Hinckley Squash Club’s November league matches got under way on the opening day of the month with a home fixture for the 4th team against David Lloyd’s 2nds - their arch rivals from last season. Things didn’t go exactly to plan from the outset, as Andy Harvey didn’t manage to bring any points to the table on this occasion and then Ben Fenwick wasn’t able to find his usual imperious form, losing out 1-3. Matters improved somewhat when Steve Durrant and Ben Wood both found their ‘A’ game, delivering 3-0 wins. So at 2-2 the evening was set to depend upon the result of the top game. The earlier rubbers had gone the way of the player ratings so expectation was fairly high when Tim Steele came on to play Max Allen-Taylor in the knowledge that he had a rankings advantage of just over 150 points. Alas, on the night the rankings were overturned, Tim sadly lost 0-3 and although Hinckley pocketed 7 points that was all they could show for their considerable efforts on the night.
The 3rd team’s visit to Charnwood that same evening went by way of the individual player rankings. Tim Solley at 5 put up some stout defence but went down 0-3, Paul O’Hara then produced some good squash to take his match 3-0 as did Ashley Fry who only conceded 6 points in his 3-0 win. Liam O’Hara won his first game 9-0, lost the second 9-3, then got back into the groove taking the final two games 9-1, 9-2 for an overall 3-1 win. Rich Jackson took on Jez Cromie for the top spot and having lost out 10-9 in a debilitating first game he went down 0-3. However, it was a fine 3 ties to 2 win for the away side and 14 valuable team points too.
It was then Tuesday 7th before the teams were in action again. The home fixture that night saw the Club 2nds face Simon Taylor’s squad from the Leicester University. The home team got off to 3-1 wins from both Joe Matharu and Ben Daniel. Heath was on next but wasn’t able to add to the pot, his opponent’s 1300 ranking points advantage proving too much. Duncan Anderson faced a similar challenge, rankings wise, the difference being 2700 in his case, yet somehow he was able to gain the team a vital point by claiming the second game 11-9. The top match, as expected, was a real toughie: Luke Parker against Andes Ling. In spite of an 1845 ranking points disadvantage, Luke went two up (11-9, 11-7) before Andes redressed the balance (11-1, 13-10). With everything resting on the fifth and final game, and the match approaching the hour mark, there followed some outstanding squash that had the pair of them stretched to the limit, yet Luke’s fitness finally won the day as he clinched the all-important game 11-8 that left Andes collapsed on the floor when he came off court. It was a welcome, well supported and well-earned 3-2 team win that netted 15 valuable points.
Two of our teams (the 1sts and the 6ths) were away that same Tuesday evening. The 1st team fixture was versus Loughborough Students and it proved a fairly close run event. Richard Jackson (0-3) and Gary Sykes (1-3) both lost their ties but Ollie Holland, ever reliable at 3, then netted three unanswered points for the team and he was followed by team coach Guy Pearson who defeated Chua Man Tong, 3-1. The top game saw Lewis Walters in good form as he too collected three unanswered points. All five matches went the way of the individual rankings and the 1sts came away with a 3 ties to 2 victory that altogether added up to 15 team points.
The 6ths went to Leicester Squash for the first time, where they faced the host’s 5th team. Ato Stephens got them to a good start with a 3-1 victory but then the odds were evened up as Matt Hardman lost his match. Jonny Sprigens then got Hinckley ahead with a resounding 9-6, 9-0, 9-0 win and this was followed by another impressive performance from Dillwyn Rosser who took the first game 9-2, lost the second 5-9 and then proceeded to take the third and fourth games in style (9-1, 9-2) thereby clinching an overall 3-1 match win. With the matches already 3-1 in Hinckley’s favour that left just the 1st string contest between Oliver Morgan for the home team and Paul Purser. In the end Morgan, who had a 300 ranking points advantage ran out the winner (3-1) but that didn’t prevent the 6ths taking 15 valuable team points that took them to the top of Division 5.
The following evening Hinckley’s 3rds put out a strong side to take on Cleaver 2nds at Maple Drive and it was to pay off big time as first Tim Steele and then Paul O’Hara had 3-0 victories, the latter only dropping two points and they were in the first game. Ashley Fry at 3 and Liam O’Hara at 2 then proceeded to win their games 3-1. Thus far the games had gone by way of the player rankings but when Heath Jennings stepped out to play John New in the top match, the odds were reversed. The first game went Cleaver’s way but then Heath got the measure of his opponent and proceeded to take the next three 9-2, 9-1, 9-2 to secure victory for himself and earn the team a 5-0 match result that also brought 20 valuable team points (15 plus a win bonus of 5).
