Summer Ups and Downs

The First team for the first match of the Summer 2014

Stefan, Gareth, Paul, Elliott, Rob.

Drama! No footballing injury for Elliott this week – he was fine and raring to go. It was Paul who had been on his sick-bed – days of D&S (as he put it) meant he was doubtful but fortunately he felt better on Thursday after receiving a Pepler pep-talk (he was needed!). Chris was playing in the Wellington championships during the week and if he won the Semi on Wednesday, he would not play Thursday as the final was on Friday. So the text duly arrived Wednesday evening confirming he had been successful and the call went out to Dog v1 to advise him that he needed to step up from the seconds.

All of this made no difference to their performance of course as they are well used to winning and continued their run – even Mr Barker, who despite the trauma he had experienced during the week managed to find some reserves in the tank to win 3~2. As did Elliott on his return – as did Rob at 5. Stefan had another great win at 1 and Gareth picked up a game at 2. A fantastic 18 points to start the season.

Sadly the seconds were somewhat weaker than I had hoped they might be when I wrote my first mail. The final team line-up was:

Phil, Zul, Tom, Mac and Jonny

Every one of the second team’s opponents in Div 2 this Summer are first teams so every match will be tough. Thursday’s match against Windsor 1 was one-sided, with just Phil picking up a game. There will be better days, I am sure.

The thirds were also inevitably weakened but gave a good account of themselves against Burghfield. The team:

Rob W, Phil, Adrian, Stephen and Dave Wroe

The thing to note about this team is that it may well have been the oldest team that has ever represented Hart. I don’t keep these stats, but given a cumulative age of 283 (an average of 56) I think it’s a fair shout!

The youngest of the team, Rob, a mere 49 picked up a game, Phil had a super match (MotM) pushing his young opponent all the way but just missed out as his legs tired in the 5th. Adrian won 3~1, Stephen played the most awkward player in the Burghfield line-up, and Dave had a good 3~1 win at 5. So the old boys did OK, all-in-all and picked up 9 valuable points.

Festive Cheer for Hart Teams

Last match before Santa arrives: the 1st team v University 1 (away)

1) Stefi 2) Damo 3) Chrissie 4) Gary 5) Robbo

Things kicked off a little later than planned…. Stefan was driving up from Cornwall, Chris was going to be late from the City and the Uni number 5 thought it was an away match and was heading to Hart! Could we fit 5 games into just over 2 hours?
Damon up first against his drinking buddy Dan Ford… This match was a game of attrition and in typical Damon style and tradition, it went to 5 games.  Eventually, Damon took the fifth and the match 3-2.
Gareth was playing youth again (not as young as the previous match) so when the student finally arrived, he had probably just got out of bed. Gareth played well enough to keep his opponent under wraps. Despite losing the second game, Gareth ran away with it and a good 3-1 win.
Chris realised that time was pressing and as he wanted to stay for the Chinese (who wouldn’t!), decided to get his game finished as quick as possible.  A short time later, Chris won 3-0 and as there was no sweating, Chris did not need a shower.
Rob split his match into 3 parts:
Part 1: deciding to use a third court to get the match in, started on court 3.  Rob started at a fast pace and took the first fairly comfortably. His opponent changed tactic and decided to start lobbing and dropping, to the delight of Rob, who slipped into “I hate this type of squash” mode and lost the second. Then we were kicked off the court as it was pre-booked by some young tax-dodging students.
Part 2: Once Chris had finished on court 1 (a slightly colder court), some 15 minutes later, Rob increased the pace and decided to take lobs out of the equation… it worked and took a 2-1 lead…. then the ball burst.
Part 3: Some 5 minutes later when a new ball was found and it was warmed up…  Rob did not ease off the pace and won the final game.  A Good 3-1 win.
Last up was Stefan.  Pre-match, Stefan was talking bagels… whether this was what he wanted to inflict on his opponent or snacks in the car on his journey to Cornwall and back.  To the dismay of a hungry and thirsty crowd, Stefan with a mix of complacency and a shoe malfunction, managed to let this go 5 games.  To be honest his opponent fought well, but sometimes Stefan’s feet and SHOES kept letting him down.  In the end Stefan came good and took the fifth and we all buggered off up the Chinese for a banquet!
Overall a 5-0 win (20-6)
MotM – Tough one… as we all won.  However for getting his match won quickly and ensure we got to the Chinese on time… MotM goes to Chris.  Not that Chris was the only one to win 3-0!

Everyone have a great Christmas and New Year.  I hope Santa Claus brings you everything you put on your Christmas list. Otherwise be festive, so eat and drink too much!

