Monday, November 10, 2008

A Five Horse Race

PSL Manager Throws Down the Gauntlet to Teams, Players and Spectators alike.

The Northern division seems to be shaping up into a 5 horse race after Oxford's thumping 5-0 win over Nottingham, Nottingham then beat Duffield and Oxford lose to Chapel 5-0. What's going on? This season is shaping up into a "any team can beat any other team on their day" type of season.

Sometimes the scorelines don't tell the whole story. Last Tuesday Oxford were well beaten in two ties, Scott Arnold and Steve Coppinger were well in control of their respective matches against Kristen Johnson and Scott Handley at numbers 3 and 2 respectively. Both results were hence 3-0. Madeline Perry seemed to be coming back the stronger player in the fourth against Jenny Duncalf only to lose 3-1 and Chris Ryder (v Ali Walker) and Tom Phipps (v Adam Murrills) both lost in five. Phipps will be the more disappointed with his defeat although Murrils deserved the win having been running the corners of the court for long stretches of the game but he kept in there till the end and looked strong in the fifth.

Chris Lewis (major sponsor and I) waxed lyrical about the results afterwards, agreeing that it was good to see the local players in action, despite the loss. We both enjoyed all the squash and the number ones always seem to bring an extra dimension to PSL match nights, raising the level from previous games. Walker and Ryder did that again in a fantastic final match that didn't disappoint. Probably the most entertaining and exciting part of these games is when one or both players seems to go into overdrive or another gear beyond their normal level. Either the pace of the game goes up, with the pace and accuracy of the shots or the sheer speed and athleticism of the players retrieving from "dead" ball situations. You can hear and sense the delight from the spectators who "Ooh and aah" (I don't mean like fireworks)
it's more like the noise you make when you can see a perfectly timed crunching defensive football tackle or a scorching 30 yard wonder goal.

In any case the number ones for me sum up why PSL can and should be marketed beyond our normal target audience for a very simple reason. The time to go and watch a sporting fixture isn't always high up the list of activities for even regular squash players BUT they need to know what they are missing out on. Those who have a vague idea of squash, some mild curiosity, or old school experience of the sport should be encouraged to watch at least one match. Ok at Oxford you have to stand rather than being seated but most clubs have decent seating. I have decided to make all our matches free for all spectators wherever they come from and I am determined to get plenty of juniors in to watch (although they might miss the later matches due to later finishes this season).

Those of you in Oxfordshire or neighbouring counties reading these reports should email me ( before our next home game on 13th Jan. I challenge you to come and not be entertained.

To fellow PSL Managers and players, the challenge is out there in the Northern divison. I believe any two teams look good enough to qualify. Round four is almost upon us. Oxford travel to Duffield. Duffield, dominant for such a long period, two long years unbeaten in the league group games, appear they may have lost their stranglehold on Northern division after the Nottingham defeat this week. Maybe it's like the Manchester United effect - everyone wants to beat the top team hence trying to field their best team.

And so to our team this week. Allowing for Borja Golan's endeavours, winning
in his home town in the PSA event in Santiago (and safe arrival in the U.K.)our team will be:

Cameron Pilley
Borja Golan
Chris Ryder
Scott Handley
Madeline Perry

There should be some fantastic squash on offer again, and I am going to plump for a bullish 3/2 away win! Bring it on.

Jason Martin

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Three Long Years - Nottingham 3 Duffield 2, David Coghlan

Surrey Dig Deep - Surrey 3 Bristol 2, Pete Smith

Diamonds sparkle at Guildford - Guildford 2 Exeter 3 - Ian Robinson

Five-Nil to the Chi - Chichester 5 St George's 0 - Mike Phillips

Planes, Trains and Taxis - Oxford's Jason Martin reflects

Surrey dig deep

Tonight v Bristol was going to be a crucial match and with crucial players missing we had to dig deep into our squad so a tight match was anticipated. That's exactly what we got!!

Here's how the evening panned out.

Vicky Botwright v Sarah-Jane Perry
This was always going to be difficult for the England U19 number 1 against a very confident Vicky. Vicky controlled the match and the pressure was too much for Sarah-Jane and Vicky raced to a 3-0 win 11/4 11/3 11/5.
Surrey H&RC 1 Up

Ben Ford v Hadrian Stiff
This was going to be a crucial game in the eventual result and with both players ranked 18 and 20 in England it was going to be well contested. Ben started really well hitting an excellent length and using his attacking boast to perfection at times to take the 1st game 11/8. Hadrian got into more of a rythmn in the 2nd game taking a 9-7 lead but Ben came back with a sequence of backhand cross court drop nicks to take the game 11/9. The 3rd was agian very tight and with both players feeling it physically Ben again came out with some excellent winners at the right times to take the game 11/9 and the match 3-0
Surrey H& RC 2 Up

Steve Richardson v Peter Marshall
This was a great game with 2 guys giving it maximum effort and playing some excellent controlled squash. Peter stormed off in the 1st game and Steve didn't know what had hit him and he took it 11/4. Steve then got into the pace of the game and started to work Peter and they reached 8 all, but Peter then played 3 excellent rallies to take the 2nd 11/9. Steve kept going in the 3rd but was always under relentless pressure from Peter who went onto take the 3rd 11/7 and the match 3-0
Surrey H&RC 2 - Bristol 1

Tim Garner v David Evans
This was always going to be tough for Tim against a very strong David Evans. Tim started the 1st game on fire going for everything and playing some excellent squash and took the 1st 11/6. David got some control in the 2nd to level at 1 all 11/5. The 3rd was the decisive game with both players giving it everything, Tim took a 10-9 lead to have game ball but a tin let David back in to complete the game 12/10 and take a 2-1 lead. Tim kept going in the 4th but David was working him hard with great length and deception and he took the 4th 11/6 and the match 3-1.
Surrey H&RC 2 Bristol 2

Peter Barker v Adrian Grant
I thought it would go down to the final game to decide the match and what a game it was, and the crowd were captivated at the battle the number 10 and 12 in the World were having. The 1st game was very cat and mouse with long rallies and very tight squash and Pete edged it 11/9 to take the 1st game. The 2nd was full of attacking squash, great length and width and excellent recoveries and Pete had game ball twice but Adrian hung in there to take the 2nd 13/11 on the tie break. Again more of the highest quality in the 4th which Pete took 11/8 and a 2-1 lead. Adrain came out blazing in the 4th and playing some excellent winners to the front and moved to take the game 11/4 and 2 all in games. Now to the decider and both players were giving absolutely everything and it was point for point until Adrian edged to match ball 10/9, Pete saved it with a fine drop to force a tie break and then had match ball himself at 11-10, Adrian saved this with a forehand cross court nick 11/11. Pete then constructed 2 excellent tight rallies to take the next 2 points and the match 13/11 and 3-2. Both players got a standing ovation from the crowd and congratulations to them both for a fantastic match.
Surrey H&RC 3 - Bristol 2.

It was again a fantastic PSL night and thanks to Bristol for such a great contest.
Next home match Tuesday 11th November v Chichester at home again. See you there!!

Pete Smith

Diamonds sparkle at Guildford

UniSport Guildford 2 lost to Exeter Diamonds 3

Gilly Lane 1 Jonathon Kemp 2 retired
6 - 11, 7 - 11, 11 - 7, retired

Stacey Ross 0 lost to Mohamed El Shorbagy 3
10 - 12, 9 - 11, 7 - 11

Steve Meads 1 lost to Rob Sutherland 3
14 - 12, 6 - 11, 6 - 11, 4 - 11

Jamie Mathews 0 lost to Peter Creed 3
3 - 11, 8 - 11, 4 - 11

Alison Waters 3 beat Tory Temple-Murray 0
11 - 0, 11 - 2, 11 - 3

UniSport Guildford 2 lost to Exeter Diamonds 3 - Ian Robinson reports

In an eventful but strangely disrupted match UniSport GUildford lost to highflying Exeter Diamonds by 2 ties to 3. Both teams were without first choice players away at International tournaments, but the squash on show was nevertheless of the highest quality. UniSport handed a debut to American Gilly Lane, who is well-known to local fans as a regular attender for training purposes at the Varsity Centre. Exeter Diamonds put on show squash's hottest property right now in the shape of Mohamed El Shorbagy, whose recent achievements include a fine giant killing run to the Quarter Finals of the World Open in Manchester where he was finally turned over by no lesser player than the World Number 1 himself, Amr Shabana.

