Chantry Victorious in George Smith Cup

(thanks to Bill Steele for writing this report of the George Smith Cup clash between Chantry and Silver Leys Squash Clubs)

Few towns the size of Bishop’s Stortford can boast two England Squash-listed clubs. BS Squash Club at Silver Leys has been around since about mid-last century and the other club in town Chantry Squash Club in Cricketfield Lane, was formed with the building of two courts at the BS Sports Trust facilities in 1978. A number of players have progressed to joining the bigger club from Chantry over the years and the club has wished them well.

The progression of some Chantry players was in evidence on Thursday 7th December with the resumption of a competition between the two clubs that was suspended some years ago. A trophy called the George Smith Memorial Cup was presented to the two clubs by George’s family and the annual competition inaugurated. There is more to the story. George had been a member of a third Bishop’s Stortford squash club, called the Links Club that was established at BS Golf Club at its old clubhouse site close to the Nag’s Head in Dunmow Road. When the clubhouse was relocated Links Club was disbanded. That was in the late 1980s. The club had a thriving membership at the time and while the club’s passing was recognised as a blow by lovers of the sport, it sparked a bit of a brawl between the two remaining clubs determined to win new members.

George chose Chantry and came with a number of others. The BS club too welcomed new members and to this day many of those members are still playing at the same clubs. Sadly George died suddenly just after coming off court at a Sunday club night at Chantry in 1994 despite friend’s attempts to save him.

So, last Thursday after some years and a spike in the rivalry between the two clubs due mainly to the progression at the start of this county league season of yet another Chantry player to the other club – but this time no youngster, the hurt resulted in time-honoured fashion in a duel and the George Smith Memorial Competition was chosen as the battleground and the splendid trophy the symbol of superiority.

To balance the team strengths Fred Cooke of BSSC and Carl Noffki ex-Chantry duly seeded two teams of nine, some of whom had county squash league experience. The novelty was that two of the ex-Chantry players, Gavin and Carl Noffki were to represent their old club against the top two players in the BSSC team. It had been the aim of the original George Smith Competition to enlist the ex-Links members of the two clubs in the competition as the camaraderie was still current when the trophy was minted. Thus as many as possible of those ex-Links members still treading the boards were told of the resumption of the competition and notably Carl Holly of BSSC and Les Argent of Chantry played a racketball match.

And so to the arena, and on this occasion this was the two courts at Chantry. The tasteful trophy had been stored at Chantry as the holders and it was polished and displayed and admired by all. The stage was set, the format was to be nine matches, best of three games in each case. First there was the usual argument about who was marking. On court two Les and Carl played their racketball match out with rather more grace and less noise than was coming from court one where Fred Cooke was getting some stick for turning out in a Paisley pattern bandana to contain his petulant locks. His opponent Carl in Chantry colours practised dutifully while Fred entertained. Then we got going and Carl was making some unforced errors. The game is cat-and-mouse at this level – length, length, every stroke, keep your opponent at the rear while looking to stretch him or get the ball in the nick so you get a chance at a winner. The less mistakes the more medals. Carl was coming back, Fred made a couple of errors and Carl indeed took the first game to loud applause from Chantry team onlookers. Fred was rather more determined in the second game, still flamboyant but with outrageous shots to go with his headgear he took the second game comfortably. The third was slipping away from Carl with Fred displaying his substantial squash talents to the full but when close to match point he seemed to lose concentration and Carl capitalised and clawed his way back to match point himself. In that rally Carl had a clear-cut opportunity to claim the point since an uncharacteristically poor strike from Fred left him marginally in Carl’s way but Carl chose to play the ball rather than ask for the marker’s opinion knowing there probably would have been no winner available and went on with the rally which Fred took. Fred then took the final point leaving Carl kicking himself. But a very entertaining match was enjoyed by the onlookers and the night was still young.

Les and Carl, gentlemen throughout their match, were in the bar by this time and both being ex-Links members were interested in a Chantry membership list from 1991 that had been brought along showing many old familiar names who chose Chantry 26 years ago.

