Where was Amy?

Team selections dominated the match against Radlett this week. Radlett brought in a youngster at 1 to strengthen whilst Chantry were weakened by Mark’s repeated absence.  Carl had hinted on WhatsApp at the appearance of a new recruit called Amy but sadly despite high hopes she didn’t make an appearance so James and Will The Wall joined Carl, Vinh and Paul.

As usual for away games, Chantry for first there and were admiring their new online / touchscreen booking system before the home team deigned to put in an appearance.

Will got us underway against Jamie and rapidly built up a healthy 7-2 lead in the first game.  Unfortunately at that point Will seemed to hit The Wall and it was all downhill from there as Jamie started to move better winning the first game 15-10.  Will’s best efforts to bamboozle his opponent with unorthodox shots were to no avail and Jamie was able to close out the next two games pretty easily 15-9, 15-10.

On the other court James took on Andew at string 5, with both players revelling in unorthodox, bizarre and sometimes downright dangerous squash!  This wasn’t a match for the purist but was certainly entertaining to watch (preferably from behind the sofa!).  An epic first game finally went to James 17-15 but the effort he put into that game meant that James needed rest so he spent the second game largely standing around at the back of the court, going down 15-6.  Refreshed from that rest, James can out fighting and even running in the 3rd – edging ahead and staying there to take it 15-13.   Time for James to take another rest, but Andrew is also getting tired but he can still take it convincingly 15-9.  Into the 5th and deciding set and both players are looking jaded and the squash is largely played in slow motion.  It’s nip and tuck for most of the game but eventually Andrew finds just enough to edge into the lead and James hasn’t got anything more to give and loses the final game 15-12.  But definitely an improvement over last week by James – and the coaching sessions haven’t started yet!

String #3 is Paul up against Jillian (wife of Andrew).  By now the court is getting pretty warm which suits Jillian’s game which is focused around good retrieving of the ball.  She builds up a bit of a lead in the first game before Paul starts to vary his game and put in some classic left-hander boasts and cross-courts and Jillian fades to concede the game 15-9.  Buoyed by this, Paul thinks he’s found the tactics needed to win this match but Jillian’s clearly been given some good advice in the break between games and changes her tactics, picking off the ball early and anticipating Paul’s boasts and everything starts to go wrong for Paul and he collapses to lose the game 15-5.  Vinh’s advice to Paul is that he should be playing more straight drops as Jillian is getting stuck at the back.  Unfortunately that doesn’t work – not least because Paul seems incapable of playing a decent drop shot and Jillian keeps retrieving them and playing lovely straight forehand drives from the front right.  Another game goes to Jillian easily 15-7 and she is very much on top now.  Vinh repeats his advice to keep on dropping but early in the 4th game Paul decides that’s crap advice and starts to drive to a better length and all of a sudden the match swings back his way and he takes the match into a decider with a 15-9 win.  Last week Paul managed to win in the 5th, could he repeat it this week?  Despite some rather dodgy calls by the marker, the decider is tight all the way to 10 but then Paul plays a boast for a 12-10 lead but the ball just catches the top of the tin.  Two rallies later, Jillian also boasts and this time the ball just clears the top of the tin and she has a 13-11 lead.  Another tight drive gives her 3 match points.  Paul digs deep and saves 1 match point after another and levels it again at 14-14.  But a great retrieval in the back corner gives Jillian another match point and this time she converts it to take a very tight game 16-14 and, with it, the match.

Meanwhile Vinnie is also engaged in a marathon against Ian.  Both players are showing off their silky squash skills and the first game is tight but Ian takes it 15-13, the second goes to VInnie 16-14 and now he’s firmly on top as Ian seems to have lost the plot and isn’t reading Vinh’s shots as we wins a very comfortable game 15-4.  But Ian comes out fighting in the 4th (perhaps he’d taken a tactical tip from James and was having a rest in 3rd?), but Vinnie is still up and he has a match point at 14-13 but Ian won’t give up and fights to save the point.  Vinnie’s head goes down a little and Ian wins the next two points to take the match into the decider.  After a pep talk in the break, Vinnie shows real desire and quickly pulls into a lead as Ian begins to tire.  At last a win for Chantry with a score of 15-9 to Vinnie in the 5th.

Can Carl make the night respectable as he goes on court with young Luke (well he’s young compared to the rest of us!).  It’s pretty clear in the warm-up that Luke has a good technique and natrual squash ability, despite this being his first season of team squash.  As soon as the match starts it’s also clear that Luke’s bloody fast around the court and Carl quickly concludes that he’s not got a chance and subsides 15-8.  Despite attempts by his team-mates to encourage Carl to push and try to find chinks in the armour, he’s already decided he’s going to lose but does at least prove to be consistent and also loses the next two games 15-8.

So a 5th loss on the trot for Chantry and we’re now firmly in the lower half of the table but are only 5 points behind Radlett who are up to 3rd and have played the same number of games as us – so there’s hope left.

No game for two weeks – hopefully we’ll be back up to full strength for the visit of Allenbury’s and maybe Amy will put in an appearance!