Alison Waters was quick to give UniSport the points start needed when she handily disposed of Junior opposition from Exeter, Tory Temple-Murray. The match was on the outside court and unsurprisingly did not trouble the marker for too long. Temple-Murray fought gamely but this was expecting too much of such a promising youngster when matched against the World number 6 who is at the top of her game as well. Temple-Murray fought gamely and genuinely earned her points. No doubt she will reflect whimsically on this experience in years to come. UniSport move into a 1 - 0 lead.

This was quickly followed by World Deaf Champion Jamie Mathews, making his second home appearance for UniSport against Peter Creed for Exter Diamond. After the promising start by Mathews on his debut, all was set for another top notch performance. Peter Creed had other ideas and charging around the court like a demented gnat Creed seemed to hit the ball twice to every shot that Mathews played. The speed was palpable and unsettling for the UniSport player to the extent that the first game quickly became a lost cause. Mathews managed to settle a little in the second and started to gain more control over what was going on. Honours were even until the business end of the game when Creed went into overdrive and killed off the resistance. Mathews was finding it very difficult to deal with the onslaught and in the third game effectively ran out of ideas as Creed charged off into the distance to claim a quick victory. Hitting the ball fiercely Creed had played it tactically absolutely right and was a deserving winner on the night. The match score was now level at 1 - 1.

Steve Meads was promoted back to the main viewing court for the night and found himself confronted by one of the new generation of players, Rob Sutherland. Meads was keen to show that he is stilling playing at his best but found that the ball was flying around the court and was not easy to control, which rather helped the Exeter player and reduced the play to something of a 'slogfest'. It was not pretty and was also punctuated by untimely interference by the referee who was keen to show his skills. Meads made a good start, then lost his way but somehow clung on to win the first game. Sutherland had made a few too many errors early on, which then disappeared and helped by a very effective drop volley on the backhand side turned the match around. Sutherland levelled the scores and quickly built on that to take a 2 - 1 lead winning the third in just as convincing a style. Meads is nothing if not a fighter and the faithful were expecting that Meads would mount one of his now famous comebacks, but Sutherland entertained none of it, applied more pressure and put the match to bed comfortably in the fourth with errors unusually coming from Meads' racket. The speed of youth will have left Meads reflecting that the game is getting harder for him and not any easier. Exeter Diamonds were now in front 2 - 1.

The match that all Guildford had been looking forward to was now in front of their very eyes. The star of the moment, Mohamed El Shorbagy took on local favourite Stacey Ross. Ross loves this sort of challenge, mixing it with the very best players in the world on his favourite Varsity Centre courts. Shorbagy was full of confidence. What was intriging was that immediately the match started, the referee wanted a piece of the action as well. So now we had three 'players' where two would have been quite sufficient. In fact so good are the two contestants that they could and probably should have refereed the game themselves. There were few difficult decisions to make but the frustration of the two players spoilt what should have been a thoroughly absorbing and highly competitive game of squash. There was clear tension in the air as Ross worked his magic and for a while derailed the Shorbagy bandwagon. What would have been more interesting is whether Ross on a better night might have been able to steal a game and cause sufficient doubt in the mind of Shorbagy to turn this into serious upset potential - unlikely, but that was not going to stop the local supporters willing their hero on and hoping that somehow Ross could cause that major upset. It was not to be. Shorbagy now has too much experience for that and all at the tender age of 17. He is World Junior Champion among other things and showed clearly what an exciting talent he is. He has furious pace around the court and hits lines and angles before others have had time to work them out. One can only imagine what a nightmare he must be to play against, but Ross with clever adjustment of pace and line and length fiddled enough openings for himself to give a chance. After building a 2 - 0 lead Shorbagy put distance between him and Ross and in the end the home favourite lost the will to play with the referee now playing better than ever and showing a full range of skills that took some believing, even by Shorbagy standards! This was a very entertaining game of squash which could have been so much better.... Exeter Diamonds had now won the match with an unassailable 3 - 1 lead.

Last on court making his debut for UniSport Guildford was Gilly Lane. The itinerant American Lane was fog bound at his new home airport in Amsterdam earlier in the day, but arrived in time to take his place in the team and face up to the higher world ranked Jonathon Kemp. Left-handed Kemp got off to a flier as Lane struggled to find his way through the fog. Lane was hitting just too loose and offered Kemp too many opportunities to hit winners, which he did with great relish. After the settling down process, the fog appeared to lift a little and Lane endeared himself to the Guildford crowd as he started to peg Kemp back and halt the procession of winners, tightening up his control and making the ball more difficult to hit. This delayed Kemp's progress rather than earned Lane the second game. But the American was now beginning to get into the contest and found that he was more able to control some rallies rather than defending. The third game was much more even and Lane started to control rallies and win points but towards the end Kemp reluctantly had to slow down and it became apparent there was a problem. Lane banked the third game 11 - 7, and then was stunned to find himself shaking hands with his opponent who was forced to concede with a hamstring problem. An unsatisfactory way to win the points for Guildford but nonetheless after the trials and tribulations of earlier in the day Lane was happy to stay overnight in the area with his first win in PSL for UniSport Guildford and at the same time give some respectability to the scoreline ending with a 2 - 3 loss rather than a heavier 1 - 4 defeat.

The PSL season rolls on with another match in a week's time when UniSport Guildford make the short hop to St Georges Hill for the next round of matches. See you there.

Ian Robinson

Three Long Years

David Coghlan reports on the East Midlands Derby

Does lightning strike twice? Lightning of the unfathomably bad traffic variety strikes Nottingham seemingly every PSL night. Starting our season against Chapel Allerton 45 minutes late was annoying, last night we managed to get going by 7:30pm as players from both teams battled with Nottingham’s plethora of fender benders. When we did get going, the match that had promised so much on paper surpassed everybody’s expectations.

Eddie Charlton Lst Alex Stait 8/11, 11/8, 11/9, 8/11, 4/11

First on the show court were the No.4’s, Eddie Charlton was a last minute stand in for the sick Simon Parke but he had one thing on his mind and demonstrated just how rapid his improvement has been in the last 12 months in front of a packed 100 strong show court.

The first was even with both players finding their range waiting for errors, Stait edged it 11/8. The second started badly for Charlton as Stait got a run of points. Having tightened up and minimised his errors, Charlton began to inflict his will on the game. Drawing level at 6/6 Charlton hit two winners to take an 8/6 lead, which he maintained to close out the game on Stait tin. Momentum now with Charlton it was his turn to extend a lead 5/2 before Stait could get to grips with the game and peg Charlton back to 8/8. An error from Charlton gave Stait 9/8 but a series of outstanding winners and a final tin from Stait handed a 2/1 lead to the home player. The important fourth was even throughout. Neither player wishing to make an error, both players played fantastically and traded winners through out. Importantly Stait seized the advantage at 8/8 and closed out the game 11/8 to set up a fifth and final game. The final game was one-way traffic for the most part as a visibly wilting Charlton made a number of errors to give Stait a substantial lead 7/1. A mini resurgence was halted as a hard working Stait chased down lost causes and closed out the match 11/4.