Next up for Chantry was Mark Douglas who currently enjoys quite frequent success playing number one in Chantry’s county team and has a chance to confirm his status as club champion soon when the championship finals take place. Mark played Richard Paul and these two were taking it seriously. In a seesaw first game Mark took it by relentlessly putting the ball at the back of the court without going for any winners but could not contain Richard in the second, or perhaps Mark had let up, because in the third he stormed to a 8-0 lead. But then things slid backwards and Richard carefully played his way back to 9-10. Then, however Mark found another burst of concentration and got to within a couple of points of the finishing line. Richard wasn’t giving up without a fight but Mark got there in the end.

The next match between John Grieves of Chantry and Andrew Dobbs of BSSC was even more closely fought. John got the first game and Andrew the second. The third went to John but on another day the result could have been different. On the other court Will Kirkham for Chantry was playing Dan Overett and Will took the first fairly comfortably but then developed a back injury which slowed him down and Dan cashed in, taking the next two games. The next match too was affected by an injury to Chantry’s Simon Murphy who had been out for a while and thought he had recovered enough for this occasion but it was not to be and he went down 2-0 to Steff Burkwood. After that James Argent played Jon Taylor of BSSC and stole the match 2-1. James always keeps us guessing right to the last moment and he did not disappoint his team-mates in this encounter. Jon dug in well to win the second game after James concentrated for long enough to take the first but James eventually recovered his determination and concentration to take the third.

The penultimate match was probably the highlight of the evening as far as squash excellence is concerned. This was actually played between two members of BSSC, Gavin Noffki and Matt Delaney. The twist is that they both began at Chantry and spent a number of years there before their squash developed to a level where a step-up was appropriate. It was decided that Gavin playing number one and brother Carl should be in the Chantry team and Matt would play at one for BSSC. These guys are so quick around the court that winners are not easy to convert. So the ball is sent to the back wall again and again until an opportunity arises to catch the opponent out of position. Matt is carrying a bit of extra weight at present which he says is due to recently starting a family and this has limited his exercise – not everybody’s experience in those circumstances some said. However he is a tall lad and this makes quite a difference even if the mobility is impaired. Gavin was returning everything but Matt played some lightning shots with stunning power and made winners when nothing looked on. Gavin played many fine strokes of his own and he is not used to coming second but on this occasion he was beaten 2-0 by someone who seemed to want to prove something – or was it that Captain Cooke had directed that the points must be captured since things overall were not looking as cosy as some had expected? Matt certainly impressed the Chantry crowd with the way his game has matured and Gavin always impresses.

The final match was Chantry’s Paul Carter against Mark Delhoy of BSSC and looking at the overall scores thus far Paul had a good idea of what he had to do. And he duly did it with a 2-0 win and no disgrace to Mark who did everything he could to bring home the bacon but Paul was fired up and so he should have been after leaving the Chantry team without its number two on Tuesday night for ‘An important business call’.

The Winning Team

So the final score was tallied in games won rather than matches and the 13-12 winners were the Chantry boys as pictured. Thanks are due to the guys who organised all this, Fred, Carl and Paul Carter.

 

Back to Winning Ways at last!

With a last win on 15th November, it was high time that Chantry brought their 7 match losing streak to an end against Gosling, sitting just below us in the table.

Chantry’s fortunes and appetites weren’t helped when Vinnie ‘Chef’ Tram pulled out at the last moment (unusually he had a good excuse, so won’t get the normal abuse).  Luckily James stepped up to the plate to fill in and was first on court as string 5 against John.

James hasn’t, shall we say, got the best stats in the team; so it was to some surprise that he came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders and took the first game very comfortably 15-7.  The second game saw James revert to his normal headless-chicken approach but still managed to hold on to take the second 16-14.  Now with his confidence sky high the quality of the first game re-emerged and he closed it out 15-9 for James’s first ever 3-0 win in a team game.  Well played James!

With Chef’s withdrawal, Will was promoted to 4th string and was up against Nick Catt. Clearly, Chantry were in no mood to mess around tonight as Will quickly put Nick to the sword in another comprehensive victory – 15.9, 15-13, 15-12.

A good start by Chantry and that was continued by Mark in yet another easy 3-0 victory, this time over Jon Noonan.  It appears that Chantry have finally stopped the rot – maybe they’re taking Vinh’s absence as an opportunity to try to dislodge him at the top of the stats?