A Tale of Two Climates

After the Christmas and New Year break, Chantry were back in action at Haileybury in a re-arranged fixture – how would the team fare after the excesses of Christmas and New Year?

For unclear reasons, only court two was available at 7:30, so James, still suffering the after-effects of a Christmas cold, was first on against Rob.  Unfortunately it was quickly pretty clear that James had had a good helping of brussel sprouts with his Turkey and lost the first game 15-9.  In the break James complained it was pretty cold on the court and he couldn’t get warm.  We all stated the bleedin’ obvious – run around more!  Clearly that was pretty poor advice as James barely troubled the scorers from that point, losing the next games 15-2, 15-7.

Not a great start, could John do any better against Julian.  John certainly started brightly, building up a decent lead in the first game but then Julian, who has been playing team squash for aeons, started to bring his experience and court nous to bear, fighting back to take the first game 15-12.  John wasn’t going to quit quite as easily as James and came out fighting again in the 2nd.  This time he didn’t let Julian get back at him and took the game 15-10. Chantry on the scoreboard at last!  Unfortunately, whoever ‘coached’ John at the end of that game didn’t do a very good job as Julian rattled off the 3rd game convincingly 15-4.  The 4th game was better but Julian never let John get in control and took it 15-11 for a 3-1 win and put Haileybury in a strong position.

Meanwhile Paul has got changed and put on his trusty old Chantry Squash Club sweat-top because it’s so cold on court.  But now court one is available for his match – and it’s roasting on there!  No problem with keeping warm on this court and the sweat-top comes off pretty quickly.  Paul is up against Ashley, who has been around for quite a while but haven’t played each other before.  Both players are not quite as svelte as they were before Christmas but both do a half-decent impression of a  left-handed squash player.  The first game is tight all the way through to 10-10 and then Paul pulls away with a few good serves and closes it out 15-11.  In the second, Ashley realises that Paul is also left-handed and adapts his game and is in control of the game – although it ends up quite tight as Paul comes back but Ashley takes it 15-11.  The third also finishes 15-11, with Paul winning his second game as he starts to catch Ashley with sharp cross-courts to the backhand corner.  In the fourth both players start to make mistakes and Paul starts to tire and tries too many dropshots – in that heat anything but a perfect drop is easily retrieved.  Realising his mistake, Paul reverts to drives to the back (and sometimes the corner too) and pulls it back to 11-11, before Ashley gets a couple of nice nicks to help him take the game 15-12.  So into the decider and now it’s Ashley getting tired and Paul remembers to avoid drops as much as possible.  Cross-court drives are increasingly escaping Ashley’s reach and Paul takes the match with a 15-10 win in the final game.

Over on the artic court 2, Vinnie is playing Adam.  VInnie has been promoted to string 2 now that his arm is better and he’s got his form back.  But it’s looking like a promotion too far in the first game as he loses 15-12 but Vinnie starts to find his rhythm and takes the 2nd game 15-8.  But then Adam starts to play the conditions.  VInnie is playing his usual classic squash game of straight drives – but it’s so cold it’s nearly impossible to hit the ball to the back of the court so Adam is intercepting nearly every drive and dropping the ball at the front where it dies long before Vinnie can get off his heels.  In the whole game the ball only hits the back wall 5 times and Vinnie can’t wait to get off court after being embarressed 15-3.  In the break, Vinnie is told in no uncertain terms to stop trying to play drives and start playing dropshots.  Immediately the match swings with Vinnie back in the game and he takes the fourth 15-10 to even things up.  He also starts well in the fifth, building up a solid lead but then, inexplicably, stupidly, crazily, starts to revert to type and is driving the ball again.  Adam takes advantage and starts to pull it back but at the last Vinh puts in a few killer drops and takes the game 15-13 and with it the match.

So the evening is level at 2-2 as Carl takes on Graham on mediterranean court 1.  Both players start off running around a lot and trying to playing good squash with mixed success.  It certainly looks like a post-Christmas game!  Graham shows a bit more application than Carl and wins the first two games 15-10, 15-12 so it’s not looking good for Chantry.  In contrast to the advice to Vinnie on the other court, Carl is encouraged to stop playing dropshots and focus on keeping the ball tight in the back corners.  Sure enough a change in tactics here helps too – Carl takes the third game 15-10, being in control the whole way.  Into the fourth and it looks like the pendulum has swung completely to Chantry as Graham clearly gives up and hands Carl an easy 15-3.  But it’s soon clear that Graham was giving himself a rest in that game and comes back fighting in the fifth.  It’s nip and tuck all the way – and the squash has improved too.  Carl is ahead but then Graham gets a couple of nice nicks to take a  14-11 lead.  Carl saves all 3 match points to level things up at 14-14 and it’s a tie-break to decide the last game of the last match.  A fitting finale to a good series of matches.  Unfortunately Carl’s efforts in saving those match points takes it out of him and he can’t save the next one and loses 16-14 – but a brave effort.

So Chantry start 2017 with a loss and are now firmly mid-table. But next week we’re at Radlett who we beat in the first half so perhaps we can break this run of 4 losses on the trot!