On the same evening, the 2nd team took on Marlow 2 at home:

1- Phil,  2- Dogv2,  3- Elliott,  4- Simon,  and 5- Tom

First to arrive Simon greeted who he thought was the waiting opposition on the balcony. “No I’m from University” was the reply. Sorry buddy but the firsts are playing away tonight and off he trotted to lob and drop Dogv1 some hours later

HLC was chilly and Simon got the match started against a leftie. A short time later and 3-0 to the good Simon was back on the balcony marking Elliott (see below) having barely broken sweat.

Dogv2 had the warmest court but his bandana-wearing middle-aged opponent looked like he simply couldn’t be bothered. Dogv2 was merciless and also rattled off a rather dull 3-0 win.

Elliott started with a first game bagel, conceding only one serve. It was beginning to look like a 9 pm arrival at the pub, when oddly, at 3-0 up in the second Elliott also went in to “can’t be bothered” mode. A very tight second game ensued which included perhaps the worst serve I have ever seen. Elliott’s opponent attempted to hit a bodyline serve but chose his own body by mistake.  Much to the amusement of the gallery, had the serve not been out it would have been a stroke! Anyway Elliott won the second 10-9 and then his game completely collapsed.  Drop-shots barely made it beneath the service line, mis- hits and conceded strokes were aplenty. About an hour later after much swearing and racket abuse Elliott finally capitulated 10-9 in the fifth

Phil, dressed in rather loud orange shorts, made slightly heavy weather of his game but came through a 3-1 winner.  Can’t say much more about this one as I was too busy freezing my nuts off marking Elliott’s cliff-hanger.

Tom was last up and he made short work of his opponent coming through 3-0.

Overall a 4-1 (19-4) win for Hart seconds.

Special mention that Mac was there supporting us all the way.

Motm :- not Phil – lost a game and had foul-coloured shorts, not Dogv2 as his opponent couldn’t be bothered, not Elliott as he lost, not Tom as he was late. Could have given it to Mac for his support, but goes to Simon as nobody else worthy

 

 

 

 

Mixed Results – Nerve-racking climax!

Second Team Match at home to Bounty 2

I was hoping one of the team would have reported this match because there were 3 highly entertaining matches worthy of a report. I would like Zul, Tom, Elliot, Paul, and Mac to vote on their man of the match for this one…

The team: Paul,  Elliott,  Zul,  Tom, &  Mac

Here’s the story. Elliot injured his hand on Monday and could not hold a racket, I eventually found a replacement (Damon who played in the first team), meaning that Paul dropped down to play in the seconds. Then Simon rang on Thursday to say he was suffering and after he called Elliott, decided that Elliott was in a better state than him. Its the “Okey Cokey” thing!

Paul went on first and demolished his opponent 3~0.

On the other court, Ol’ Seafarer Cap’n May took was not finding it so easy. It was a pretty even match, but Tom, for all his effort found himself 0~2 down, 9~7, 9~7, but it was clearly a match where there was still hope. True to form, Tom came back and edged the third 9~7. The fourth was no different, except it was even tighter, went to 8~8 – both players were still playing high tempo squash, but Tom just seemed to hold his nerve at these crucial points a bit better. He took the game 10~8 to make it 2~2 and then the decider. No different, no quarter given, but Tom managed to nick it 9~7. “CLOSE” was an understatement – in racing parlance, he won by a whisker.

How was Elliott getting on? Well, remember, not only a bad hand but also recovering from an injured Achilles. He could be forgiven for taking it easy. Indeed, it was a slow start, the first 2 games were lost, but in true Elliott style, he fought back to win the next 2. However, it was not to be – the fifth got away from him and it was a 3~2 defeat.

Mac’s mind was not on squash. Not content with moving out of one house, he goes one step further than most and moves his mother too!. A busy weekend ahead, and the performance on the night was not the usual one you get – and his 0~3 defeat, meant that it was 2~2 and all on Zul. A very similar scenario to the thirds!

Zul was playing well, against an opponent of similar standing – reflected by the score in the first two games – 5~9, 9~5. Zul picked up the pace in the third and comprehensively outplayed his opponent, winning 9~0. Even-stevens again in the 4th and difficult to see which way it was going until from 7~7, Zul’s opponent picked up 2 more points. All square then going into the last. Again tight, and Zul was pushing the boundaries of his fitness – fortunately he did not quite go over edge and came from 7~6 down to win it 9~7.

An excellent win to start off the season.