Victory is already assured before Paul takes to the court against Sid Newbon.  Would this be a repeat of the cracking match in the reverse fixture? Which Sid took 3-2 after Paul ran out of steam in the fifth.  Paul certainly started like the other guys, taking the first game 15-6.  It’s all looking easy as Paul pulls into a lead in the 2nd too but then he relaxes and Sid comes back, starting to find some form and before long Paul has dropped the first game of the night 14-16.  A good talking to in the break has the necessary effect and Paul picks up the pace again to win the last two games 15-13, 15-6.

So it’s all down to Capt Carl to make it a clean sweep and a maximum 20 points for Chantry – sorely needed after that long losing run.  Unfortunately for Carl, the Gosling #1 is Adam (who, bizarrely, played Vinh at #4 in the reverse fixture as they were both coming back from injury).  Adam’s certainly not injured now and Maybe Carl can’t wait for the pizza to arrive he can’t get close to him and crashes to a 3-0 loss, barely troubling the scorers on the way.   Much muttering about what’s the point of all the coaching as the teams wait for the pizza to arrive.  Nowhere near as good Vinnie’s promised Ginger Ninja Chicken would have been!

 

 

Where was Amy?

Team selections dominated the match against Radlett this week. Radlett brought in a youngster at 1 to strengthen whilst Chantry were weakened by Mark’s repeated absence.  Carl had hinted on WhatsApp at the appearance of a new recruit called Amy but sadly despite high hopes she didn’t make an appearance so James and Will The Wall joined Carl, Vinh and Paul.

As usual for away games, Chantry for first there and were admiring their new online / touchscreen booking system before the home team deigned to put in an appearance.

Will got us underway against Jamie and rapidly built up a healthy 7-2 lead in the first game.  Unfortunately at that point Will seemed to hit The Wall and it was all downhill from there as Jamie started to move better winning the first game 15-10.  Will’s best efforts to bamboozle his opponent with unorthodox shots were to no avail and Jamie was able to close out the next two games pretty easily 15-9, 15-10.

On the other court James took on Andew at string 5, with both players revelling in unorthodox, bizarre and sometimes downright dangerous squash!  This wasn’t a match for the purist but was certainly entertaining to watch (preferably from behind the sofa!).  An epic first game finally went to James 17-15 but the effort he put into that game meant that James needed rest so he spent the second game largely standing around at the back of the court, going down 15-6.  Refreshed from that rest, James can out fighting and even running in the 3rd – edging ahead and staying there to take it 15-13.   Time for James to take another rest, but Andrew is also getting tired but he can still take it convincingly 15-9.  Into the 5th and deciding set and both players are looking jaded and the squash is largely played in slow motion.  It’s nip and tuck for most of the game but eventually Andrew finds just enough to edge into the lead and James hasn’t got anything more to give and loses the final game 15-12.  But definitely an improvement over last week by James – and the coaching sessions haven’t started yet!

String #3 is Paul up against Jillian (wife of Andrew).  By now the court is getting pretty warm which suits Jillian’s game which is focused around good retrieving of the ball.  She builds up a bit of a lead in the first game before Paul starts to vary his game and put in some classic left-hander boasts and cross-courts and Jillian fades to concede the game 15-9.  Buoyed by this, Paul thinks he’s found the tactics needed to win this match but Jillian’s clearly been given some good advice in the break between games and changes her tactics, picking off the ball early and anticipating Paul’s boasts and everything starts to go wrong for Paul and he collapses to lose the game 15-5.  Vinh’s advice to Paul is that he should be playing more straight drops as Jillian is getting stuck at the back.  Unfortunately that doesn’t work – not least because Paul seems incapable of playing a decent drop shot and Jillian keeps retrieving them and playing lovely straight forehand drives from the front right.  Another game goes to Jillian easily 15-7 and she is very much on top now.  Vinh repeats his advice to keep on dropping but early in the 4th game Paul decides that’s crap advice and starts to drive to a better length and all of a sudden the match swings back his way and he takes the match into a decider with a 15-9 win.  Last week Paul managed to win in the 5th, could he repeat it this week?  Despite some rather dodgy calls by the marker, the decider is tight all the way to 10 but then Paul plays a boast for a 12-10 lead but the ball just catches the top of the tin.  Two rallies later, Jillian also boasts and this time the ball just clears the top of the tin and she has a 13-11 lead.  Another tight drive gives her 3 match points.  Paul digs deep and saves 1 match point after another and levels it again at 14-14.  But a great retrieval in the back corner gives Jillian another match point and this time she converts it to take a very tight game 16-14 and, with it, the match.