That same evening Hinckley’s 4th team were away to Charnwood 2nds. Steve Durrant playing 2nd string started things off with a 3-1 win that was never really in doubt against a tricky opponent. This was followed by a first appearance for the 4th team by Paul Purser who delivered a very impressive 3-1 win in the 5th string match. Having given blood for the first time 24 hours before, captain Andy Harvey should probably have never played but with no other players available had to try. An easy first game saw him 1-0 to the good, however with hardly enough energy left to walk he was quickly dispatched 3-1. Proceedings then got back on track with a big 3-2 win for Neil Large at number 4, with a trademark ‘Large roar’ upon winning - always a fans’ favourite to hear that (Neil duly apologised). Finally it was the turn of Ben Wood to give them the first 3-0 win of the evening in a strong performance at number 1 over Olly Radburn, who never gives any ball up. So a good 18 point haul which leaves them sitting fairly comfortably for now in the top 3 of Division 3 in the league.
On Thursday the 9th, the 5ths were at home to Market Harborough’s 3rd team. Team captain Simon Eves (still injured) reports that it was a compelling win of 4 ties to 1 against perhaps the nicest bunch of guys they have met so far. Stepping up from the 6th team was Matt Hardman who fought bravely but it wasn’t to be, losing 1-3. Then Alan Palmer, Neil Large, Tim Solley and Steve Durrant at 1, went to work against the remainder of the opposition, Alan and Neil winning 3-1 and Tim and Steve 3-0. So having collected a further 18 points it’s on to the next match, at home on Thursday 16th and that promises to be another toughie as the spotlight centres upon them now that they remain unbeaten and top of Division 4.
Two of our teams were scheduled to play on Monday 13th. The 4ths were playing their second away game of the week, this time vs Leicester Squash 3rds, and it turned out to be a fixture in which four out of the five player rankings held true. First on court was Tim Parratt at no.5 and after going two down he battled his way back to a fine 3-2 win. The middle order then went the way of the rankings as first Neil Large then Tim Solley each lost 0-3. Steve Durrant, at 2, couldn’t stem the tide either, going down 1-3 but then in the top game Ben Wood defied a narrow rankings disadvantage to come back in superb fashion to win 3-1, and that was after losing the first game. In the end, despite an overall fixture loss of 2 ties to 3, the 4ths came away with 7 valuable team points from a possible 20 - infinitely better than nothing, as they say.
That same evening the 6ths went to Huncote to play their 2nd team and once again Ato Stephens got them off to a flyer, winning 3-0 and in doing so only dropping seven points over the three games. In the 4th string match Jonny Sprigens won the first game but wasn’t able to hold off under-ranked John Hall, who went on to win 3-1. Dillwyn Rosser then did his usual bit for the team by chalking up a 3-0 win, as did Paul Purser, at 2, who won, despite dropping the second game 7-9. In the top game against Stuart Fox, Dean Murrell started well, only just losing the first game 10-9, but then couldn’t hold back his opponent who went on to win the other two games 9-2, 9-2. Despite this, the 6ths came away with a 3 ties to 2 victory and a useful haul of 15 team points.
The following evening Tuesday 14th, the 1sts were at home to the formidable Leicestershire Tennis & Squash Club team, led by George Parker at 1. Except for the 1st string match, all the others showed a considerable rankings advantage for the home team players and so it proved, with Ollie Holland, Guy Pearson, Owain Taylor and Mark Fuller all racking up tidy 3-0 wins. That left the top game and this proved to be an excellent affair in front of a sizeable audience, with long and intensive rallies that produced games that went to and fro, George taking the first and third games until at 2-2 it all hinged on the final game. Lewis then somehow made a couple of uncharacteristic errors and George some fine winners and he forged ahead 5-1 and although Lewis then put up some fine rallies, he was unable to prevent George deservedly winning the final game 11-3. Overall it was a good 4 ties to 1 victory that produced 19 points for the home team, keeping them in top spot of the league at this point in the season.
The same evening the 2nd team were away, facing Loughborough Students on their home turf — not that their courts have much grass on them! Paul O’Hara got the Hinckley team off to a valuable 3-2 start, upsetting the rankings and only conceding one point in two of the games, including the last. It was good to see Dave Wood, back from injury, at 4, and although he managed to take a tight second game he lost out eventually 1-3. Heath Jennings and Danny Brown, both well out-ranked, then lost their games, after which it was down to Luke Parker, at 1. This was to prove another strength-sapping five-setter where Luke salvaged the fourth game 13-10 to stay in the hunt and then found the energy to power on to win the last, 11-6. Although overall it was another fixture lost, the 2nds did come away with 7 more team points.