John Rooney Bt Andy Whipp 11/8, 11/3, 11/4

It seems that spending a few hours in a traffic jam acts as inspiration for Irish international Rooney. Having dragged himself on court against Chapel Allerton to beat Chris Simpson, it was all guns blazing from the off last night as Rooney demanded revenge for a loss to Whipp at the West of Scotland Open last weekend. As is always the case with Whipp the match started at a hectic pace, Rooney was happy with that and established a strong 7/3 lead as a result of some Whipp errors. Whippy was not down and out as he steadied his game and came chipping back at Rooney to level the game at 8/8. Rooney seemed to finally wake up and started to attack, taking a 9/8 lead followed by a skintight volley drop for game ball, ending the game with a held inside out drop nick. Nice. The second Rooney dominated throughout as a stuttering Whipp hit error after error, unable to deal with Rooney’s penetrating length and speed to the front, 11/3. The third was a repeat, as Whipp seemed to struggle with his movement, Rooney hitting winners at will taking the game 11/4, the match 3-0 and levelling the tie 1-1.

Emma Beddoes Bt Laura Hill 11/9, 11/1, 8/11, 11/4

A decisive tie that had to be moved to the backcourt due to the traffic shenanigans, and unfortunately for Hill the traffic didn’t help inspire her to race out of the blocks like Rooney. The first was even as both players sized each other and looked for opportunities, however at 8/8 Beddoes caught a sweet drop that nicked before burying a cross volley into the nick to give her game point 10/8. A quick let followed by a stroke and Beddoes took the first much to the annoyance of the Duffield player. This annoyance was directed at the referee during the second as Hill, clearly flustered, hit four tins and conceded three strokes to hand Beddoes the second 11/1. Beddoes relaxation after the second bore itself out as short length, which Hill now playing more conservatively was able to latch onto to dictate the pace and stay on the T. After halting a mini Beddoes resurgence from 10/6 Hill finally closed out the game 11/8. The fourth was much better from Beddoes as she reverted to the attacking length that had worked so well in the first two. Good length and width kept Hill pinned down so Beddoes could fire winners in short. From 10/4 up it never really looked in doubt even as Hill came back with winners of her own, Beddoes closed out the game 11/7 and the match 3/1 to give Nottingham a slender 2/1 lead.

Renan Lavigne Bt Joey Barrington 7/11, 11/6, 11/4, retired

The pivotal match of the evening for me, this one was going to be tight. With the first finely balanced the 100 + spectators got to see some outstanding squash from both players before Barrington snuck a slender advantage ended fairly unceremoniously by a return of serve into the tin by Lavigne. The second was tight to 5/5 although it was clear to see that Barrington was starting to struggle on what appeared to be a groin injury. Barrington compensating on pretty much every shot, Lavigne showed no mercy, firing the ball in short at every opportunity, trying to twist and turn his opponent. It worked. Barrington simply couldn’t turn onto the ball quick enough and shot after shot had him falling short of the target. The third was painful to watch as Barrington’s movement became more and more hampered. Lavigne unrelenting kept the pace up and chased down every ball to deny Barrington any glimmer of hope. It was inevitable after the third that Barrington would retire; bitter sweet for MB Nottingham who now had an unassailable 3-1 lead but had been denied what could have been a grandstand finish.

Ong Beng Hee Lst Nick Matthew 7/11, 5/11, 11/7, 9/11

A dead rubber at 1 but the disappointment earlier was made up for by the sheer quality on display during this match. Both players started steadily, long hard rallies that had both players covering every inch of the court, however it was Matthew that could finish the rallies hitting two volley nicks to take a 6/2 lead. Bengy was doing a lot of work and playing well but Matthew despatched Bengy’s efforts with outrageous winners that wowed the packed crowd. Bengy did well not to implode from frustration and weathered this storm to edge back a 7/6 lead before Matthew used tight short balls to storm to victory 11/7. During the second Matthew was dominant through out, a player clearly enjoying fine form and full of confidence, he hit winner after winner chasing everything down and turning Bengy’s attacks quickly into counter attack. There was nothing Bengy could do to contain the rampant Matthew, 11/5.

The third was interesting, it seemed Matthew had a slight lapse in concentration, hitting tins not nicks allowing Bengy to establish a lead. Both players used the height of the court so well throughout the match, but in the third Bengy used the lob more effectively than Matthew, allowing him to dictate the pace and frustrate his opponent. Bengy was starting to see reward for his hard work and with Matthew now unable to hit the ridiculous winners he had managed in the first two, Bengy could see light at the end of the tunnel taking it 11/7.

The fourth game continued at the incredibly high standard as both players now dug in, moving the play all around the court to force errors. It seemed Matthew had refocused and once again took his opportunities with vicious efficiency hitting five straight winners for a 7/2 lead. Bengy came right back at him soaking up the pressure and hitting winners of his own to reach 7/8. Matthew hit one more winner for 9/7 before two tins levelled the game at 9/9. With the game really tightening up now, both players steadied, extending the rallies not wanting to give away any cheap points. Both players showed exactly why they are in the Worlds top 10 with breathtaking retrieval that had spectators gasping. A winner by Matthew for 10/9 match ball followed by another incredibly long rally demonstrating everything that makes professional squash players some of the fittest athletes on earth. Bengy had an opportunity to take the point but missed the nick allowing Matthew back into the rally. After what must have 50 shots Bengy received a let call for another chance to level the game. Yet another Matthew winner to take the game 11/9 and the match 3-1 ended another epic rally that again had both players covering every floorboard and the crowd on the edge of their seats. Cue prolonged and rapturous applause from the still packed show court.

A truly fantastic night. Every match was 50/50 before we started and the drama lasted all night. The fact that everybody stayed right to the end, even for a dead rubber is a testament to the sheer quality of the squash on show.

A great night for MB Nottingham who have been on the receiving end of some horrible results, not least two weeks ago at Oxford. This result is a huge positive step for the team, indeed it’s the first time NSRC has beaten Duffield since the Premier Leagues inception. Our last victory coming on 25th February 2005 in the old National League.

I honestly can’t call which two teams will go to the play offs from Division A. Every team is strong, every team has quality throughout and most importantly every team has hunger to succeed. The Premier league has come alive and I can’t wait until we welcome Pontefract on 2nd December.

David Coghlan

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Five-Nil to the Chi

Round 3 of the PSL took place at Chichester Racquets & Fitness Club this week with pnh Properties Team Chichester playing TWP St. George’s Hill of Weybridge. Both teams were without their top string players; Mo Azlan Iskandar (Chichester) and Daryl Selby (St. George’s Hill)

First on the glass back court Chichester’s Delia Arnold, World No.36 and winner of the 2007 Pakistan Open, was making her debut for pnh Team Chichester against Rachel Willmott for St. George’s Hill. The match was very tight with Willmott leading in all 3 games; in particular going 8/10 up in the second which she frustratingly lost 12/10. Arnold, however, stayed strong and exerted the pressure to come through a tight 3/0 winner.

1 up to Chichester

On the adjacent court the Chichester Club’s stalwart, Pete Genever, played Phil Nightingale. After a dew tentative opening exchanges, Genever got into his stride and put in a polished performance, running out a comfortable 11/7, 11/4, 11/4 winner against a very game opponent.

2.0 to Chichester.

Next on the glass back Chichester’s captain, Tim Vail faced the Swiss, World Junior No.3, Nick Mueller. In a very entertaining match Vail played with great flair in the first game. Mueller displayed his class with great speed to the front of the court, slotting in drops and volley drops. Vail, however, took the game 11/6. Mueller continued his superb front of court play, took advantage of a slightly under par Vail, and convincingly won the second 4/11. Vail found second win in the third and after a very tight game managed to ‘nick’ it 11/9 to take a 2/1 lead. Despite looking tired Vail came out firing in the fourth and built up a 10/4 match point lead, only for Mueller to dig in and fight back to 10 all. Vail was not to be denied and clinched the tie break to win 3/1 thus giving Chichester an unassailable 3.0 lead.

On the adjoining court, Robbie Temple [Chichester] at number 3 played St. George’s, Neil Hitchens. This match was a workmanlike 3/1 win for Temple to give him his first win for Chichester. Hitchens battled well, taking the second game and losing a tight 3rd but Temple prevailed, putting Chichester 4.0 up on the night.