Meanwhile Vinnie is also engaged in a marathon against Ian.  Both players are showing off their silky squash skills and the first game is tight but Ian takes it 15-13, the second goes to VInnie 16-14 and now he’s firmly on top as Ian seems to have lost the plot and isn’t reading Vinh’s shots as we wins a very comfortable game 15-4.  But Ian comes out fighting in the 4th (perhaps he’d taken a tactical tip from James and was having a rest in 3rd?), but Vinnie is still up and he has a match point at 14-13 but Ian won’t give up and fights to save the point.  Vinnie’s head goes down a little and Ian wins the next two points to take the match into the decider.  After a pep talk in the break, Vinnie shows real desire and quickly pulls into a lead as Ian begins to tire.  At last a win for Chantry with a score of 15-9 to Vinnie in the 5th.

Can Carl make the night respectable as he goes on court with young Luke (well he’s young compared to the rest of us!).  It’s pretty clear in the warm-up that Luke has a good technique and natrual squash ability, despite this being his first season of team squash.  As soon as the match starts it’s also clear that Luke’s bloody fast around the court and Carl quickly concludes that he’s not got a chance and subsides 15-8.  Despite attempts by his team-mates to encourage Carl to push and try to find chinks in the armour, he’s already decided he’s going to lose but does at least prove to be consistent and also loses the next two games 15-8.

So a 5th loss on the trot for Chantry and we’re now firmly in the lower half of the table but are only 5 points behind Radlett who are up to 3rd and have played the same number of games as us – so there’s hope left.

No game for two weeks – hopefully we’ll be back up to full strength for the visit of Allenbury’s and maybe Amy will put in an appearance!

 

 

A Tale of Two Climates

After the Christmas and New Year break, Chantry were back in action at Haileybury in a re-arranged fixture – how would the team fare after the excesses of Christmas and New Year?

For unclear reasons, only court two was available at 7:30, so James, still suffering the after-effects of a Christmas cold, was first on against Rob.  Unfortunately it was quickly pretty clear that James had had a good helping of brussel sprouts with his Turkey and lost the first game 15-9.  In the break James complained it was pretty cold on the court and he couldn’t get warm.  We all stated the bleedin’ obvious – run around more!  Clearly that was pretty poor advice as James barely troubled the scorers from that point, losing the next games 15-2, 15-7.

Not a great start, could John do any better against Julian.  John certainly started brightly, building up a decent lead in the first game but then Julian, who has been playing team squash for aeons, started to bring his experience and court nous to bear, fighting back to take the first game 15-12.  John wasn’t going to quit quite as easily as James and came out fighting again in the 2nd.  This time he didn’t let Julian get back at him and took the game 15-10. Chantry on the scoreboard at last!  Unfortunately, whoever ‘coached’ John at the end of that game didn’t do a very good job as Julian rattled off the 3rd game convincingly 15-4.  The 4th game was better but Julian never let John get in control and took it 15-11 for a 3-1 win and put Haileybury in a strong position.

Meanwhile Paul has got changed and put on his trusty old Chantry Squash Club sweat-top because it’s so cold on court.  But now court one is available for his match – and it’s roasting on there!  No problem with keeping warm on this court and the sweat-top comes off pretty quickly.  Paul is up against Ashley, who has been around for quite a while but haven’t played each other before.  Both players are not quite as svelte as they were before Christmas but both do a half-decent impression of a  left-handed squash player.  The first game is tight all the way through to 10-10 and then Paul pulls away with a few good serves and closes it out 15-11.  In the second, Ashley realises that Paul is also left-handed and adapts his game and is in control of the game – although it ends up quite tight as Paul comes back but Ashley takes it 15-11.  The third also finishes 15-11, with Paul winning his second game as he starts to catch Ashley with sharp cross-courts to the backhand corner.  In the fourth both players start to make mistakes and Paul starts to tire and tries too many dropshots – in that heat anything but a perfect drop is easily retrieved.  Realising his mistake, Paul reverts to drives to the back (and sometimes the corner too) and pulls it back to 11-11, before Ashley gets a couple of nice nicks to help him take the game 15-12.  So into the decider and now it’s Ashley getting tired and Paul remembers to avoid drops as much as possible.  Cross-court drives are increasingly escaping Ashley’s reach and Paul takes the match with a 15-10 win in the final game.