The following evening, the 15th, the 3rds fielded a strongly ranked team to welcome Market Harborough 2nds to Maple Drive. Steve Durrant at 5 won his first game, then went two down but put in a great 4th to get that 9-1 and then went on to clinch his match, winning the final game 9-5. The remaining team members then went for broke and Paul O’Hara, Ben Daniel, Liam O’Hara and Duncan Anderson all won their games 3-0, providing a fine 20-2 overall team point score.
On the 16th, the 5ths were at home to Hermitage Leisure’s 3rd team and they maintained their recent momentum with a 5-0 clean sweep (Messrs Palmer, Parratt, Large each winning 3-0 and Solley and Durrant both 3-1) thereby delivering 20 team points. There was a modicum of controversy over some of the refereeing, plus one of their players was hit with a ball and one of ours with a racket (both encounters involving a certain Tim ‘McEnroe’ Solley) but that apart the 5th’s impeccable season continues. Just three more matches to go this half, all of which are away fixtures.
Three days later, on Sunday 19th, the 6th team were at home to New Parks 3rds. Captain Rory Long got matters off to a fine 3-0 start, only dropping two points — and both of those were in the first game. Matt Hardman dropped the first game of his match but came back strongly to win the second and third games 9-1, 9-0, then lost the fourth but took the fifth 9-4 for a 3-2 match win. Ato Stephens then produced another solid 3-0 win, dropping only five points over the three games. Dean was just edged out 8-10 in his first game but then took the second 9-1 before going down 1-3. At number 1, Dillwyn Rosser, in imperious form, won 9-6, 9-5, 9-0 to give the team a 4 ties to 1 win, and another valuable 18 team points.
On Monday 20th the 5ths were away to Huncote for a 6.50 pm start. It was mixed fortunes for Hinckley - Alan Palmer won his first game but then his opponent, who it was felt ought to have been playing higher in their team, won three in a row — the last really close at 8-10. Next up was Tim Parratt who won conclusively, only dropping eight points over the three games. Neil ‘Thumper’ Large dropped his first game but came back to win 3-1, without conceding a point in the last two games, and Tim Solley unfortunately lost out 1-3 to John Bows. The top game featured Ben Fenwick against the slightly higher-ranked Nimesh Purshottam. Although ably supported by his better half, Ben went two behind, but fought back strongly to take the third 9-6, then battled even harder to win the fourth 10-8. Somehow he found an inner strength just as his opponent lost concentration and took the all important last 9-6 and secured an overall 3 ties to 2 win that brought with it 16 team points.
On Tuesday 21st the 1st team were away to the University of Leicester and came away with a truly superb 5-0 match win that keeps their vision of a 6th consecutive league win in their sights. Rich Jackson, Oliver Holland, Guy Pearson, Chris Fuller and Adam Auckland all won their individual matches 3-0, thus securing 20 team points with none conceded.
That same evening the 2nds were at home to the Market Harborough. Joe Matharu got the home side off to a fine start with a 3-1 win. Dave Wood was next, still perhaps not fully fit, but he won the first and third games, then it went to 2-2 and a close fifth which just went to his opponent Alex Eales. Heath was on next and although he took the second game 12-10 he didn’t seem at his best and went down 1-3. Danny Brown then got the match back to all square with a fine 3-0 win against Steve Ward, an opponent whose ranking suggested a 725 point advantage. The top game featured Luke Parker against an old friend and former Hinckley player, Kevin Simpson, and it was Kevin who showed his class by taking the first game 11-9. That prompted Luke to better things, involving some very long strength sapping rallies that included some fine shots from both players but resulted in an eventual 12-10 second game score in favour of the home player. Luke then went on to win the final two games, the match 3 ties to 2 and a valuable team points victory of 17 to 8.
That night the 3rds were away at David Lloyds, keen to continue their good form of late. Ashley Fry was at 5 and although he won the first and fourth games to draw level at 2-2 he couldn’t manage the fifth, so went down 2-3. Paul O’Hara. at 4, then proceeded to blitz his way to a 3-0 win (9-1, 9-0, 9-1). He was followed by Ben Daniel who won the first two, lost the next two, but then pulled off his match victory 3-2. Next up was Liam O’Hara and he strove to another impressive 3-1 win before Duncan Anderson, at 1, came on court, proceeded to drop the first game, but then rallied, lifted his game and ended up a 3-1 winner. Altogether another fine win, that brought them 19 team points against their opponent’s 7.
