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!


Leprechaun brings Chantry no luck at Luton

A long trek to Luton (in Bedfordshire!) for the latest Herts league fixture for the Chantry First team.  For the first time in over 9 years, Dave Baldwin was back representing Chantry in a special guest appearance.  For the extra-nerdy reader – Dave’s last appearance for Chantry was on 13th November 2007 – as string 5 against Harlow, losing 3-2 to Richard Lewis.  That was so long ago that the Chantry #1 was Tom Brady and we were still playing to 9!

Still at String 5 after all those years, Dave turned out in all-green leprechaun kit, perhaps in an effort to bring him some of the luck of the Irish in his match against Scott.  It certainly seemed to work because he effortlessly outclassed his opponent and ran out a 3-0 winner 15-7, 15-4, 15-10.  So one-up for Chantry in double-quick time.

On the other court Paul played the 2nd string early because of late arrivals.  Paul was up against 17-year old Sean.  In the warm-up, Sean – who had been playing at 1 until now – was showing off his “moves”, cracking cross-courts into the nick.  In an unusual leftie vs leftie confrontation, the match started with Sean playing some lovely boasts and drives to build up a healthy 6-1 lead in the first.  But Paul starts to mix up his game and gradually pulls it back and sends the game to a tie-break but can’t finish it off with Sean winning 16-14.  The second game starts and Paul seems to have sussed out his opponent (who, according to his team-mates, “thinks he’s better than he is”) and is picking him off with boasts and drops as Sean hangs back behind the T.  Paul closes out the 2nd game 15-12 and then builds up a healthy lead in the 3rd.  But Sean realises he needs to fight back and picks up his game to eat into Paul’s lead.  At 12-10, Paul pounces on loose a boast to the front left and is going for a drop when he hears Sean advancing and tries to turn the shot into a drive but puts it in the tin.  That turns out to be the turning point of the game and Sean closes it out 15-12.  By now Paul is on his last legs and feeling his extra 30+ years and Sean wins the fourth 15-10 to take the match 3-1.

Meahwhile Vinh is up against Irish Terry, who doesn’t have the skill of Vinh but dominates the court and uses his long reach to pick off balls that most people wouldn’t reach.  Terry also plays a quite physical game and puts Vinh off his game.  The first game is tight with Terry nicking it 15-13, and in the 2nd Vinh starts to get annoyed with his opponent but refuses to adjust his adherence to a pure line and length game – except his length is too long and his line is often not tight enough.  It might look pretty but it’s not being very effective and he goes down again, this time 15-12.  It’s time to dig deep and Vinh starts to channel some of his anger into playing more aggressively and builds up a solid lead in the 3rd – but then he reverts back to bad habits and Terry fights back, but Vinh holds on for a 16-14 win.  Terry is looking pooped so maybe Vinh has now got the upper hand, perhaps he can go for the kill now.  Unfortunately not, Terry rallies and niggles Vinh again who loses his focus and loses the game 15-13 for a 3-1 overall loss.

String 3 is Mark vs John.  The first game is tight and marked by some long rallies, with both players doing a good impression of being squash players.  Mark builds up a good lead and hangs on to close it out 16-14.  So first blood to Mark, but it was all downhill from there as John got into his rhythm and began to float around the court effortlessly picking off everything that Mark could throw at him.  In only a matter of a few minutes, Mark had succumbed 15-5, 15-4, 15-4 for another 3-1 win for Luton.

Finally, in the dead rubber Carl was up against Craig – the new #1 brought in by Luton when they realised they were playing the mighty Chantry.  The match started strangely with the score reaching 6-6 without a rally of any form being played – both player playing killer services returns time after time.  The game barely improves as a spectacle but Carl manages to eek out a 16-14 win.  The second game follows the same pattern but with Craig managing to play more winners successfully to make it 1-1 with a 15-11 win – and we’re still to see a rally of more than 5 or 6 shots!  However, when there is a bit of rally it is Carl who mostly wins them.  Perhaps a change in tactics could help Carl?