Over on the artic court 2, Vinnie is playing Adam.  VInnie has been promoted to string 2 now that his arm is better and he’s got his form back.  But it’s looking like a promotion too far in the first game as he loses 15-12 but Vinnie starts to find his rhythm and takes the 2nd game 15-8.  But then Adam starts to play the conditions.  VInnie is playing his usual classic squash game of straight drives – but it’s so cold it’s nearly impossible to hit the ball to the back of the court so Adam is intercepting nearly every drive and dropping the ball at the front where it dies long before Vinnie can get off his heels.  In the whole game the ball only hits the back wall 5 times and Vinnie can’t wait to get off court after being embarressed 15-3.  In the break, Vinnie is told in no uncertain terms to stop trying to play drives and start playing dropshots.  Immediately the match swings with Vinnie back in the game and he takes the fourth 15-10 to even things up.  He also starts well in the fifth, building up a solid lead but then, inexplicably, stupidly, crazily, starts to revert to type and is driving the ball again.  Adam takes advantage and starts to pull it back but at the last Vinh puts in a few killer drops and takes the game 15-13 and with it the match.

So the evening is level at 2-2 as Carl takes on Graham on mediterranean court 1.  Both players start off running around a lot and trying to playing good squash with mixed success.  It certainly looks like a post-Christmas game!  Graham shows a bit more application than Carl and wins the first two games 15-10, 15-12 so it’s not looking good for Chantry.  In contrast to the advice to Vinnie on the other court, Carl is encouraged to stop playing dropshots and focus on keeping the ball tight in the back corners.  Sure enough a change in tactics here helps too – Carl takes the third game 15-10, being in control the whole way.  Into the fourth and it looks like the pendulum has swung completely to Chantry as Graham clearly gives up and hands Carl an easy 15-3.  But it’s soon clear that Graham was giving himself a rest in that game and comes back fighting in the fifth.  It’s nip and tuck all the way – and the squash has improved too.  Carl is ahead but then Graham gets a couple of nice nicks to take a  14-11 lead.  Carl saves all 3 match points to level things up at 14-14 and it’s a tie-break to decide the last game of the last match.  A fitting finale to a good series of matches.  Unfortunately Carl’s efforts in saving those match points takes it out of him and he can’t save the next one and loses 16-14 – but a brave effort.

So Chantry start 2017 with a loss and are now firmly mid-table. But next week we’re at Radlett who we beat in the first half so perhaps we can break this run of 4 losses on the trot!

 

Ickleford march to top of league against Chantry

Chantry entered this match with high hopes after seeing that their opponents, Ickleford 1, had been crushed 20-1 by Nuffield the week before.  But it turned out that their #1 missed last weeks game but was back to face Chantry – what a difference a decent number 1 makes!  And this week, Mark has abandoned his team mates in favour of a few over-priced beers in London, so Ian is drafted in at 4 with Vinnie moving up to 3.  So Ickleford have their strongest side out against a weakened Chantry.

First up was Vinnie against Neil, so that he could get started on creating his latest culinary masaterpiece.  The first game was a marathon with many long rallies tiring out both players.  Vinnie slipped to 6-12 down but then momentum swung his way and he brought it back to 12-12 but then, at the critical time, his concentration wavered and a few mistakes later, he’d lost the game 12-15.  A quick pep-talk and Vinnie starts the next game well, it’s nip and tuck all the way through to 9-9.  Vinnie finds his next gear and Neil can’t keep up as Vinnie wins 15-11.  Much better, can Vinnie maintain the momentum this time?  He starts the third game well, going 5-2 up but then bad habits start to resurface and he lets his opponent catch-up and then overtake him as Neil starts to pick off Vinnie’s all too frequent loose shots. The fourth game follows a similar sequence with Vinnie pulling out a 5-1 lead only for Neil to power away to a 12-6 lead, ultimately taking the game 15-9 and the match 3-1.

