As many of you know, last Thursday night, the mighty Spencer squash first team took on Christophers in a huge top of the table clash. Both teams were able to field pretty strong sides and it was great to see a large number of home supporters on the balcony throughout in addition to all of the team players.
First up at number one string was Jamie, keen to secure a quick victory and head off into the surrounding neighbourhood of Earlsfield for some Thursday night activities. Jamie seeked the victory that Alex narrowly missed out on during the first half of the season against a fit and impressive Andy Clorley, a keen admirer of Spencer Squash Club, having previously worked his way up the ranks as a youth team player. Andy played very well throughout and it is fair to say that when Jamie looks back on his life one day, he will not classify this occasion as being one of his happier moments on the planet… A 3-0 victory to Christophers put them in control early on in this match but there was still plenty of drama to follow. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity for a post-match interview with Jamie however apparently he was quoted as saying something along the lines of: “Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play…!”
On the opposite court at fifth string was Nick, looking to get revenge against Dion following on from their game in the first half of the season. The Christophers team had gambled on a victory in this match, however some very impressive and consistent play from Nick, combined with some top quality marking, meant that despite being watched by his young son, Dion could not find an answer to Nick’s “even better” fitness levels than at this stage earlier in the season. A fine 3-0 victory to Nick 9/4, 9/4, 9/4. “You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is a real joy.”
Next up, the second string match started on court number one with Spencer’s youngest player Jannus up against Simon. Jannus started slowly and resembled a young man looking slightly lost on court as he went 2-0 down. Things were looking very worrying for Spencer Club and the remainder of the team decided to put a bit of pressure on Jannus, telling him to forget about his bad hangover from the previous night’s 2am festivities…! A very close third set seemed to edge in both directions until Jannus was able to take advantage of his many recent training sessions and sneak the third set. Suddenly the game changed and Jannus took control, frustrating his opponent with a neat selection of very tidy drop shots and lobs. It is fair to say that Jannus was not looking to create any long rallies but instead to use his fine touch to kill the ball at every opportunity. The match soon entered into a fifth set at 2-2 and the huge crowd started to get very excited indeed! However, the contest was almost over as Jannus was now in control and never really looked like losing the final set as he wrapped up a superb comeback with a 3-2 victory…! “I always felt that my greatest asset was not my physical ability, it was my mental ability (and sneaky drop shots…!)” “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up again.”
At fourth string, Dan played a slightly out of form Ravi, with high expectations from the home crowd. It is fair to say that Dan was determined to get back to winning ways and took control from early on in the match. The domination continued throughout and despite a few nice long rallies, it didn’t take long until Dan had secured an important 3-0 victory for the team. In fact, I think that the match started during Jannus’ second set and finished at about the time that Jannus had pulled back to 2-1. A good win which allowed Jannus to steal all the glory and eventually wrap up the Spencer team victory on the night!
Finally at third string, the intriguing match which everybody had been looking forward to. Alex, the experienced fine technical touch player, versus Pete, the young unbelievable runner who seems to keep running forever and pick up every shot. In fact, two completely opposite players in every respect…! The crowd always expected Alex to win this match but everybody feared the potential consequences of very long rallies and a hard couple of early sets. And that is exactly what happened! With some incredible rallies during the first set, Alex eventually won it 9/7 and was certainly warmed up by this stage. A more comfortable energy-saving second set was exactly what Alex needed to go 2-0 ahead. With news spreading of Jannus’ victory at the end of the second set, this match was no longer about winning the overall match but was more about a combination of 1) personal pride; 2) avoiding the need to run flat-out for more than three sets; and 3) everybody wanting to eat some pizza as quickly as possible! However, Pete had other ideas and moved incredibly well during the third set in order to really test Alex’s fitness during some gruelling rallies. There were very occasions where Alex seemed to “forget” which side he should be serving or “accidently” drop the ball in between rallies but who could blame him…! Pete was ahead for most of the set but Alex somehow managed to dig out a 9/7 victory in the fifth to take the set 9/7 and secure a fantastic 3-0 victory. “Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.”