In the third game there is finally a rally – a whole 8 shots (yes, the audience really had been reduced to counting shots in the hope of spotting a rally!) which Carl wins, but he gives Craig too many opportunities to play his kills and Craig takes it 16-14.  Both players clearly tired out by that one rally, the fourth game reverts to type (although we do get one 7-shot rally near the end) and by this time Craig has got the upper hand in the battle of the killers and wins it easily 15-8.

So a disappointing 4-1 loss for Chantry which knocks us down to 4th in the table, with Ickleford jumping from 4th to 1st with a comprehensive win over Gosling.

After a quick shower it was down the road to the local West Indian club for a great plate of lamb shanks.  Top nosh – Vinnie has some competition.  Carl even got to sample next weeks jerk chicken  (although I’m not sure how good it will be by then).

Next week is a top-of-the-table clash with 2nd place Haileybury.  But, STOP PRESS, Haileybury can’t get a team out.  Do Chantry either offer them a new date or shamelessly take all 20 points on offer?  Use the comments below to vote!!



Self-Inflicted Injuries Help Chantry get back to Winning Ways

The fifth round of the season saw Chantry hosting Nuffield Health 5, who were just above us in the table.  After last week’s first loss of the season we were all keen to keep our 100% home record intact.

We’re joined tonight by a certain Mr Dave Baldwin, late of this parish, who many readers may remember – he hasn’t changed much – but it’s good to have some support!

First up Will is playing Keith Ragg.  Will steams into a 2-0 lead (15-9, 15-11) but starts to run out of steam and is staring down the barrel at 13-4 down but then Keith makes the mistake of shoulder-barging Will “the Wall” Kirkham in an attempt to win a let and in the process damages his shoulder.  After an injury break Keith comes back is barely able to hit the ball and Will rapidly reels Keith back in and takes the final game 17-15.

(The next day Keith goees for an X-Ray and discovers he’s torm ligaments in his shoulder and is out for several weeks;  anyone playing Will should consider that a warning!)

As our opponents are being a bit slow turning up (and Mark has, once more, conveniently scheduled a call so that he’s late and can avoid marking – the big wuss), Paul is next on against another Keith (Winfield).

The first game is nip and tuck until the last few points which Keith grabs to take the game 15-11.  The second game starts in similar tight fashion until at 3-3, Keith pulls up and has hurt his hamstring – Paul was nowhere near him (honest!).  The rest of the game is procession and Paul takes it 15-6.  Keith then runs off his injury and fights back to take the third 15-12.  The fourth is yet another tight battle; Paul is starting to find some chinks in Keith’s armour and is catching him out with sharp cross courts when Keith is off balance.  But Keith fighting back with excellent straight drives when retrieving drop shots on both forehand and backhand sides.  Eventually Paul takes the game 18-16.

Into a decider – every game Paul has played this season has gone to the 5th set and, so far, he’s lost them all.  Both players start to tire in the fifth game and being to make as many mistakes as each other – who makes the least will win!  Finally Paul has a match point at 14-13 but plays a poor shot right onto Keith’s backhand on the tee – easy drop shot to take it to a tie-break – but Keith puts it into the tin and Paul’s finally won a match!

On the other court, Vinh is taking on Ian Taylor.  Ian is long and gangly and seems to get everything back and get in the way of everything too – which leads to a somewhat bad-tempered match. The game starts off pretty evenly, long rallies peppered with lose shots give Ian the opportunity to keep up . 10-10 and Ian sneaks into the lead and closes out the first 15-11. Vinh digs in and carries on with his ‘must rally’ game, disregarding most of the  opportunities for drops and pushes Ian to 14-14 where he cracks and gives away a stroke on game point. Game Vinh 17-15!