The third team were also at home – to Greenacre 2, and the team: Rick, Adrian, Chris, Kerry & Cate

What a night! What a week…… I am giving myself 11 out of 10 for effort! Finding 15 players to play on the night was pretty difficult and I don’t want another week like that – more to the point the third team remained strong and came within a whisker of beating Greenacre.

Up first Cate and Adrian. I did not see a single shot of Cates game but when I came off she was beaming. An excellent 3~1 win gave Hart a great start. Unfortunately Greenacre leveled things up with a defeat for me – Kerry said he was impressed with a couple of my shots – but there were too many that did not come off and despite a gargantuan effort to win the second, it was a 3~1 defeat.

Kerry took over from Cate and within about 60 seconds was 2 games down – 9~0, 9~0. Not at the races, so Elliott gave his Dad a “talking to” and it worked, or else it was divine interference, because KS then went on to win the next 3 fairly comfortably.

Rick had the task of winning at one – poor old Rick!! No 1 in Div 2A – that is a tough role, but Rick was still smiling. He did OK, but his opponent was better, and it was a 3~0 loss.

Down to the wire then – 2~2 and young Chris making his comeback thrown in at the deep end, up against a very experienced Scottish International lady vet. It was going to be tough, but Chris played out of his skin. 9~6 9~6 he won the first two and Hart 3 was on the brink of a startling victory, their first match in Div 2! Could he keep it going? Answer: yes he could – he got to 8~3, match ball, but then he hit the buffers. He was tired, understandably so – and that 1 point was so elusive, it never came. The Scottish vet used her experience, dug in and did all the right things, taking advantage of Chris’s tiredness and his lesser experience. She won the game and the next 2, and Hart missed out by a point. Never has “So near and yet so far” been so true. Chris, well done – a fabulous effort. Hope you have a good weekend.

9 points then – not a bad return in the circumstances – and it certainly offers us confidence that Hart 3 can compete at this level.

Finale of a Successful Season?

There was so much to anticipate on the last day of a very successful Winter season. The firsts could retain their status in the Premier Division, the Seconds could win automatic promotion to Div 1 and the thirds could win their division….. Read on……..The first team was at Windsor – a win would be good!

The team: 1) Phil  2) Damon  3) Stefan  4) Stuart  5) Chris

Unfortunately it did not go according to plan – Windsor had a strong side out and Phil (our banker) was injured! Despite the injury, he still picked up a game.

Damon played well at 2 and just lost out in the 5th. Stefan and Stuart did exactly the same – picking up 2 games but unable to convert the 5th into a much needed victory. Chris was up against a strong no. 5 and the key game was the 3rd which he lost 9~8 and went 2~1 down. He was unable to get back in to the match and lost 3~1

The team therefore picked up 8 points that was incredibly disappointing but they then learned that Greenacre had been thrashed by Charters. Hart 1 and Greenacre both finished on 140 points and the disappointment was compounded because Hart was relegated on count-back, having won 1 less match over the season than Greenacre.  What a bitter pill to swallow!

For the second team the equation was simple… win and win by more than 9 points against the current leaders – University – and we were champions….. The team:

1) Gareth Sutton  2) Rob Barker  3) Paul Kemsley  4) Simon Wood  5) Phil Rea

Gareth was on first against Dan Ford… A useful opponent who always gives 100%.  Gareth took no prisoners and played some sublime squash. His opponent was no match and Gareth dominated the match conceding only 5 points. 9-2, 9-2, 9-1.  Good start 3 points to Hart.

Phil was in an equally dominating mood, however he was up against Sophie.  A good solid performance and another 3 points to Hart… 3-0 victory for Hart.

Next up Simon… However Simon was not reading the correct script.  9 unforced errors in the first game, gave away the first game to his opponent.  There were fewer errors in the second game but the trend did not change and suddenly Simon was 2-0 down.  A good fight back in the 3rd… however Simon could not get any more… and lost the game 3-1.

Paul meanwhile was having one of those up and down matches. Complaints of tonsillitis were heard, as to why the performance was indifferent.  Paul won the first, Lost the second, won the third, lost the fourth…. finally managing to grab the little stamina left.. to raise his game and win the fifth… 3-2 victory for Hart.

So that left things at Hart 15 – University 5.  With just Rob to go.

Rob raced onto court and left his opponent startled and won the first game 9-0.  (Hart 16 – University 5)….. His opponent seem to be struggling with an ankle injury, surely Rob could capitalise…  No, Rob fought hard but lost the next 3 games.  All very tight!!  3-1 defeat.

