Charting a course to Victory

On May 12th Hart Squash first team paid a visit to Charters, the perennial winners of both the Summer and Winter competitions, but we planned to make life very difficult for them.

Paul took on Adrian Hayward at 5 and breezed to a 3-0 win. However the first was a  reasonably tight game, only made easier when Paul realised he needed to drop the ball short and the next 2 were significantly more comfortable.

At 3, Ash took the first game against Jamie by playing it fast and volleying. It was looking good, but he could not maintain the momentum and Jamie came back to win the next 3.
At the same time young Jayden was taking on Mike at 4, an awkward player of the first order (putting it nicely). This match was key to the overall result and at 2~1 down it was not looking good for Jayden but he maintained his cool, continued to play quality squash and gradually wore Mike down. The outcome was a fantastic 3~2 win against the odds.
Next on was Stefan against Hayden. Stefan was playing a very high pace, and winning a number of nicks and producing sumptuous drop shots – but his opponent matched him and took the first. It should have been 1~1 but Stefan took his foot off the gas and Hayden nicked the second.  Into the 3rd and Stefan went back to a strong attacking game which paid dividends but hayden closed out the match in the 4th to level the match score at 2~2.
All down to the first string match and Alex making his debut took on James. He was always in control, taking each game 11~8, giving Hart a famous victory – leaving the team top of the Berkshire League (after 2 games), looking down on the rest and Charters in the unheralded and unexpected position of 3rd.

Hart Firsts are Off and Running

The First Team at Home to Datchet:

1) Chris Locks v Andy
2) Gareth Sutton vs Brett
3) Paul Barker v Alex
4) Elliott Stanton vs Mark
5) Phil Rea v Matt

First on was Gareth, playing eldest son of squash legend Ross Norman, the man who ended Jahangir Khan’s 5 year unbeaten run with the World Open win in 1986.  Any comparisons to his dad stopped with the surname.  After taking the first 2 games with ease for the loss of 3 points, Gareth thought the job was done and didn’t come out of the starting blocks in the 3rd, giving the intermittent watchers on the balcony the impression that he was being severely punished.  Back on course in the 4th with a doughnut to wrap up an uneventful match, win 3-1.

Paul meanwhile was on the other court playing the younger son of Norman.  Alex was a stretched version of his brother and liked to run.  Paul started off trying to play his normal game of volleying and pushing Alex around.  The volleys and boasts weren’t quite as tight as they needed to be and Paul lost the first.  Paul then decided to change his game plan and try to outrally Alex up and down the walls.  This played into the hands of Alex who happily ran and rallied.  Both players got further back from the T all volleying pretty much stopped and who ever hit the best length won the point, which were won in 2 ways, either an un-returnable length, or a weak boast from a tight length that was then put away.  Paul hit more weak boasts and less good lengths over the course of the next 3 long games, loss 3-1.

Elliott took to court after Gareth against a veteran with very short shorts.  With the established game plan of spanking the ball to within an inch of its life, the pace was a little too much for the veteran and the first 2 games went quickly to Elliott.  The veteran was now warmed up after bending over to fetch the ball 18 times and showing some good court coverage and annoyingly soft hitting to the back of the court, forced Elliott into a hatful of errors to extend the match into a 4th game.  Brain was partially engaged for the 4th, and Elliott powered his way over the line, win 3-1.

Phil, back from the desert and resplendent in all the hi-vis kit that he’d been unable to wear whilst on duty, was playing a sunburnt looking youth in equally dazzling shoes.  The lack of court time and practice showed as Phil forgot everything he’d been coached and just concentrated on hitting the ball where Matt wasn’t.  This worked very nicely and Phil was showing some nice touch up at the front and soon had the first 2 games in the bag.  The legs were looking a bit tired as Phil got rallied out of the 3rd, by which stage the intermittent switching off of the lights was starting to annoy Matt.  Phil just about held it together to take the fourth 10-8.  Win 3-1, to the man in the hi-vis orange kit.

Chris went on last at 9.40pm, with the match still in the balance as Phil was still playing.  Chris was not full of confidence having been soundly beaten by Andy last time they’d played.  Andy had some nice dazzling shoes and likes to hit nice looking shots, but he doesn’t like to run too much.  Chris had been instructed to run like Forrest, and after the initial period of awe when he stood rooted to the spot and watched himself be wrong footed for a one sided first 5 points he started to run.  Chris ran, Andy tried more stupendous shots, the errors crept in and Chris took the 1st 10-8, the thumbs up from the balcony confirmed that the match was won.  The second followed a similar pattern and Chris took the 2nd by a similarly tight scoreline to the 1st.  Andy found a rich vein of reverse angles in the third that left Chris rooted to the spot.  So into the 4th, and pretty even at 5-5, time now 10.14, and the duty manager came onto court and told us all to leave.  Nobody was impressed, Andy said nothing, and then proceeded to hit 4 service returns in a row into the ceiling, Win 3-1.

So to open the winter campaign with Stefan and Damon missing, a good solid win 18-7. MOTM – close between Phil and Chris, but goes to Phil who carried the team over the finishing line, taking the pressure off Chris.