Both players starting to tire, the calls are coming in frequently, Ian slow to get out of the way, and Vinh playing some loose shots. The marker calls what he sees, and grumpiness ensues but he’s having none of it and at the end Ian puts together a good string of shots to go from 9-10 to  win 15-11.  But then Ian announces he’s injured his arm – no idea how or when that happened but he has a big lump on his arm.  Another injury break but eventually the game restarts -time is dragging on, what with the late start and the injuries, the chef needs to sort things out and get in the kitchen!   He starts off the fourth game with a new lease of life, running Ian all around the court and tiring him even more… 8-4 to Vinh. Ian fights hard to catch up but Vinny maintains his lead and takes the 4th 15-12.
Its all to play for in the 5th … Vinh takes a strong lead 8-2 up, but then falters and lets Ian work his way back into the game, despite Ian throwing the ball at Vinny after losing a close call. Its 11-8 to Vinh and with one last push, he makes it to the finishing line, winning 15-10. Well played Vinh. Eventually 🙂
So 3 wins out of 3.  How can Mark get on against Andrew, who’s wearing the oldest, tattiest kit we’ve seen in a while – in contrast to Mark’s colour and brand coordinated orange fashionista get-up.  Not sure which was worse actually.
Andrew doesn’t look like he’s interested in running around much, but he has got a pretty good boast.  Mark doesn’t look like he’s interested in winning much, and he’s got an aversion to playing drop shots.  So they cancel each other out and Andrew takes a close game 18-16.The second continues in similar poor fashion and Andrew takes it 15-13.
But now Andrew starts to get even slower around the court.  Even Mark can’t fail to win some raillies now and wins the next two games 15-9, 15-10 to take it to yet another deciding set.
After a couple of games rest, Andrew starts to move around the court a bit again and puts Mark under a bit of pressure.  Mark crumbles, can’t serve for toffee and is 14-8 down.  Andrew thinks he’s got it won and relaxes, Mark starts to make inroads and it’s back to 14-10, now 14-11, now an easy drop shot to make it 14-12.  Oh No! Mark’s gone and put it down to hand the match to Andrew!  That’s not going to do his stats any good is it?
String 1 is the last match on with Carl taking on Rob Clark who recently dumped Carl out of the Herts Closed 3-0.  The match starts with Carl trying (and failing) to play a winner with every shot and is soon several points down.  But he engages his brain (apparently there’s one in there) and decides to start playing some rallies and fights back to take the first 15-13.   The second game is equally tight but goes 15-13 to Rob.   In the third Carl makes far too many mistakes and it’s looking like youth is going to win the day as Rob takes the third in a, more comfortable than it looks, 15-12.
After a good pep talk, Carl plays some good squash in the 4th and goes 13-8 up but then relaxes and then panics and Rob is back to 13-12 but Carl nicks a point after Rob makes a mistake to get two game points.  Rob saves the first game point but can’t do anything about the second as Carl’s mishit turns into a nifty front-of-court boast landing just above the tin. Sweet!
Yet another 5-setter.  Carl is wheezing between points and although he looks much fresher Rob is also tiring.  Carl is now playing the better squash, keeping it tight and down the line and builds up a 13-8 lead again.  As before Rob starts to make a comeback but this time Carl doesn’t panic and closes the match out with a 15-11 win.
So that’s a good 4-1 win for Chantry which should take us back up to 2nd in the table, at least.
For support, Vinh has produced Ginger Chicken Special which is up to his usual high standards.    Dave digs in as there’s plenty to go round.  James Argent also turns up to see the last few rallies and despite @RachelDay having served him up a scrumtious toad-in-the-hole, grabs a plate and helps himself too.  Even then there’s plenty for Carl to fill his doggy-bag – we know what’s being dished up in the Noffki household for the rest of the week!
Despite having got a free dinner, James and Dave stubbornly refuse to take any notice of the not-at-all-subtle hints that they should pitch in and help with the washing up.  Last time either of them get free grub.
Next week it’s Luton & Dunstable (away) who are near the bottom of the table, so Chantry can’t afford to slip up if they’re going to keep up the pressure on league leaders Haileybury.