Overall a 3-2 win (16-8) but just not enough to claim top spot, so close. The consequence was that Hart 2 finished second and must now play-off against Beechdown in May to determine which team will be promoted to Div 1 next season.

The third team were up against Datchet – all they had to do was to win well and hope that Marlow picked up at least 4 points fewer than Hart in their tough match against Royal Berks.

Hart had its strongest team of the Winter: 1) Elliott  2) Paul B  3) Tom  4) Ashley  5) Rick

This turned out to be a straight-forward win, with the opposition being out of their depth and Hart were in no mood for any sympathetic concessionary games. All 5 matches ended 3~0 with Hart picking up 20 points.

Subsequently we discovered that Marlow had won but only 3~2 and the points were not sufficient to match or beat Hart.

This was the icing on the cake of the Hart season – winning the division. Fantastic and just rewards for great consistency throughout the season.

Congratulations to all who played in the team but particularly to those who played most  regularly in the team – Mac, Tom, Ashley, Phil and Rick.

Simons Reports on the Cup Matches Mch / April

Hot on the trail of success in the League Shield, Hart were looking to avenge their previous league defeats to Greenacre.  Knowing that a win would set us up with a semi-final clash with University expectations were high.

The team:- 1) Chris  2) Paul   3) Simon   4) Phil R  5) Elliott

Elliott and Simon were the first to arrive and we all stood around for a bit as the opposition only had their 1,2 & 4 present. (always the way). Cue the arrival of Phil sporting his RAF PE kit.

Phil started slowly and dropped the first game.  The Hart gallery, imagining that Phil was simply getting the measure of his opponent, were surprised when the second and then the third slipped away.  A disappointed Phil cited tired legs as the cause.

Simon (wondering whether he’d get through the game injury free) stormed in to a 9-0, 9-0 lead against his opponent.  On previous occasions, such dominance has led to an immediate slump in form for Simon, but despite a close third, Simon came through this game 9-7 and the tie was now level.

Chris played a tricky left-hander who’d beaten Paul in our previous encounter.  Chris dropped the first but as the match progressed, his relentless pursuit of the ball gradually wore his opponent down. His opponent became increasingly exasperated whilst Chris just got on with the job, winning in 4.

Twitterer Paul who’d been staring into his phone (a la Elliott) tweeting updates for the droves of @HartSquash followers, dropped his first game, had a bit of a leisurely good-humoured second, but lost that too and got angry!  The outburst did the trick and galvanised Paul into knuckling down.  He took the next 3 and won his match and the tie the hard way.

Last up was Elliott in the dead rubber.  A typical Elliott yo-yo game….. at 2 games to 1 down, Elliott found just enough to come through a scruffy encounter and win the final 2 games to make it a 4-1 win for Hart and a semi-final clash against University next month.

For the semi-final , there were a couple of absentees and despite a recent 3-2 win over University in the league, this match was poised to go either way.

The team:- 1) Gareth  2) Paul K  3) Simon  4) Phil R  5) Dog32

First up was Gareth against Dan Ford.  Gareth conceded a mere 5 points in their previous encounter and hopes were high of a repeat. The first 3 games were tight, Gareth falling behind 1-2 but Gareth came back strongly in the 4th taking it 9-2.  A tight final game just slipped away from Gareth 7-9 and Hart were one down.

Paul had a fast start against the other Dan and took a healthy lead in the first.  His opponent came back strongly though Paul just squeezed it 9-7.  Despite playing well, Paul didn’t have enough to overcome his tidy opponent and went down 3-1.

So at 2 rubbers down, the writing was on the wall and the tail-enders now what was required.

Cue Simon who raced to a 2-0 lead against his vertically-challenged opponent.  A few lobs, drops, drives and nicks and Simon was 7-2 up in the third.  Then a single marathon rally killed Simon’s legs, lungs and brain.  With the tank on empty in the 4th Simon put in little effort hoping to buy enough time to come out guns-a-blazing in the 5th, but his opponent wasn’t reading the script and Simon was unable to get back on top.  A disappointing 2-3 loss and the tie was over.

Dog32 was last on and hoping to restore some dignity to the side.  Dog went 2 games to 1 up, then dropped the fourth before playing a tight 5th which he lost 10-8 on the breaker.

In the dead rubber, Phil never got going in his match; his opponent picked up every ball that Phil hit and made few errors.  Phil succumbed in 3.

So there you have it – our Shield campaign over for another year, on reflection a good run for the club making it to the semi-finals.  Maybe we can go one better next year.