Joe had the edge on Gareth in age – at least 15 years the Melbourn players Junior. But Gareth maybe had more Squash nous of the two. And game style favoured Gareth as Joe was the sort of hard-hitting run-and-gun player that Gareth excels against. As with many a Gareth match this was very much on the Melbourn player’s racquet – could he force himself to eschew the power kills from no sort of position and get the good lengths, letting Joe make the mistakes instead? Apart from game two the answer to this was ‘yes, he could’ as Gareth once again showcased the greater control he has found in his game over the last year or two, coming through a match he might once have lost in relative comfort, winning 20-18, 12-15, 15-9, 15-10.

One back then. On to Jan Brynjolffssen (2) to add to it. Jan was up against Renzo Rozza Gonzalez, who was another youngish player who likes to run and likes to hit… but does the latter a little loosely. Just up Jan’s street really as he played a high, wide and deep game, finding repeated dying lengths into the back corners as Renzo opted against volleys in favour of hoping the ball would pop out – sometimes yes, but give repeated chances to try a dying length and he will find it sooner or later. There were some dips, the start of game three featured some over-aggressive play which lead to errors trying to kill balls that didn’t need to be killed, but mostly Jan was Mr Consistency, happy to rally away with Renzo because he was always confident that he was fit enough to last until his opponent was forced into an error. Jan won 15-11, 15-9, 15-9.

That sent it to the final match of the evening, Liam Murphy (1) taking on Jeff Fillmore. Liam once again showcased his wonderful movement and near professional stretching and lunging to keep getting balls back that Jeff was sure were going to be winners, this causing the Peterborough player to overpush. Jeff was responding with workrate and pure determination to keep himself in touch… and also living off the occasional odd error from Liam’s racquet when he moved from the defensive counter-puncher to trying to make the play. But overall the balance was in Liam’s favour as he took the opening two games and then got himself to three match balls at 14-11 in the third. However an overly aggressive attack on the first of these led to an error, which in turn prompted Liam to be too cautious with the remained. Jeff won five straight points to turn the game around. Suddenly it was game on.
The fourth was again tight as the players were nip-and-tuck, but once again it was Jeff’s determination that triumphed. But at what cost? He had seemed close to exhausted after game three and now was nearly out on his feet. Maybe that contributed to the fuss in game five as when Jeff didn’t get a stroke decision he wanted, but even if he had Liam was already in charge of the game and would probably have still won anyway. Jeff’s clear disagreement with the call (and the substantial majority opinion who thought he was wrong) definitely contributed to the margin in the decider as he lost his focus, allowing Liam to run away with it to claim the win for Melbourn. Liam won 15-11, 16-14, 14-16, 12-15, 15-4.

Stand-in skipper Jan offered the following post match comments "The finale was very dramatic. Liam’s fitness and retrieving was again exceptional, and this ultimately won him the match as Jeff could barely move anymore by fifth. It was probably his best performance of the season. As a team we did well to come through a challenging match with another win."

The 2nds sit second in the table in the Division 3 table at the half-term break following this win, just behind Cambridge 3rds, the only other side with four wins from four.