Finally the Number 1 strings took the championship court; Alex Gough [Chichester] against World No. 47 Tom Richards. Although it was a dead rubber match it proved to be the best contest of the night. After testing each other out in the first, Gough took it on a tie break. The second was just as tight and once again Gough, who looked like he was back on form after Round 2’s blip at Guildford was the victor at 11/8. Richards, though was not to be denied and after Gough had the chance to take the match 3.0, Richards hung on and took the third 8/11. Richards continued in the same vein in the 4th and after some breathtaking squash from both players he won it 9/11.

With the momentum going with Richards in this closely contested match it looked as if he would win through. Gough, however, was resolute and both players battled right to the very end; Gough winning the final titanic rally to take it 11/9. This match was an incredible advert for squash and the gallery was royally treated to a fantastic match.

Pnh Properties Team Chichester was finally off the mark with a magnificent 5.0. victory. With Iskandar back for next week’s fixture against champions Surrey, Chichester can approach the match with much confidence.

Mike Phillips

Monday, November 3, 2008

Low Cost Airlines, Late Starting Trains and Exorbitant Taxis!

Oxford's Jason Martin reflects on the start of the season ...

Hot off the heels of Oxford's fantastic 5-0 triumph over Nottingham, the Esporta club plays host again this time to newcomers Chapel Allerton. Just some thoughts and impressions on this fantastic league from a manager's perspective and about our amazing win 2 weeks ago.

David Coughlan (Nottingham manager) will rightly feel a bit miffed at the whitewash although the victory for me really highlights the difference it can make to try and field your best team when it is available. The key to a good PSL season will almost certainly be trying to field a consistently good side. This is not as easy as it sounds. Firstly you have the Under 23 rule.

Great in theory, encouraging your local up an coming players and giving them valuable PSL experience. Oxfordshire is a relatively small squash playing county. A good base of county leagues but no "big" clubs producing up and coming players. Kristen Johnson never counted as an "English" Under 23 due to playing Scotland despite the fact he has always lived and played all his squash in Oxfordshire. Tom Phipps (Bucks - although closely linked with Oxon), Anthony Graham (Gloucs - but now training full time at Esporta), and Deon Saffery (Yorkshire) are our only english under 23 qualified players.

With only 8 games it is tough to know when to play them and who to "drop" from the line up for that match.

Last year we lost Madeline Perry for the whole of the first half of the season (5 games) this year we have got the Irish superstar for all four first half games. Having a really good female player helps but increasingly the second and third ranked players get crucial games and anyone outside the top 50 in the world seems have a tough time.

For a relatively new club as Esporta Oxford are (now officially named "The Oxfordshire Health and Racquets Club") the tradition of developing home grown players will take a lot of time before it reaps any rewards. Kristen is partly a product of the coaching set up but realistically there is only one players capable of making the grade over the coming 2-3 years Jon Geekie, training full time at the club. Wanting to support local Oxfordshire and neighbouring county players has lead to a decent competitive side Mark Cairns (2006/7 season) Scott Handley, Kristen Johnson, Kerri Shields (all Oxon) Tom Phipps & Chris Ryder (born Bucks).

This has been sensibly complemented with top overseas players. Australian Cameron Pilley lived in Reading during our first 2 seasons but now is based in Holland, as is Dylan Bennett. Borja Golan gets flown over from Santander, Spain. Madeline Perry (Irl) lives in Yorkshire, as does Deon Saffrey. Jaymie Haycocks is fairly locally based - Birmingham. And at the end of the list is me, 8 years service at the club as Squash Pro or Racquets Manager (Kent born but Oxon adopted county.

Sponsors, regular supporters, officials and fellow players alike would probably all agree the blend of youth, experience, local and overseas players gives an exciting mix. But how does a PSL manager actually decide who to play and when. There's no doubt player availability has its limitations for all teams. Against Nottingham Borja Golan was desperate to play at home in front of home sponsors and spectators, hence his inclusion.

Cameron Pilley and Madeline Perry are first names on the team sheet - if available. For that night we had our strongest side possible - rules allowing. The headline grabbing 5-0 win was a brilliant reward for the calculated risk of fielding a strong side. Anyone who has seen the film "Planes, trains and automobiles" will appreciate my sentiments about bringing players over from abroad. Cameron is a firm favourite at Oxford and well worth the trouble of flying him over. Borja on the evidence of his first match will excite the crowd, put 100% in and get great results.

My only problem here was co-ordinating a flight and transfer from Holland via Birmingham for Cameron and a flight and transfer from Spain via Stansted for Borja. Oh and then the return trips for 8.00am and 6.30am the next day! Public transport takes ages and doesn't run early morning but taxis do. It's safe to say we used a few different types of transport and I am debating the need for a transport manager next season.

I think the previous reports from the Nottingham match say it all. Cameron was on fire, he looks even fitter and pumped up this season. A player who must keep rising in the rankings. It was a very tight game against One Beng Hee but arguably he just deserved to nick it. Borja looks a brilliant addition to the squad and despite some muscle soreness from his epic journey over, had enough in the tank to keep on top of Renan Lavigne. Chris Ryder, Scott Handley and Madeline Perry all put in him very competent professional performances to secure the headlines. As stated in the England Squash brief the Pilley/Hee final match was the best game of squash I have ever seen at Esporta Oxford.

As to the next back to back games coming up. At home on Tuesday 4th v Chapel Allerton, the squad is depleted due to players away at tournaments Pilley and Golan (in Spain), Bennett (Canada) and Haycocks (India). In come local superstars Kristen Johnson and Tom Phipps. Both players have got favourable PSL records and having provided some really entertaining squash. On paper this is going to be a one way scorline as Madeline Perry takes on world no.5 Jenny Duncalf, all the men are equally up against players with higher rankings. The highlight will almost certainly be the number ones (both winners of the Esporta Oxford Graded Event held in December).

Chris Ryder and Ali Walker are only a few places apart in the world rankings (33 and 27 as at 31st Oct). Scott Handley will have his hands full with South African champion Steve Coppinger, whilst Kristen Johnson will also face a tough opponent in Scott Arnold. Tom Phipps may well bring points if Adam Murrills plays at four but this again will be tough. My verdict (if I can get the crowd well and truly behind the home crowd) will be an away win 3-2.

For Duffield away a week later, there should be a mouthwatering line up as Oxford again will be full strength will Pilley, Golan, Ryder, Handley and Perry. I'm not going to predict that scoreline though... not just yet anyway.

Jason Martin, Esporta Oxford

Thursday, October 30, 2008

UniSport Guildford v Exeter Diamonds - Tue 4th Nov

Preview from Ian Robinson as Guildford take on the high-flying newcomers ...

UniSport Guildford v Exeter Diamonds
Gilly Lane v Jonathon Kemp
Stacey Ross v Mohamed El Shorbagy
Steve Meads v Rob Sutherland
Jamie Mathews v Peter Creed
Alison Waters v Tory Temple-Murray

We welcome new boys to PSL, Exeter Diamonds for our second home match of the PSL season. Driven on by the motivational win against south coast rivals PNH Properties Chichester, UniSport Guildford entertain their guests in good spirits and no little optimism. Exeter Diamonds are setting a fast pace at the top of the league table so far this season and this will be a very challenging night for the UniSport Guildford team.

Jesse Engelbrecht is on PSA absence with tournament duty in Canada, so the team is led for the first time by American Gilly Lane making his debut in UniSport colours. Gilly has spent time in Guildford training in the past and is no stranger to local members. He has driven his world ranking up to number 86 and is making a impressive impact on the PSA scene. Englishman Jonathon Kemp is the opposition at number 1 string for Exeter Diamonds, he has a world ranking of 31. The odds here are stacked against UniSport Guildford, but it will be a good measure of how much progress Gilly has made.

