Surrey League – Spencer 2 vs Warlingham 1 – Match report
Some things in life are bigger than others; some squash matches are bigger than others; some people are bigger than others. With Spencer 2 starting the day in the relegation zone of division 5R (albeit with a few games in hand and having already played the runaway league leaders), to quote Kevin Keegan before that famous “title-deciding” Newcastle fixture versus Manchester United a few years back: “This match isn’t a matter of life of death, it is much more important than that…!”
Team selection was vital for this fixture and there were some important decisions to be made. Danny is currently away, training to become a feeder at a rapidly expanding Florida Alligator Farm, and Dale is currently serving a one-week ban for turning up drunk and losing against New Malden last week. A big dilemma for Captain Dan: should we select “no wins Charlie”, guaranteed to lose you a match 3-2 (as demonstrated in all three fixtures so far this season – nothing to do with his levels of fitness apparently… As Jose Mourinho once said about Arsene Wenger: “He is a specialist at failure. And also a voyeur…” Not sure that this is the case for Charlie but it was certainly a legendary quote at the time…!
In the end, Dan persuaded the ever reliable “Invincible Jason” to play at fourth string and “guarantee” the team a much-needed first individual victory this season, with Spencer 2 having lost all eight of their individual matches to date, which is pretty incredible given that five of them were 3-2 scorelines. Jason’s team selection also guaranteed a profitable evening for the Spencer Club bar, with Dana turning up and immediately cuddling what looked like a very large glass of wine. Fortunately, Dan had already made the bar staff aware of the team selection and the wine cellar was fully stocked up in advance.
Spencer first team have enjoyed many a battle against Warlingham 1 over the years and what a fantastic testament to our club that our second team now lined up against them full of hope, despite the fact that Warlingham are near the top of the league and we are near the bottom! Fingers were crossed that Warlingham may be missing a few key players however hope soon faded as they turned up with their top four players, including their star number one with a ranking of 4,200 points and on paper the best player in the league. Uh oh…! Fortunately, Spencer 2 had four very fit squash players in their line-up on what proved to be one of the most humid evenings I can remember, after a scorching hot day which included a massive amount of rainfall shortly prior to the match commencing. This was the first match I have played for a long time without the heaters on and no doubt that Charlie would have enjoyed this one had he been selected…!
First up was Jason at fourth string against a rather spritely Paul who has had a good start to the season. However, Jason is has now fully re-discovered his love and passion for squash, and has been boosted by an increase in the local temperature, and looked on fine form, backed by a huge home crowd including his wife, third team captain Mike and various other local fan groups. Jason was never going to make a meal of this one and stormed to a convincing 3-0 victory, with his opponent only managing 15 points combined across the three sets. Well played Jason and he looked very pleased with himself as he watched the end of Dan’s first set whilst drinking beer on the balcony, despite both matches having started at the same time… Spencer 2’s first individual match win of the season and great timing!
On the other court, Dan took on league star Nick who has won all of his matches very convincingly so far this season. Dana kindly offered to mark the match, given the late arrival of Leon who was travelling back from his “pied-a-terre” in Milton Keynes for this match. Fortunately, Mike spotted the amount of wine in Dana’s glass and immediately grabbed the pen and paper from her, kindly offering to mark the game and allow her to support her husband on the other court. Mike also took the opportunity to maintain his pride and reputation by writing various comments on the team scoresheet such as “Dana did this!” where he was not happening with the template layout of her apache parquet columnar format.
Nick managed to nick a very close first set after Dan had worked very hard to get back to 14-14, only to run out of breathe and lose go 1-0 down. Nick then started the second set well only for Dan to pull back to 10-10, before Nick showed his class and won five consecutive rallies to take a 2-0 commanding league. Dan did not look good and various spectators commented that they feared for the worst! Some pre-match positive Whatsapp chat about “bringing our A game”, “giving everything for the cause” and “this being the biggest night of our lives” suddenly echoed in Dan’s mind and the gallery filled to capacity after the end of Jason’s match. Game on! Dan played some good combinations in the third set, pulled Nick around the court and started to execute a number of backhand volley drops and boast winners, most unusual for him! Dan took the third set 15-7 but still looked a bit of a mess in between matches. Yet another cry of “TIME” between the third and fourth set saw Dan get another warning from the very accurate timekeeper, assisted by Jason who apparently timed the gap between every game and most individual rallies. A few memory lapses in the fourth and fifth set from Dan about the scoreline, which side to serve from and most other aspects of life slowed things down ever so slightly, however it was actually Nick who suddenly faded quite quickly and Dan’s “it’s a marathon not a sprint” fitness edged him ahead. Despite winning the final two sets 15-10 and 15-7, there were some very long rallies in this match and both players were fairly shattered at the end. Nick did seem to over-hit the ball at various points due to the on-court humidity and, despite playing some fine shots, he managed to somehow serve out once during each of the five sets – fortunately there is no fining system for their team! Overall, afantastic 3-2 victory for Dan from 2-0 down and his first ever win against a player ranked over 4,000 points. A commanding 2-0 lead for Spencer Club!
Whilst all this was happening, Mike P took on John Smith at third string. It was hard to watch this match without thinking about drinking a wonderful pint of the creamy stuff and John deserved something from the match simply due to his legendary name…! Mike has had a frustrating few matches this season, having narrowly lost them both 3-2, and was very determined to win this match. Mike took the first set 15-12 but there was never really much in it. Mike took the incredibly close second set 17-15 but John then fought back well and took the third set 15-10 and suddenly the mood changed on the balcony. Fortunately Mike discovered his strategy and his fitness did him proud as he battled back and took the fifth set 15-12 in another close game. Really well played and seven points out of nine this season for Mike! 3-0 Spencer and a guaranteed victory on the night!
Finally Leon arrived after a “special” journey which he has grown to love and lined up against a very strong opponent Rob at second string. It was hard to believe that Leon has not been near a squash court for two weeks as he took the first set 15-9, although it must be said that this was not a classic set of squash and Rob made a lot of early errors. The signs were there and Leon’s tendency to boast 90% of his shots proved his downfall as Rob comfortably won the second 15-6. Leon started the third set poorly and found himself 7-2 down after a few minutes. He then played much better and pulled back to 13-14 but Rob found a winning shot to steal the third set and edge ahead 2-1. Time for some coaching and the guy badged as “the worst coach ever” by Danny last week decided to give it another go…! “Volley the returns of serve, take the ball early, mix up your shots, play more straight drops and keep him moving” were the main comments made in an attempt to turn around this match. To be fair to Leon, he then proceeded to play really well and demonstrated his impressive natural levels of fitness and energy during a ridiculously long rally early in the fourth set which resulted in a standing ovation from the entire squash gallery and pretty much finished off his opponent Rob. Leon improved his shot selection and showed some wonderful execution to comfortably win the final two sets 15-6 and 15-5 for a 3-2 victory! Really well played.
So overall, a much-needed wonderful 15-5 victory to Spencer Squash Club and a few pints in the bar, which had a fantastic atmosphere and a real buzz about the place. A special mention to Warlingham who are a great bunch of lads and who played all four matches in wonderful spirit, despite the results not quite going their way. Well done everybody and two more massive home matches next week in what is likely to make or break our season.