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Melbourn 2 vs Saffron Walden 1 (22nd January 2024)

Melbourn lost 3-18

This match had loomed on the calendar for a while given the positions of the sides just behind Cambridge 3rds at the top of the Division 3 table. We sat second, but Walden were only a couple of points worse off in third. And it was clear from the team selections that both Captains had pulled out the stops in terms of selection and availability as both teams were basically as strong as they could be – I believe that all 10 players involved either had a SquashLevel of >2000 on the day or have had that many points to their names at some stage over the past 12 months!

That pre-match SquashLevels check was also concerning though as, based on the ratings, we were looking at a 5-0 win for Walden. Could the 2nds upset the apple cart. Well, Gareth Jones (5) had a good go against Christopher Gray. Chris is a lovely player with a fine touch, but it was clear from early on that his fitness was short of where it could be, and that this was an opportunity for Gareth to claim a higher-rated scalp. All he needed to do was play against type and make a string of straight counter-drops. Nothing too complicated, nothing to hard, push your opponent deep, get a short ball, pop it in and wait for him not to run for it. After figuring this out midway through game one Gareth executed things perfectly for a game-and-a-half to build a 2-0 lead. He did lose his way in game three (Gareth wouldn’t be Gareth without a Gareth-esque wobble) but give how hard Chris was breathing a barnstorming comeback to win 3-2 seemed highly unlikely – instead Gareth was able to re-assert himself and take the fourth to complete the win.

That was the good news. That bad was ever other string went to the form book. Exactly to the form book. Liam Murphy (2) played well for two games against Will Blower, but his best shots making no impression on his opponent and the occasional loose one being pounced on was getting him down and he somewhat spiralled in the third. Kate Bradshaw (1) saw her match against Simon Goddard flow similarly, though here it was more Simon getting extra confident than Kate’s head dropping to her chin – still 3-0 overall. Ed Aspelling (3) was up against a player he knows well in Andrew Kidger. The two produced a lot of high class Squash… but Ed always seemed to be the more reactive of the two and this eventually told in every game as the later points flowed away from him: a third 3-0 to Walden, and with that overall victory. That meant Jan Brynjolffssen (4) against Mark Scott was academic from a result point-of-view (though not a league table one). That was handy as Jan spent the next 20 minutes consistently running in the wrong direction as Mark held his shots, waited for his opponent to show which way he was going to move, and then opened or closed his wrist to send it to a different corner. Another match that got easier for the away player as it progressed.

Jan (standing in for Colm) commented post-match: “This was the strongest side Walden have put out this season… they pulled out all the stops, and it showed. We were also at basically full strength but were simply outmatched – the match was played at an extremely high level for Division 3.
“If Walden can get the same team out regularly they walk away with the title. But if we can get the same five out most weeks we will be in with a strong shout for second. We do need to bounce back immediately, though.”