There is a mouth-watering match at number 2 string with local hero Stacey Ross matched against Mohamed El Shorbagy. The Egyptian is World Junior Champion and is making his debut for Exeter Diamonds and is on fire at the moment. He recently won through to the quarter finals of the World Open where he finally succumbed to the World number 1, Amr Shabana. Stacey Ross always enjoys his encounter with the Egyptian but it will be interested to find out how the two players match up now. The fear is that Shorbagy may well have put some distance between the two of them and it make take a super human effort for Ross to make much headway.

In the middle order the evergreen Steve Meads may well have too much experience for Rob Sutherland and Jamie Mathews is given a second opportunity to show his mettle after a good debut performance against Chichester. Alison Waters has the opportunity to take a look at the next generation of English squash players in Tory Temple-Murray, but should know too much to dent the Guildford players increasing unbeaten record.

We look forward to a great evening of squash.

Ian Robinson

Friday, October 24, 2008

St George's fall 3-2 again

For the second match in a row TWP St George's Hill went down 3-2 in The Premier Squash League last Tuesday night. The young Weybridge side were pipped by an experienced Bristol team containing several stars of squash.

Young Rachel Willmott for TWP battled hard against Bristol's World no 45 Vicky Hynes gaining great match experience but unfortunately no games as Hynes romped to victory.

Meanwhile Walton's British Junior Champion and rising star Joe Lee put huge pressure on former World no 2 Peter Marshall storming to the first game but just losing out as Marshall snatched the second with some fine touch play. Marshall visibly tired but became more accurate as he did so using his "legendary" two handed style to great effect. The third game was crucial and Lee failed to convert his chances whilst Marshall showed many of the qualities that had made him a World Class player. Marshall took that game and fought off a spirited comeback from Lee in the fourth to give his side a two match lead.

TWP's Mohamed Nafizwan Mohamed Adnan or Wan for short took to the court against Bristol's team captain Hadrian Stff and started sluggishly putting his side in more trouble as he lost the first game. Some persistant rallying and nice touches gave Wan the edge in the second and Stiff offered little resistance in the third. The fourth game was more evenly contested but Wan showed some of the form which has taken him to number 60 in the World and number 3 in Malaysia to pull a match back for TWP St George's Hill.

The eagerly awaited class between former British Open Champion David Evans and local boy Tom Richards failed to live up to it's post match billing. Tom has recently risen to number 49 in the world and last week took World number 10 Ong Beng Hee to five games at The World Open in Manchester whilst Evans has regained top form following a coaching stint in Jersey. Evans totally dominated the centre of the court and Richards struggled to put pressure on the tall but elegant Welshman. Unfortunately for TWP this was not to be Richards's night and he went down three games to love.

The final clash of the evening between TWP's top star Daryl Selby and Adrian Grant the World number 10 was an exhibition of exquisite squash skills. Selby's ball striking and control were superb whilst Grant moved in the same predatory manner as a young Mohamed Ali, anticipating Selby's best shots and countering with his own precise attacking strikes. On this performance 25 year old Selby could yet go on to become one of the world's best players. He took the first two games with style and narrowly lost out in a nail biting third as Grant clawed his way back into the match. The fourth game was evenly matched but Selby showed exceptional character to pull off an excellent win delighting the large St George's crowd.

TWP St George's travel to Chichester on November 4th and play at St George's Hill at 7pm on Tuesday 11th November against local rivals Unisport Guildford. Spectators are welcome and tickets can be purchased from 07905 102095.

St George's Hill players performed well in the recent World Open in Manchester with Daryl Selby reaching the last sixteen and Tom Richards coming so close to defeating World number 10 Ong Beng Hee in the first round. Joe Lee beat Irish champion and World no 79 John Rooney in qualifying but went down to Egyptian wonder kid Mo Shorbagy who reached the quarter finals.

Danny Lee

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It’s not the end of the world…. Yet

David Coghlan on Oxford v Nottingham ...

MB Nottingham made the journey south on Tuesday to face a supremely strong Oxford side. With the late withdrawal of Simon Parke due to illness, a tough job didn’t get easier as we drew on our larger squad, pulling in talented young Nottingham star Eddie Charlton at four.

Emma Beddoes was always going to have a tough night against recent World open semi finalist Madeline Perry, however Emma is more than capable of punching above her weight so I had a hope we may be able to pick up a point or two here. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Perry showed the same form she’d displayed the week before in Manchester to dominate Beddoes taking the match fairly comfortably, 11/3 12/10 11/3 not before adding insult to injury, or should that be injury to insult as Madeline clonked Emma soundly on the forehead in the second.

On the court next door a pumped up Charlton was looking to upset the formbook and make it two weeks of PSL misery for Scott Handley after his defeat at Pontefract. Again MB Nottingham were denied as Handley managed to contain the youngster, a case Nottingham are familiar with over the last couple of seasons of being close but getting no reward. The PAR scoring leaves no margin for error, the 3-0 score line not giving Charlton the credit he deserves for pushing Handley all the way, 11/9 11/9 11/8

Irish international Arthur Gaskin found himself pushed up the order to 3 against Chris Ryder a player enjoying some excellent form recently. The result was never really in doubt even though Gaskin made Ryder work for every point and kept scoring level at the early stages of each game. The match was wrapped up and Oxford already had the tie in the bag 11/6, 11/6, 11/2

So playing for pride and with MB Nottingham still without a single point on the board it was Renan Lavigne taking on former teammate Borja Golan in the two-string match. Things didn’t start well. Lavigne didn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders at first as Golan reached game ball 10/7 in the first forcing Lavigne to dig in and minimise his errors. This late surge hauled Lavigne level at 10/10 before Golan closed out the game 12/10. Exactly the same story in the second, Golan reached game ball but again this seemed to focus Lavigne who again closed the gap before Golan again closed out the second 12/10. Nightmare. So close and still no points for MB Nottingham.

Ong Beng Hee had a chat with Lavigne between games and whatever he said worked a treat. Lavigne stood up the court in the third, soaked up pressure from Golan’s wickedly effective attacking boast and kept the Spaniard moving to win the quick third game 11/3. Bengy had another whisper in Lavigne’s ear and the fourth went the same way as Golan looked to be struggling slightly with his movement levelling the match 11/6. So with two points on the board and the momentum now with Lavigne I was confident for the fifth. Both players gave it their all, even for a dead rubber you could see that neither player wanted to lose as they both chased down absolutely everything. Level at 8/8 Lavigne missed an easy backhand drop that Golan hadn’t even moved for, handing the Spaniard a slight advantage but having a greater negative effect on Lavigne. The remaining rallies were tight but a no let descision at 10/8 gave Golan the match, much to the disgust of the French man who made his feelings known to the officials with typical Gallic flair.

The match between World No. 10 Ong Beng Hee and Cameron Pilley was my one confident tip for an MB Nottingham victory and hugely important to prevent Oxford getting full the 20 points available. How wrong I was. Pilley looked stronger than I’ve ever seen him before and was simply relentless for the entire 99 minutes of the match. Bengy sneaked the first 13/11 after weathering a strong fight back from the Australian before Pilley came right back to take the next two games 11/9 11/7. Oxford now had 19 points on the board and I was willing Bengy on, to try and stop the whitewash that was now looming large. Bengy crept over the line in the fourth 11/9 but it was clear who looked the stronger in the fifth as Bengy tried hard to keep the pace high and keep the tall Australian twisting and turning. The fifth was a see saw as both players battled tooth and nail for victory, any late arrivals would never have known this was a dead rubber, a testament to the players and also the importance they place on PSL matches. At 13/12 to Pilley it was the Malaysian who felt aggrieved by the officials as a stroke call handed Pilley a hard fought but well deserved win to give Oxford an incredible 20 points.

Before we set off for Oxford I was prepared for a defeat. Having chatted to Jason the week before he was almost apologetic that he was able to field such a strong team, (Yeh right) however the nature of the loss was mildly annoying even to me. In reality even if Bengy and Renan had won we would have only got 6 points as opposed to 4 so it really isn’t that bad. Honestly. We are already setting our sights towards 4th November and a fantastic home tie against local rivals Duffield.