 

Close Call, but First’s Come Through

Todays team (Nov 29th) to try to get the better of Camberley was:
1) Stefan
2) Damon
3) Chris
4) Gareth
5) Rob
Rob went on first and was against an opponent who concentrated putting everything in the nick.  No it was not a Stanton in disguise.  Losing the first few points, mostly to nicks, Rob got a break… a break in his opponent’s strings.  There was no looking back and Rob dominated thereafter, sealing a comfortable 3-0 win.
Meanwhile Gareth was undergoing rigorous CRB checks against an under age opponent.  We did not want any Mr Saville reported incidents. Gareth was being quite cautious and gentle with his game.. Still there was a bagel after bagel after bagel.  Gareth wrapped up a one-sided match 3-0 and 27-0.
Damon was not really at the races. Despite winning the first game, he wasted lots of opportunities and was not really in the match.  Maybe the mind was elsewhere.. anyhow this resulted in a 3-1 defeat.
Stefan was playing a young 16 year old, so the key was to finish quickly and not let this turn into a marathon.  Stefan raced to a 2-0 lead… however the 16 year old kept running.. Stefan had match-point in the third, but a stunning dive (Gareth Bale like), kept the rally going and a tinned drop shot prevented this match from ending.  Stefan lost the third and fourth games..  and it was all down to the fifth.  Stefan tried hard but ultimately the 16 year old had the edge.. and a 3-2 defeat.
So 2 games all and down to Chris.  At this point, Chris gave himself the man of the match for winning the game.  A short time later.. Chris had wrapped up a 3-0 win.. and indeed did win the game and match.
Overall a 3-2 win (17-6)
MotM – For putting it out there and walking the walk, Chris for winning the game decider.

Foo Fighter Lends Firsts a Helping Hand

The team selected for this difficult clash against the Army on Nov 15th was:
1) Stefan
2) Chris
3) Gareth
4) Rob
5) Dave Grohl
With Dog3v2 pulling out at the last minute, it was left for us to find a last minute replacement.  Pulling into the Army car park (amazingly) the Foo Fighters tour bus was parked up and Dave Grohl (who could easily be mistaken for Dog 3v2!) was outside lighting up.  After signing an autograph, I asked him if he had ever played squash!  Funnily enough he played regularly and had some kit on the bus.  So he agreed to step in and replace pornstar Paul.
Having spent a “cold day in the sun “, Dave was “better off ” first on court.  “If ever ” we needed a win, it was against a strong “hell ” of an Army team.  This was a “back & forth ” tussle… which player was going to “breakout ” first?  At 2 games all and pending the deciding fifth, it looked like the “long road to ruin “.  But in “times like these ” it was the person who had the “wheels ” who was going to win..  Dave was getting tired and there was “no way back “, his opponent was in “overdrive “… Dave lost the final game and it was “over and out “.  3-2 defeat.
It was difficult to know if Gareth was enjoying his game..  I was too busy talking to the Foo Fighters and their groupies, so I missed most of Gareth’s game.  As it happens Gareth lost 3-1, but a point is a good point against this tough Army team who are top of the league.
As Dave showered and rejoined his band and groupies, Rob went on court.  The first two games could have gone either way.  His opponent getting a few lucky nicks at the right time.  Rob lost the first two games 9-7, 9-7.  However Rob suffered at the hands of the Army court.  At the start of the third game, a pulled thigh muscle, ending this match prematurely.  Rob conceding.
Meanwhile Chris was having a real battle against a very good opponent.  It really was an endurance battle.  Rally after rally.. Scramble after scramble.. This match went all the way to the fifth game.  Both players were playing really well.  In the end, a few too many tins cost Chris the match.  Still a good effort and a valuable 2 points.
Stefan up last, was trying to maintain his 100% win percentage.  Could Stefan manage this, knowing that he may (?) not be as fit as his Army opponent.  Well ,Stefan won the first and narrowly lost the second 10-9.  In the third, Stefan’s opponent had the same jinx, Rob had.  The fate of playing on that Army court.. His opponent suffering a knee injury and having to also concede – so miraculously it maintained Stefan’s 100% win percentage.
Overall a 4-1 defeat (17-8)
MOTM – I can’t give this to Stefan as his opponent conceded.  So I think it is down to Chris or Dave Grohl.  In the end it went to Dave Grohl for taking time out of his UK tour to play squash for Hart.

Great Comeback from the First Team

We know that squash is very low on the priority list for Fitness First but I am sure they could find some money to put into squash.  I wont mention the big hole in the door to the court or the severe lack of heating….

Anyway, the team:- 1) Stefan  2) Chris  3) Gareth  4) Rob  5) Phil

Rob’s worst fear was presented.. no I am not talking about “Cheaters” .. but cold courts and a guy who lobs and slices the ball. With no rhythm and no bounce, Rob struggled to get moving or doing anything.. Before long it was 3-0 and defeat.
Likewise Gareth on the other court was having similar problems and never got going. Gareth and Rob were doing a great impression of playing like Frosty The Snowman.  Gareth before long had also lost his match 3-0.
So 2-0 down, it was not looking good.
On went Phil (yet to win a match for the 1st team) and Stefan against a fast, skilful player.  However…..
Phil, after playing warm up matches at Camberley Arena and Camberley because all he was told was to go to Camberley…   was now in the mood…..
A complete transformation from 2 weeks ago.  Phil ran riot and dominated the match.. 3-0. The Hart comeback was on. Meanwhile Stefan, was having an up and down match.  Won the first, lost the second, won the third, lost the fourth.  Stefan knew he needed the win… many nicks later.. and GET IN THERE….. fist pumping .. Stefan deservedly took the match..
So now 2-2 and all down to Chris.
Chris having driven half the country to get there, was in no mood to mess around.   Running for everything and taking no prisoners, Chris was in total domination.. Finally sealing the match 3-0.
Overall a 3-2 win (14-8)
MOTM – Only one candidate in the frame… Has to go to Phil for his first win.