Overall, an awesome 16-5 victory for Spencer Club against our title rivals! Neither the title nor promotion are mathematically secured yet but there is now a 39-point gap and we have two very winnable matches remaining against Woking and Wimbledon. Well played everyone and hopefully we can wrap up the title in a few weeks. The latest league table is below.
PS It was also great to hear that our second team recorded another good victory last week. Well played!
Last night, our Spencer Squash Club centre of excellence first team lined up against Purley 4, who are one of our main rivals for a squash Surrey County League promotion spot in division 5R. It is hard to imagine a squash match bigger than this one and it was no surprise that the players entered the Earlsfield squash courts in front of an almost capacity crowd and a buzzing atmosphere!
Spencer got off to a good start before the match had even started with the news that Purley 4 were a man down. Clearly they were intimidated by the recent news that Nick has significantly increased his levels of squash and is now almost playing once per week!
· First up was Alex, fresh from his 1 hour 20 minute 3-2 “warm-up” the previous evening. Alex was in no mood for a repeat of such a long match and clinically controlled his opponent Paul with a comprehensive 3-0 victory totalling 27-10. I did not have the pleasure of witnessing this fine victory but “who you are tomorrow begins with what you do today”.
· Captain Dan played first on the other court against a player who was a few years older but had dominated the last meeting between the pair a few years ago. Dan took charge of the first set before being pegged back to 1-1 with some good play from Rob. After some top quality coaching tips from the strong home support, Dan went 2-1 ahead and was then keen to secure the 4th set, only to find himself 7-0 down in a 90-second thumping and the match soon levelled at 2-2. So into the fifth set, which at times almost became too much for the huge crowd. Rob raced ahead 4-0, Dan came back to 4-4, both players traded blows with some big shots and then Dan saw three match points disappear at 8-7. Rob then pulled back to 8-8, almost secured the match during a very long rally at 9-8 (which Dan won with one of his worst shots in months!) and then finally Dan stole the match 10-9 in the fifth. “As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us.”
· Over on the other court, Jamie played against captain Paul and sneaked a long first set 10-8. The second set passed very quickly for a 9-2 win and Jamie held on with some extremely top quality squash to take the third set 9-5. Another fantastic win for Jamie. “Opportunity doesn't make appointments, you have to be ready when it arrives.”
· So over to Jannus for the final match. A recent product of our fantastic youth team setup and looking in top condition following his recent squash training camps in Bristol, Jannus entered the court with a level of confidence that suggested he was ready to record his first ever win for Spencer Club at senior level against a highly rated Carl who has been rightly pushed up the playing order for Purley 4. Jannus stormed ahead with a comprehensive 9-0 victory in the first set and raced ahead early on in the second. It looked like Jannus’ superb fitness levels were not going to be required until Carl suddenly mounted an impressive comeback and secured the second set 9-5. Another tense third set allowed Jannus to show off the product of his recent Bristol training achievements as he clinched a very long set 10-9. Just what the crowd were hoping for as the wonderful smell of the 15 waiting pizzas started to enter the squash arena…! Realising his sudden hunger, Jannus launched into top gear and created a replay of the first set with another 9-0 victory to clinch the second string match 3-1. “Be prepared, but look unprepared. That way, your opponent thinks he doesn’t have to prepare to defeat you.”
In the end, the Spencer followers headed to the clubhouse with a fantastic 19-3 victory and proudly sit top of the league with four matches to go. Who knows what the outcome would have been had Purley fielded a full team. Further excitement followed in the Spencer bar as the crescendo of noise rose to an even higher level following word from the national news reports confirming that Reigate had dropped points during a close 3-2 win over Woking, leaving Spencer with a nice 25-point gap between us and third place. The current league table shows us as top of the league with a 19-point gap over Christophers, with their result against Grafton from Tuesday still unknown despite the significant press coverage of division 5R. Well played everyone and let’s keep up our intense squash training sessions this weekend!
PS The following link contains proof that my best moves are definitely not on the dancefloor…