Its already clear just two games into the season that the PSL is at its most competitive this year. I honestly can’t decide who will make the play offs come March, however if we miss out by two points no doubt everyone will have great fun reminding me about this result…

David Coghlan

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Andy Whipp reports

We got our Premier League season off to a winning start in a match which was always going to be close and a crowd pleaser against a full strength Pontefract team.


This was a good women's match to watch with two excellent players. The first two games were close with the games shared, but at 1 game all Vanessa managed to pull away after a few hard rallies and in the end showed her class to emerge the 3-1 winner. Laura put up a great fight especially given that she's been struggling with a few niggling injuries and illnesses in the previous month. Everyone knows Laura can create upsets and I'm sure as the season wears on she will only get better and better.


Joel and Neil were on the back court at the same time as the popular local fire-fighter was battling away on the glass back, but still managed to draw a decent crowd, maybe wondering how his hair was styled this week. Joel can just do everything a bit too fast for Neil who is a very good, accurate player. Neil seems to be gradually getting a bit quicker these days but just seemed generally a bit rushed by Joel's fast paced game. The were several low drop shops from both players but even though Neil put up a great fight and made the second and third games close, Joel just had a bit too much power to emerge as the 3-0 winner. A good debut for Joel back at Duffield after several years away. A great addition to our team.


This was never going to be a dull match to watch, with two players who were always going to play shots and run around quickly. This was one of the key ties marked by both teams as I'd got the victory at the end of last season in a tough match but Sourav of late has been playing extremely well. Unfortunately for me Sourav played very well not putting a foot wrong. The match was played at a crazy pace with both of us running and running and running after balls that should have been given up on to the delight of the packed crowd (but not my little legs!). Sourav won the first game 11-9 which turned out to be crucial as he just gained in confidence from that and just played too well. He was moving very well and played some fantastic shots and credit to him as he came away with the 3-0 win. I kept on running like an idiot till the last point but just felt a tiny bit rusty with a lack of good matches under my belt early on in the season. The crowd were disappointed their player had lost but were impressed with Sourav and loved the entertainment as always.


Joey and Lee then went on. With Joey expecting to win as Lee has recently had surgery on his leg, he made a good start and took the first game. As most of the crowd didn't know about Lee's recent venture under the knife, there were all sorts of mumbles from the crowd wondering why Lee had some dodgy strapping on his knee that quickly became loose with the sweat and started flapping around, exposing his bloody wound. Lee actually played some great stuff, showing off how good he is with the racket by playing some fantastic volleys and took the second game to level. Lee continued to generally control the rallies but started to struggle more and more with his movement displaying some painful grimaces along the way. He fought well and continued to play some great shots along the way, but Joey stuck to his task very well and won 3-1. Very nice for Joey to get off to a winning start on his debut. Another new addition to the team this season which will without a doubt make us the team to beat this year in The Premier League.


With the match score at 2-2 it was fitting it was left to the two top players in the country to decide the overall outcome. Nick and James always have great matches with Nick tending to get the better of them in recent years, but with Nick's absence for so long last season with his shoulder injury and with James' outstanding form over the last year it was always going to be close. This was a brilliant match. The pace was very high and the quality even higher. Nick went 2-0 up and it was up to James to try to save the match for his team. He came out and stuck with Nick up to 9-9, until Nick won the last two points to win 3-0 in a superb match. Nick played so well as did James, and apart from one or two tins from James I don't remember any tins, impressive in a match played at that high a pace with some lovely short shots. Nick is obviously feeling good these days to play at that pace for the whole match against someone like James.

A great night loved by everyone there who went to watch. As always the Duffield fans were brilliant as commented by Joey who seemed glad he'd come to play for Duffield. Our next match is in two weeks against Nottingham away, so let's hope we continue the winning start to try to reclaim our title.



Great night for Guildford

UniSport Guildford 4 beat PNH Properties Chichester 1
Ian Robinson reports

Jesse Engelbrecht 3 beat Alex Gough 0
11 - 5, 11 - 5, 11 - 2

Stacey Ross 3 beat Robbie Temple 2
9 - 11, 11 - 6, 12 - 14, 12 - 10, 11 - 8

Steve Meads 3 beat Peter Genever 1
2 - 11, 12 - 10, 11 - 5, 11 - 5

Jamie Mathews 1 lost to Nafzahizam Adnan 3
13 - 11, 5 - 11, 1 - 11, 6 - 11

Alison Waters 3 beat Dominique Lloyd-Walter 0
11 - 4, 14 - 12, 11 - 4

UniSport Guildford 4 beat PNH Properties Chichester 1

UniSport Guildford welcomed a beleaguered PNH Properties Chichester to the Varsity Centre and cashed in. PNH Properties were deprived of the services of Tim Vail (whose wife was expecting an imminent arrival) and at the last minute Azlan (injury). UniSport were able to welcome Steve Meads back for his first appearance of the new season as well as giving a first appearance to World Deaf Champion Jamie Mathews.

Alison Waters was first into action against Dominique Lloyd-Walter for the visitors - in point of fact Lloyd-Walter is now a local player living and training in Guildford. Waters is in good form at the moment despite not playing quite at her best in the recent quarter finals of the World Open. Lloyd-Walter is a tough opponent these days and it was credit to the improvement made by Waters that she got off to a lightning start and was able to bank the first game with relative ease. The second was a different matter Lloyd-Walter played with increasing confidence and had game ball but in the end the resilience of Waters was enough to take a 2 - 0 lead. Lloyd-Walter was doing a lot of work with the constant speed and pace around the court of the Guildford player and in the end the relentlessness of Waters play was the decisive factor giving UniSport Guildford a great 3 - 0 start to the match. 1 - 0.

Jamie Mathews, the World Deaf Champion, played enterprisingly to take a 1 game to 0 lead against Nafzahizam, the Malaysian, who was a last minute deputy for Azlan his more senior compatriot. After the initial surprise of finding himself a game behind, the visitor started to find his rhythm and using his considerable athleticism to good effect managed to draw level. Mathews was clearly finding the retrieving of the Malaysian disconcerting and increasingly debilitating. He was unable to replicate the quality of shots that had been so effective for him in the first game and alarmingly he lost the decisive third game scoring only 1 point. The Malaysian now was full of confidence and try as Mathews did to force his way back into the match, the visitor was controlling play too well and ran out a 3 - 1 winner to level the match scores at 1 - 1.

Steve Meads and Peter Genever were again doing what they seem to do on an annual basis and that is compete furiously against each other in this fixture in PSL. For the first time and marking the passing of the years, it was removed from the gaze of the Championship Court as both players now play at number 3 in the team order and therefore are condemned to do battle on the outside court. Meads has been troubled by a back injury recently and was reluctant to withdraw but was by no means certain of his fitness to contest. Certainly Genever came out of the blocks at full speed and matched by Meads timidity the score was suddenly 10 - 0 to the Chichester player - it was quickly pocketed 11 - 2 and the Guildford player had to regroup or, perhaps, some grouping at all would have been nice... The second was altogether a more engaging contest from a Guildford point of view, as Meads got into his inimitable style and fought to the end as he often does to steal the second on the tie break. Finding his rhythm, Meads took control of the match and finished off the second win of the night for UniSport Guildford by winning the third and fourth games at 11 - 5. A well deserved win for Guildford meant that a positive match result began to look like a possibility. 2 - 1.

Stacey Ross is now playing at number 2 string for UniSport Guildford and has looked a little short of matches. Celebrating his 35th birthday, he was tested to the full tonight by up and coming youngster Robbie Temple, PNH Properties Chichester, who smelt blood and had good cause to believe that he could win. Temple is fleet of foot and does a passable impression of Peter Marshall with his two handedness. He is a fearsome prospect for the established players, but it was his errors that let him down in the end and he was more than a little influenced to his detriment by the contribution of the match official. Ross playing well in patches did not believe that he was playing well and Temple was totally unfazed by the talented opposition and frequently fired his own brand of winners into the front of the court when least expected. Ross gained in confidence as the match wore on and worked hard to play himself into real form so that the shots started to work. It was a decidedly edgy match and as a result the movement patterns were not great and bordered on the untidy, thus the match official was probably overworked. Both the third and fourth games could have gone either way after the first two games levelled the score. The fifth game was always controlled to greater or lesser extent by the Guildford favourite. It was very jittery until 7 - 7 when Ross managed to find enough resolve to complete the business and hold back the tide of youth for one more year. UniSport Guildford, 3 - 1, had now clinched their first home win of the season, which will hopefully not be their last. The number 1s were still to play.