The 3rds were in action again the following night (Wednesday 22nd) when they were on the road again, away at Charnwood - WERE THEY OR DiD THEY GO THERE ON 1st NOVEMBER
On Wednesday 22nd the 4ths were at home to Desford and this proved to be a comfortable 5 ties to 0 win (and 20 team points to nil) for the home team, all of whom had considerable more ranking points than their opponents. John Trainer at 5, Steve Durrant at 4, Tim Steele at 3, Ben Wood at 2 and Liam O’Hara at 1 each had 3-0 victories..
On Sunday 26th the 6th team were due to receive Leicestershire Tennis’ 4th team at Maple Drive but as their visitors were unable to raise a team and offer a viable alternative in the required timeframe, the 6ths claimed the result with 20 team points to nil, and theoretical 3-0 wins for Martyn Davies, Ato Stephens, Jonny Sprigens, Paul Purser and Dillwyn Rosser. In spite of the non-event, the 6ths all turned up and treated the occasion as a practice session with dinner to follow!
The following Tuesday (the 28th) the 1sts had an important home game vs Market Harborough, one of the main contenders for the division title. Jackko put out a strong team for this match and in no time at all he, Ollie Holland and Guy Pearson won their ties, each chalking up 3-0 wins. The second string game featured Chris Fuller against our old friend Kevin Simpson and although Kev showed occasional touches of brilliance his fitness wasn’t what it used to be and he too eventually went the way of his team mates, losing 3-0. That just left the top match and the few people that turned out to watch Adam Auckland play Jamie Haycocks will remember it for a long time — superb was just a massive understatement ! It took off at an intense pace, Jamie showing his class and squeezing ahead to take the first 11-9. Adam then found his A-game and fought back to take a strength-sapping second 14-12 and then went ahead after an equally close and tough third, 13-11. However, Jamie wasn’t finished and confidently took the fourth 11-6 and it was then all to play for. There followed some excruciatingly long rallies but gradually Adam got the upper hand and eventually won the fifth and last 11-4. An important win that put 20 team points in the bag!
That same night saw the 2nds on another long drive to-Daventry to take on the Northamptonshire County side. Dave Wood opened the batting and although he took the second, the back injury niggles returned and he was eventually undone 1-3. Paul O’Hara’s newly elevated squash Levels saw him placed above Mr Wood and rising to the occasion he despatched his opponent 3-0: the beaming grin that followed was the highlight of the night. Opponents well above the level of Messrs Jennings and Brown (at 3 and 2) saw to it that no team points went Hinckley’s way, though Luke Parker at 1 then eased majestically to a 3-0 victory. It resulted in a 7 team points haul, though with less than 20 points separating 5th to 9th in the Division 1 table, the ‘ irst half' could end with the 2nd team sat mid table. Their final game before the break will be a big one !
On Wednesday 29th the 3rds were away to Leicester Tennis 2 and they produced one of their best wins todate, everyone winning 3-0 except for Liam O’Hara (at 2) who had a right scrap with Adam Popowicz. Liam lost the first 9-10, blitzed the second 9-0, edged the third 10-9, lost the fourth 9-4 but then produced something special to win the match 9-6 in the fifth and in doing so ensured the team came away with 20 points. Tim Steele won at 5 (9-0, 9-6, 9-2), Ashley Fry at 4 (9-2, 9-0, 9-0), Paul O’Hara at 3 (9-1, 9-2, 9-0) and Duncan Anderson at 1 (9-4, 9-2, 9-1). A fine result.
That same evening the 5ths were away to David Lloyd’s 3rd team. This was a lot closer than it should have been! Their captain’s return from injury at 5th string brought a straight forward 3-0 win. On the next court, Alan Palmer began a hectic battle between his opponent, his head and the referee, fortunately gaining control for a 3-1 victory. Neil Large stepped up with a niggling knee injury and despite close games lost only his first match of the season. The first string match saw another injured player in Tim Solley roll his ankle and go down 3-0. So it was down to Tim Parratt to guide them home. That was the plan but at 2-2 the nerves started jangling, however, being an athlete does have its advantages and ultimately Tim was the hero of the night by winning the last game 9-7 to give them another precious win and 15 points.
