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