Jesse Engelbrecht newly appointed as number 1 for UniSport has not been high on confidence since his elevation, but lacks nothing in enthusiasm and commitment. Alex Gough has been a long term fixture in the higher echelons of the PSA rankings but has recently moved to an executive role within the PSA as their newly appointed Chief Operating Officer and is therefore regularly seen in a suit rather than a track suit. As odd as this may seem to his many fans, it has inevitably taken its toll as he no longer commits the time to the hours of work required to maintain excellence at the World Class playing level. Sensing his opportunity Engelbrecht made a positive start and was determined not to be ambushed by his very tricky opponent. Moving smoothly and with great economy of effort Engelbrecht set about asserting his authority over his ageing opponent. It was apparent that Engelbrecht could convert this into a comfortable win providing he could keep his head and concentrate on playing positive error free squash. Gough, try as he might, is not the force that he was last year and was not able to hold back the tide of an increasingly confident Engelbrecht. UniSport Guildford had now increased the winning margin to 4 - 1.

It was great night of squash played in front of a full house at the Varsity Centre against our great rivals from the south coast - it does not get much better than this. It certainly compensated for the disappointing voyage to Bristol where the score was reversed. With Guildford players all coming into form now, book your tickets early for the next match at home to Exeter Diamonds on Tuesday 4th November starting at 7pm.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Nottingham nick narrow win

David Coghlan reports on Nottingham v Chapel Allerton

Excitement and anticipation at Nottingham squash club last night as MB Nottingham’s first PSL fixture of the 2008/2009 season approached. Facing league new comers Chapel Allerton, it was only after a major delay that we finally got our season underway as we waited for three of our team to negotiate the huge traffic jams on the M1. As a result of this, we had a slightly topsy turvy match order but it did mean that the restless Nottingham crowd got an early chance to see summer signing and US national champion Julian Illingworth make his Premier Squash League debut.

Julian Illingworth vs Scott Arnold - 11/9, 11/1, 5/11, 11/6

I had heard only good things about Julian before this match, a young rapidly improving player that could cause some real upsets amongst the establishment at the top of the PSA rankings. It was easy to see why as soon as the match got under way on Nottingham’s show court.

The first was fairly even up to 5/5 as both players kept the ball tight and long, however Illingworth began to find his range, with some ultra attacking long drop shots which is the trade mark of his game. Pushing Arnorld into the back, Illingworth would seize even a slightly loose drive and fire it in short before moving straight up the court and volleying Arnold’s reply. Illingworth quickly closed out the first 11/6 and romped the second 11/1, seemingly hitting winners at will from any where on the court. Arnold tightened his game in the third, reducing Illingworth’s attacking options and minimising his own errors. Illingworth’s own attacking game seemed to falter, Arnold was reading the short balls better and keeping Illingworth well and truly contained, taking the third 11/5. Illingworth started the fourth strongly with renewed aggression, wrestling control of the T from Arnold as he extended an early 4/1 lead. Illingworth’s attacking style was back in control, adding confidence, as a frustrated Arnold struggled to contain the American, eventually succumbing 11/6 to rapturous applause from a hugely impressed Nottingham crowd.

Arthur Gaskin vs Steve Coppinger - 10/12, 0/11, 11/4, 7/11

Arthur Gaskin, Irish International and late replacement for injured Lewis Walters was one of the players stuck in traffic so had to have a quick warm up before jumping straight on the back court with South African Steve Coppinger. My concerns that Arthur may be a bit stiff and sluggish were quickly put to rest as Arthur established a huge 8/3 lead in the first with Coppinger looking slow to the ball. Playing some of the best squash I’ve seen from the young Irishman, Arthur dictated the pace of the match pushing Coppinger deep with tight mid pace length followed by punishing short volleys, keeping Coppinger off balance who could do little but chase the ball and wait for an error. From this point, and after a brief discussion with the referee to clarify that the games were now played to 11 and not 9, the game changed. Coppinger reduced his error count to zero as he soaked up what the Irishman could throw at him, forcing Gaskn to take more chances and attempt more winners. The result had an air of inevitability about it as Coppinger hauled back the deficit, with Gaskin chasing everything down pushing for that one winner that would take him over the line. Coppinger had other ideas, managing to force errors from Gaskin and dragging himself level at 10/10 before another tin saw him take the lead for the first time at 11/10. Coppinger quickly wrapped up the game 12/10 as a clearly furious Gaskin rued the loss from such a strong position. The second game was clearly a hang over from the first for Gaskin as he went down 11/0 to a now flowing Coppinger.

The third was much better as Gaskin put his mental demons aside and played a similar game to the first, dominating the T and controlling the pace. This time there was no capitulation as Gaskin weathered Coppinger’s retrieval to take an important 11/4 win. By the fourth Gaskin was starting to feel the pace as Coppinger stuck to his game plan, keeping Gaskin moving and forcing his opponent to hit winners if he wanted to win the game. After a tight start with both players working hard, covering the whole court during brutal rallies, it was Coppinger that managed to force the errors from his opponent. Gaskin rallied hard but ultimately couldn’t keep the ball away from Coppinger eventually going down narrowly 11/7.

Sarah Kippax vs Jenny Duncalf - 5/11, 5/11, 5/11

The ladies were second on the show court, as Sarah Kippax was another Nottingham player affected by traffic issues. Before hand this looked like a tall order for Kippax, Duncalf is on top of her game at the moment and at a career high ranking of 5 in the world, would be unlikely to show any mercy with a player ranked 25 places lower. However with two tournament titles to her name in almost as many weeks Kippax, was in good form, confident and eager to take a big name scalp.

Kippax had a game plan, mix things up, keep Duncalf moving front to back, disrupt her rhythm and keep her guessing. For the most part this was a sound idea and when it worked, was hugely affective. However Duncalf’s footwork and court coverage was hugely impressive, she soaked up the changes in pace and direction to counter attack whatever Kippax could throw at her. Duncalf’s defensive length was also tight to the wall, minimising any further attack from Kippax.

The match was ultimately fairly comfortable for Duncalf, however Kippax held her own and showed flashes of brilliance at the front of the court, Duncalf played very well and was ruthless in her shot execution. The highest ranked female player in the PSL at least Kippax can take heart that it shouldn’t get any harder than this!

John Rooney vs Chris Simpson 11/6, 10/12, 11/5, 11/7

With Chapel Allerton now 2-1 up it fell to Irish International and Nottingham regular Rooney, to stop the rot and salvage something for the home team. Beforehand this match had been identified as the pivotal tie, a fact both players were well aware of so there was certainly no holds barred for the entirety of the match.

Rooney raced to a 4-0 lead in the first, dictating the pace with great lobs followed by deft drops that kept Simpson constantly under pressure. After a brief stall and a string of points from Simpson, Rooney eased through the first game 11/6 much to the relief of the packed viewing gallery. The second was much tighter. Neither player giving an inch and Simpson managing to get pretty much every ball back in play, most of the time with interest, stalling Rooney’s attack and on more than one occasion counter attacking to great effect. Rooney dominated the T and largely dictated the pace of the game however it was Simpson’s relentless retrieval that was amazing, a fact that would have ground down many an opponent both physically and mentally. From game ball down Simpson simply didn’t stop fighting, clawing back to level the game at 10/10. The demoralising nature of your opponent doing this was clear for everybody to see as Rooney put two reasonably comfortable balls in the tin to hand the important second game to Simpson.