So, it was into December and the last few matches before the half-season break. On Sunday 3rd December the 6ths were at home to New Parks 2 and it proved to be another confidence boosting 5 ties to 0 result. Martyn Davies, Matt Hardman, Dean Murrell, Jonny Sprigens and Paul Purser (at 1) each recorded 3-0 victories that earned the full 20 team points for the occasion. What was especially remarkable was that Martyn only conceded a total of 2 points, Matt 4, Dean and Jonny 6 each and Paul 11 ! This result left them at the top of Division 5, some 20 points clear of Huncote 2nds in second place. Quite remarkable — well done guys !
On Monday 4th December the 3rds played their final game of the first half of the season away against Hermitage 2nds, and this turned out to be a very different affair to their game the previous Wednesday, this time losing 5 ties to 0 rather than winning 5-0. Admittedly our team was out-ranked in four out of the five matches, and although they battled hard (and long in two instances) the wins would just not come. Gary Goddard and Steve Durrant (at 5 and 4) both went down 0-3; Ashley Fry won his first two games but then couldn’t hold his opponent; Dave Wood at 4 fought well but he too lost 0-3 and at 1 Paul O’Hara also won the first two games but went down 2-3, leaving them with only 4 team points to show for their hard graft. They go into the half-way break in 2nd place in Division 3, but are likely to drop to third as they are only two points ahead of Rugby Stags who have a game in hand.
On Tuesday 5th December the 1sts played their final game of the first half, away at Hermitage. Team captain Rich Jackson was first up and although he lost the first two games he got it back to 2-2 only to narrowly lose the fifth 13-11. Owain Taylor, Lewis Walters and Chris Fuller (at 4, 3 and 2 respectively) all out-ranked their opponents and each collected three team points without reply. The top match featured Adam Auckland and James Wright. The first two games were very tense and close, Adam edging them 12-10 and 16-14 before going on to complete his victory 11-6 in the third and in so doing ensured a 19-3 points win that left them 22 points clear at the top of the Leagues at the half-way point and seemingly on course to win the 1st Division Trophy for the 6th year in a row.
That same evening the 2nds played their final game before the break, at home to Leicester Squash. It promised to be a really tough clash, however, even though their opponents had their injury problems and arrived without their top players, the depth of talent available at the London Road club meant their strength was still formidable. First up, though somewhat out of sorts, Joe Matharu battled and won the third but could not overcome a quick and precise Rob Dalby. Ben Daniel stepped in for still not-quite-fit Dave Wood and although on paper the squash levels suggested a close game, Ben’s regular 1st Division opponent proved too good, and he lost 0-3. Heath Jennings at 3 was out-ranked by approx 1000 points and Dan Brown at 2, by close to 700, and although both fought hard, Heath went down 1-3 and Dan, ever the 110% team player, ran his socks off scoring well in each game but came off court with nothing to show for a supreme effort. Finally, up stepped Luke Parker and proceeded to make a game for all the supporters who had stayed the course and in doing so secured three of the five team points that were gained that night. The team go into the Christmas break lying 8th (of 10) in the Division and it is to be hoped that this will give time for Dave to recover, and if they are really lucky, they might just see the return of Andy Beel from injury to boost their chances in the new year.
The 4ths final game before the seasonal break found them at home to New Parks on 6th December. It didn’t start well because although Gary won the third game of his match, that was as good as it got. Andy Harvey got off to a flyer, taking the first two games of his match, but then his opponent promptly took the remaining three, leaving us two down with three to play. Steve Durrant did his bit to remedy matters by winning 3-1, and he was followed by Ben Wood at 2, winning 3-0 and leaving the match in the balance at 2-2. To round the evening off Liam O’Hara then produced his ‘A’ game to win 3-0 and give the team 17 points which secured them a very commendable 3rd place in Division 3 at the halfway point.
That same evening found the 5ths travelling away to play Abbey who are based at New Parks Leisure, in the knowledge that they could go into the break at the top of Division 4 if they could somehow manage to win this fixture. The omens were not good however, as the team they faced out-ranked each of our players. Dean Murrell got away to a good start by winning the first game, but his opponent clawed his way back to win 3-1. It was a similar story with Alan Palmer: he won his first game 9-1 but then went down 9-2, 9-1, 9-2. Paul Purser’s game was the closest, wining the first and fourth games before missing out in the fifth. Tim Parratt wasn’t able to contribute any team points on this occasion and in the top game, even Ben Fenwick wasn’t able to activate his mojo, going down 1-3 after winning the first. So, they could only manage 5 team points against Abbey’s 20 on the night, which, with a total of 145 points, leaves them 7 points adrift of Abbey of the top of Division 4. Nevertheless, a fine all-round effort lads!