On court 2 Paul was taking on Kevin, who had scored Ickleford’s sole point when playing at #1 last week.  The first game was very tight with Paul being caught out several times by Kevin’s retrieval of drop shots that looked destined to be winners, but in the end Kevin took the game 15-12.  The second game was equally tight to start with,  Paul then pulled into a decent lead as he stopped himself from hitting the leather off the ball and began to play a good length instead.  At 12-6 up Paul thought the game wass in the bag but then Kevin started to fight back and although Paul had a couple of game points he took it to a tie break.  As so often, Kevin relaxed now that he’d reached 14-14 and gave away a couple of easy points to let Paul win the game 16-14.   At the start of the third game Paul resolved to stop playing drop shots as that was clearly just playing to Kevin’s strengths, this new tactic worked (although some drop shots were just too tempting to miss) and Paul ran out a 15-9 winner.  Onto the fourth game and Paul forgets about playing to a good length and starts belting the ball again, letting Kevin back into the game.  Luckily Paul realises what he’s doing wrong and reins himself in again and gets ahead once more and closes out the match with a 15-13 win.

Evenly poised after the first two matches.  Next up was John Grieve at #5 playing another John – always fun for the marker when that happens!  Luckily Chantry John wasn’t messing about and dominated his opponent from the start.  It was all over before it had really started with Chantry’s #5 winning comprehensively 15-8, 15-12, 15-7.

At the same time our new number 4, Ian was making his winter team debut against Rich.  Unfortunately, Rich turns out to be a pretty awkward opponent with lots of tricksy drop shots but not a great deal else – but that’s enough against the inexperienced Ian who hasn’t seen enough team squash yet to be able to adapt his game to an unknown opponent and he loses 12-15, 9-15, 12-15.  At least Ian will learn from the experience and come back stronger next time (we hope!).

So going into the final pairing, the match is exactly balanced with all to play for in the #1 match between Carl and Tom – back in the team again after missing last week.  The game starts well with both players hitting their stride from the outset and playing good tight drives but Carl is making a few too many mistakes which Tom capitalises on and takes the game 15-13.  In the 2nd, Carls’ head goes down and so does the ball all too frequently as he scrapes a meagre 7 points.  It’s a long way back from here but Carl starts pretty well in the 3rd before going a bit behind.  Then he plays some lovely squash and works his way back into the game.  At 12-13, Carl gets lucky with a beautifully mishit dropshot – maybe his luck is in!  But the very next rally, fortunes are reversed as Tom gets lucky himself with a very dodgy shot off the frame to give himself match-point.  Carl saves that to take it to a tie break but can’t hold on as Tom wins 16-14 to take the match 3-0 and secure the bonus points for Ickleford.  Those 5 points are enough to take Ickleford back above Nuffield to the top of the league.  Afterwards, Tom let’s slip that he can’t make the next two matches either – just our luck to get the one week they’ve got a full strength side.

Had Chantry been at full strength it might all have been different, but this loss means we slip into the bottom half of the table – hopefully Mark’s feeling guilty now!

Vinnie’s Madras Curry goes down a treat – although Carl is disappointed at the number of second and third helpings being taken, leaving him slim pickings for his “doggy box”.

Next week, it’s another home game, this time against Berkhamsted who are above us in the table – so an opportunity for us to climb back up the table – otherwise we could be slipping further down.  The match starts at 7:30pm on Tuesday – if you get a chance, come down to support your club team!

 

Leprechaun brings Chantry no luck at Luton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Self-Inflicted Injuries Help Chantry get back to Winning Ways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First defeat of season for Chantry

On Tuesday 8th November, Chantry were away at Gosling playing at possibly the worst courts on the circuit with craters in all the walls!

Up first were strings 1 and 4.  Carl playing Charlie who quickly showed his class with aome accurate drives and good pickups.  Carl fought hard in the first game but went down 15-11.  The second game started in similar fashion but then Carl realised he was up against it and, according to James, had a sulk and lost the last two games 15-6, 15-6.

