Ickleford march to top of league against Chantry

Chantry entered this match with high hopes after seeing that their opponents, Ickleford 1, had been crushed 20-1 by Nuffield the week before.  But it turned out that their #1 missed last weeks game but was back to face Chantry – what a difference a decent number 1 makes!  And this week, Mark has abandoned his team mates in favour of a few over-priced beers in London, so Ian is drafted in at 4 with Vinnie moving up to 3.  So Ickleford have their strongest side out against a weakened Chantry.

First up was Vinnie against Neil, so that he could get started on creating his latest culinary masaterpiece.  The first game was a marathon with many long rallies tiring out both players.  Vinnie slipped to 6-12 down but then momentum swung his way and he brought it back to 12-12 but then, at the critical time, his concentration wavered and a few mistakes later, he’d lost the game 12-15.  A quick pep-talk and Vinnie starts the next game well, it’s nip and tuck all the way through to 9-9.  Vinnie finds his next gear and Neil can’t keep up as Vinnie wins 15-11.  Much better, can Vinnie maintain the momentum this time?  He starts the third game well, going 5-2 up but then bad habits start to resurface and he lets his opponent catch-up and then overtake him as Neil starts to pick off Vinnie’s all too frequent loose shots. The fourth game follows a similar sequence with Vinnie pulling out a 5-1 lead only for Neil to power away to a 12-6 lead, ultimately taking the game 15-9 and the match 3-1.

On court 2 Paul was taking on Kevin, who had scored Ickleford’s sole point when playing at #1 last week.  The first game was very tight with Paul being caught out several times by Kevin’s retrieval of drop shots that looked destined to be winners, but in the end Kevin took the game 15-12.  The second game was equally tight to start with,  Paul then pulled into a decent lead as he stopped himself from hitting the leather off the ball and began to play a good length instead.  At 12-6 up Paul thought the game wass in the bag but then Kevin started to fight back and although Paul had a couple of game points he took it to a tie break.  As so often, Kevin relaxed now that he’d reached 14-14 and gave away a couple of easy points to let Paul win the game 16-14.   At the start of the third game Paul resolved to stop playing drop shots as that was clearly just playing to Kevin’s strengths, this new tactic worked (although some drop shots were just too tempting to miss) and Paul ran out a 15-9 winner.  Onto the fourth game and Paul forgets about playing to a good length and starts belting the ball again, letting Kevin back into the game.  Luckily Paul realises what he’s doing wrong and reins himself in again and gets ahead once more and closes out the match with a 15-13 win.

Evenly poised after the first two matches.  Next up was John Grieve at #5 playing another John – always fun for the marker when that happens!  Luckily Chantry John wasn’t messing about and dominated his opponent from the start.  It was all over before it had really started with Chantry’s #5 winning comprehensively 15-8, 15-12, 15-7.

At the same time our new number 4, Ian was making his winter team debut against Rich.  Unfortunately, Rich turns out to be a pretty awkward opponent with lots of tricksy drop shots but not a great deal else – but that’s enough against the inexperienced Ian who hasn’t seen enough team squash yet to be able to adapt his game to an unknown opponent and he loses 12-15, 9-15, 12-15.  At least Ian will learn from the experience and come back stronger next time (we hope!).

So going into the final pairing, the match is exactly balanced with all to play for in the #1 match between Carl and Tom – back in the team again after missing last week.  The game starts well with both players hitting their stride from the outset and playing good tight drives but Carl is making a few too many mistakes which Tom capitalises on and takes the game 15-13.  In the 2nd, Carls’ head goes down and so does the ball all too frequently as he scrapes a meagre 7 points.  It’s a long way back from here but Carl starts pretty well in the 3rd before going a bit behind.  Then he plays some lovely squash and works his way back into the game.  At 12-13, Carl gets lucky with a beautifully mishit dropshot – maybe his luck is in!  But the very next rally, fortunes are reversed as Tom gets lucky himself with a very dodgy shot off the frame to give himself match-point.  Carl saves that to take it to a tie break but can’t hold on as Tom wins 16-14 to take the match 3-0 and secure the bonus points for Ickleford.  Those 5 points are enough to take Ickleford back above Nuffield to the top of the league.  Afterwards, Tom let’s slip that he can’t make the next two matches either – just our luck to get the one week they’ve got a full strength side.

Had Chantry been at full strength it might all have been different, but this loss means we slip into the bottom half of the table – hopefully Mark’s feeling guilty now!

Vinnie’s Madras Curry goes down a treat – although Carl is disappointed at the number of second and third helpings being taken, leaving him slim pickings for his “doggy box”.

Next week, it’s another home game, this time against Berkhamsted who are above us in the table – so an opportunity for us to climb back up the table – otherwise we could be slipping further down.  The match starts at 7:30pm on Tuesday – if you get a chance, come down to support your club team!