It’s a testament to Rooney’s mental toughness that he came back out in the third and straight away continued to apply pressure to his opponent. Simpson’s retrieval was on some occasions truly amazing, however Rooney wasn’t fazed and kept the relentless Simpson moving with high lobs, sweet volley drops and a wicked change of pace that clearly took its toll. With Simpson physically wilting at the end of the third Rooney capitalised taking the game 11/5 and a 2/1 game lead.

With Nottingham fans hoping Simpson would now be spent, it was impressive to see Simpson come back on in the fourth and continue chasing down every ball without any apparent sign of the fatigue that appeared in the third. The theme was the same as earlier games, Rooney dictating play, pushing Simpson to the back with great length followed by working volleys. With nothing between them at 7/7 it was three errors forced by a combination of Rooney’s tightness and the inevitable mental and physical toll of the game that gave Rooney match ball. At 10/7 with firstly a tentative let call, then a no let from a Rooney winner, the game was in the bag and MB Nottingham had levelled the match with just the No.1 string players left to play

Ong Beng Hee vs Jon Harford 11/8, 11/7, 11/3

MB Nottingham’s Malaysian star and current World No. 10 is beginning his 3rd season at Nottingham and has already given confirmed availability for the first three fixtures, something the team really missed last year. In his first year at Nottingham Bengy, was unbeaten, getting results against notable players such as James Willstrop, Nick Matthew and Cameron Pilley, he is always a fantastic player to watch and in his current rich vein of form, will be a player of concern for every Premier League team MB Nottingham meets.

With the late withdrawal of Chapel Allerton’s number 1, Alastair Walker through injury, this always looked like a tough job for the World No 60 Harford and that it was. Harford battled hard during the first keeping pace with Bengy and even leading at 7/6 before Bengy’s incredibly deft length and effortless movement started to get results, taking the first 11/8. The second followed suit as Harford worked hard for every point, but Bengy looking so relaxed, seemingly chose exactly where he wanted to put the ball at any time, taking it 11/7. The third was a formality, as an obviously frustrated Hardford had nothing to challenge the dominance of Ong Beng Hee wrapping the game up 11/3 and giving MB Nottingham a great first match victory.

A fantastic night for MB Nottingham and a great start to the Premier Squash League season. My congratulation to the team, who acquitted themselves fantastically and worked hard for the win, lets hopes that this continues in two weeks as we travel to Oxford and then on 4th November as we play host to the East Midlands Derby, taking on former champions Duffield.

David Coghlan

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Surrey v St George's ... the SOBO report

The celebrations of last seasons victory lasted well into October…punctuated by Vicky’s retirement (sort of) from squash, Davide’s anger management courses, the odd victory or two against David Palmer by Peter and Wael going about his business winning the Petrosport Open, albeit in his back garden …

That said and done, onto the main event. The St. George’s crew have a young look and feel to them and Manager, Danny Lee should be congratulated for fielding such a team in the PSL; Rachel Wilmott, Joe Lee, Tom Richards, Mark Krajcsak and led by Daryl Selby.

First up on the main court, Vicky vs. Rachel.

In truth, the result here was never in doubt but Rachel acquitted herself well in the first and third before succumbing to a 3-0 defeat. The most amusing part of this match was watching the two ladies attempt to depart the court at 9-6 only to be ordered back by the (most scary) ref who advised them that scoring was to 11 for the ladies as well as the men this season!

Vicky in particular looked somewhat puzzled before duly winning the next two points anyway. Still, most amusing.

Surrey 1 – 0 St George’s

On the adjacent court, Ben Ford was half asleep against young Joe Lee. Truth be told, I don’t think Joe did anything amazing on there. He was solid, error free and hit some pretty decent stuff but Ben by comparison seemed to be trying to kill the points early and unfortunately, it wasn’t working. Joe picked up most things with interest and deservedly took a 2-0 lead.

Of all our team, Ben Ford has the game I personally, most admire and whilst logic would suggest that at 2-0 down and looking pretty knackered against a young and fit opponent, it would be all over pretty quickly, it was all change in the third.

His shots were tighter which gave him more time on the ball and he deservedly took the third game. However, despite a monumental effort in the fourth, Joe kept his discipline to sneak the fourth on a tie break for a well earned 3-1 win. Well played mate!

Surrey 1 – 1 St George’s (grrr…)

Davide vs. Mark
This was another that turned out to be pretty straightforward. Davide looked comfortably throughout but the match was most notable for an incident in the second. The ref made a decision; not massively controversial by any stretch but with enough doubt for Davide to get somewhat upset.


Instead, his anger management trainer (Vicky Botwright) was seen making finger-on-lips gestures at her Italian “patient” and despite an obvious struggle, he adhered. Imagine if you can, Davide with all the gesticulation but the mouth remaining firmly shut. Most amusing.

Anyway, that aside, a good, solid 3-0 win earnt without too much drama. Well done Vicky.

Surrey 2 – 1 St George’s (Happy days…)

Tim Garner vs. Tom

I apologise but I didn’t see any of this one but I’m told that Captain Tim put in a valiant effort and even had the audacity to burgle a game from Tom RichardsJ All said and done though and despite a quality effort by our captain, a 3-1 victory for St George’s in this one.

Surrey 2 – 2 St George’s (grrr…)

Peter vs. Daryl
And so, with the tie poised at two matches apiece, the number one strings took to the court. Peter Barker, having recently returned from a jaunt to the US where he beat David Palmer not once but twice in Chicago and Baltimore must have been full of confidence. Daryl Selby on the other hand hasn’t been making the same waves as Peter but, (and I say this with a begrudging respect for the opposition…) he has an uncanny knack of beating quality opposition when it matters; just ask both Peter and Stewart Boswell. Daryl is annoyingly GOOD if you get my drift.

So good in fact that despite some monster rallies and superb retrieval from both players, Daryl took a 2-0 lead and looked on course for an almost shock result. Peter duly came good though and after almost two hours and the odd questionable call from the ref, Peter and the Surrey Health & Racquets team emerged 3-2 victors.

Surrey 3 – 2 St George’s (Never in doubt!)

Much closer than we might have hoped but the TWP sponsored St. Georges outfit in truth, deserved every point they got. Their next match is against Bristol. If Daryl plays Adrian, I wouldn’t plan on anything other than a room at a local hotel as I guarantee that it’ll go the full distance!

Talking of distance…as for the champions, I believe our next fixture has us on an Israelites journey down to Exeter. Anyone know what the time difference is down there?

As you were…

David Sobo

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bloggers Wanted - prizes to be won !

Just days to go until the new PSL season kicks off, and with the new season comes some new and (hopefully) exciting marketing developments. As you will be able the see we have a new PSL website, which as well as the usual fixtures, results, and news, will give clubs, players, and most importantly fans the chance to get involved.

Which brings me nicely onto our first website competition of the year. We are looking for 11 bloggers (one fan representing each PSL team) to keep us updated on everything that goes on at your PSL club throughout the season - we want all of the news, gossip, events, and reaction from inside the club, and only you, the fans, can do that properly!

The competition is pretty straight forward, all you need to do is email me ( with your name, the team you support, and tell me why you should be your team's blogger for this season (in 50 words or less). I will then pick the fan with the most convincing argument (keep it clean!) from each club, and those fans will receive tickets to the 2009 National Championships at the National Squash Centre, courtesy of England Squash. The competition closes on Friday 24th October, so get those entries in!

That should be enough blogging from me for one day, apparently we have a World Championships to organise, but before I go you might like to know that we will have a range of PSL posters for your notice boards and bedroom walls (if that is what floats your boat). They will be made available to download from this site shortly, as well as being available from your England Squash Area Manager, but here is a sneak preview:

Friday, August 29, 2008

Welcome to the PSL Blog

New for the 2008/09 season, the PSL blog allows team managers, players, supporters to have their say on the happenings in the UK's most prestigious squash league.

Whether it's match previews or reports, funny incidents, other happenings at PSL Clubs, we want to hear about it ...