Meanwhile on the other court, Vinnie was taking on Adam Norris, considering this was string 4 it was surprising that this match contained the highest quality squash of the night, wioth both players working hard and playing some great shots.

Adam won the first 15-11 and then a close-fought second 17-15, which Vinnie should have won – on game point he stretched and just reached a tight shot at the front of the court playing a lovely drop shot to secure the game. But Vinnie stretched the definition of sportsmanship to the limit by saying that he wasn’t 100% sure he’d reached the ball and asking the marker to confirm – who wasn’t sure either so a let was played – which Adam took and went on to win the game. Vinnie then pulled a game back 15-7 and seemed to be turning the corner but Adam came back strongly and took the fourth 15-13.

Two strings down after two matches.  Now, string 5 James was on court against Chris.  This was a topsy-turvy match with both players making a plethora of mistakes and generally running around a lot.  James took the first 16-14, lost the second 10-15, won the third 15-10, lost the fourth 15-12 so it was into the decider.  Despite (or perhaps because of) intensive coaching in the break between games, James couldn’t hold it together in the 5th and Chris started to get some accurate boasts in to take it 15-9.

Meanwhile Mark had an easy stroll at string 3, playing Oliver (who had played @1 the week before).  This was a one-sided match with Oliver not getting close to Mark and going down 15-11, 15-10, 15-5.  At least Mark had rescued Chantry’s blushes!

The last match of the night was string 2 with Paul taking on Sid.  Paul’s previous two matches had both resulted in tight 3-2 losses and things didn’t look good in the first game as Sid pulled off some great tight boasts, racing into an 8-1 lead before Paul pulled it back to 14-14 but Sid hung on and took the game 16-14.   Paul then carried on his good work in the second half of that game with an easy 15-7 win and was well positioned in the 3rd at 13-8 up but then it was Sid’s turn to fight back to 14-14.  This time Paul managed to hang on and won after 19-17 a tight tie-break.  But Sid had taken confidence from his fight back in the 3rd and Paul was starting to flag and lost the 4th 15-8 to take it to another decider.  The fifth game was nip and tuck but then a controversial call of a double bounce by the marker at 5-all, which was hotly disputed by Paul, swung the game towards Sid.  That call took the wind out of Paul’s sails and, to be honest, he got the hump and went down 15-7.

So a 4-1 win for Gosling knocks Chantry down to 4th in the league – still well positioned but needing a win next week against Nuffield, one of the teams to have leap-frogged us.

 

Chantry make it 3 out of 3

Chantry vs Active4Less 1, 1st Nov 2016

The Chantry squash team continued their winning start to the season with a good victory over Active4Less, although the match ended up closer than looked likely early on.

Most of the guys at Active4Less have been playing team squash against us for years now, so Martin Miller was underwhelmed to find out he was playing Vinnie at 4.  Sure enough he couldn’t deal with Vinnie’s power and accuracy and was soon muttering and looking to the marker for any assistance he could get.  But that was all to no avail as Vinnie ran out an easy winner 15-7, 15-5, 15-12.

Meanwhile on the other court John G was playing Tim Seaton.   John was still looking for his first ever win at team squash so was the hungrier player as he ran out the winner 15-7, 15-12, 15-12.

So two games up and just one more required from the top 3 strings – surely this one was in the bag?

With Mark once more arranging to be late to avoid having to mark a match, Paul C at 2 and Carl at 1 were next on court.  Paul was up against Paul Drakes, and foolishly decided to use a freshly restrung racquet from the outset.  Paul C couldn’t get used to feel of the new strings and went down 7-15 in the first.  Swapping back to his old racquet helped winning the 2nd game 15-11 before narrowly losing the 3rd 14-16.  Then finally Chantry Paul takes control and wins the 4th easily 15-4.  But his opponent comes back strongly and Paul D takes the 5th 15-11 to keep Active4Less in the match.

Carl is having a tough time on Court 2 muttering something about “ringers” between games as he is outclassed by Matt.  Carl does get a consolation game but goes down 6-15, 13-15, 15-12, 7-15.

So all to play for in the final match as Mark turns up just in time to take on Rob St Ledger who has been ill for some time and this is his first team game for over 6 months.  His lack of match fitness shows quickly as Rob is gasping for breath midway through the first game.   Mark puts the first game away easily 15-7.  The second game should follow in the same way with Rob stuck at the back of the court, but Mark proves stupidly generous and steadfastly refuses to win with easy drop shots and keeps driving the ball back to where Rob is standing.  But eventually Mark manages to win 15-12.  After a good talking to in the break, there is hope that Mark will win the next easily, but he continues to make life hard for himself and the whole game is nip and tuck.  Eventually though he runs out the winner 16-14 to take the game and match for Chantry.

Afterwards, Vinnie treats us all to his new madras-spiced chicken noodles and dumplings, which is met with much appreciation and disappears quickly, so that there’s only enough leftovers for Carl to take one helping home with him.

Chantry aren’t the only team with 3 wins out of 3, with Haileybury 3 sharing top spot with us.  Next up for Chantry is Gosling away on 8th Nov.  Gosling won their first two matches but then got thrashed by Nuffield, so it could be a chance for Chantry to continue their winning streak.

 

 

 

Duck Disappointment taints sweet smell of victory

Allenburys 2 vs Chantry 1, Tuesday 11th October 2016

As the home team were slower to reach Ware than the Chantry team, the first two games on court were String 1 (Carl vs Gavin) and String 4 (Vinh vs Dave).

Carl came into this game on the back of a disappointing performance last week when, allegedly, he managed to play with his shoes on the wrong feet.  Luckily someone helped him get dressed this week and there were no hiccups as Carl quickly ran out a 3-0 winner – with his drop shots apparently being in particularly fine form.

On court 2, Vinh and his dodgy arm were playing Dave. Beforehand Vinnie had been giving key advice on how to avoid damaging his arm again: win 3-0 in 25 minutes.  Vinnie duly delivered being far to classy for his opponent, who afterwards complained that the match-up wasn’t fair since Vinnie was “playing proper squash”.

So 2-0 up and looking good for Chantry!

Next up was James playing Rob.  James didn’t seem full of confidence – lamenting that he’d lost 3-0 to Rob in the summer, not even getting into double figures in any of the games.  But at least he was determined to improve on that this time and, perhaps to his own surprise, ran out 15-11 winner in the first game.  Unfortunately then the cider and burgers started to affect his game and it was all downhill from there as James succumbed 3-1.

On the other court, Paul took on Patrick.  The first game was a fairly comfortable win for Paul, with Carl even praising his uncharacteristic playing up and down the line on his backhand.  The second game started in similar fashion with Paul pulling out a good lead but then Patrick started to pull a few points back, eventually taking the game to two-clear.  Both Patrick and Paul had game points but in the end Patrick edged it 18-16.  That proved to be the turning point as too much travel and too little squash took it’s toll on Paul, with Patrick running out a 3-1 winner.

So, it’s back 2-2 and all to play for in the final game – Mark vs Richard Batchelor.  Richard normally plays above Gavin but has been struggling with a bad back, or so we’re told.

There’s no sign of any problems with Richard’s game, or his back, in the first set as he is moving around the court nicely and hitting the ball as cleanly as ever and with a lot of power.  Mark is running around the court like a valiant, but headless, chicken and loses that set 15-6.  The second set starts in the same vein and Richard pulls out a big lead but then Mark starts to get into it and finds that Richard isn’t running forward for dropshots so much and pulls back that lead – but ultimately Richard takes it 17-15.

A long way back for Mark now, but he’s got a sniff and a close 3rd game gets underway which Mark takes 15-10.  Now the pendulum has swung the other way and Richard is clearly struggling and Mark quickly finishes off the match 15-4, 15-5.

So, a 3-2 victory means that Chantry remain unbeaten after 2 matches – almost unheard of levels of success!

Now victorious we head for the bar and the only reason Chantry put out such a strong team – the famous Allenburys Duck Pizza.  But, disaster, they’ve changed Pizza Shop, no more Duck Pizza! Some lame excuse about dodgy crusts.  Never mind, instead we’re entertained by James and his explanation of lumens and light levels on courts – whilst trying to sell his LED lights to Allenburys!

There’s now a 2 week break, next match is at home on Tuesday 1st November vs Active4Less1.  Then we’ll see if Chantry can maintain their purple patch!