In a reversal of last season’s final, TWP St George’s Hill beat county rivals Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets 3/2 in the ninth and penultimate round of the Premier Squash League (PSL) to boost their chances of a place in the semi-final play-offs of the world’s most prestigious squash league for the second year in a row.
Croydon club Surrey Health, the reigning champions, topped the Group B tables going into tonight’s clash – but saw their 17-point lead slashed to nine as their Weybridge rivals took the opening three matches in the tie to post an unassailable lead.
The opening match was a re-run of last month’s women’s British championship final – the visitors’ Laura Massaro repeating her victory over Alison Waters, the former world No3 returning from injury, after winning 11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 12-10 in 64 minutes. Hungarian number one Mark Krajcsak made it 2/0 for St George’s with a straight games win over the hosts’ late stand-in, Australian Sunil Seth.
But it was the St George’s Hill-born-and-raised Joe Lee who put in a ‘man-of-the-match’ performance in the third string match to defeat life-long rival Adrian Waller 11-6, 11-4, 8-11 11-7 in 57 minutes to ensure his club’s victory – and only Surrey Health’s second defeat of the season.
The final two matches went the Croydon club’s way – top-ranked German Simon Rosner recovering from a game down to beat Swiss star Nicolas Mueller 5-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-8, while England and Essex team-mates Peter Barker and Daryl Selby fought out a 64-minute duel before Londoner Barker, in his first serious test since sustaining a knee injury in February, emerged triumphant after an 11-4, 6-11, 11-8, 11-8 score-line.
“It was a fantastic win for the team against quality opposition,” said St George’s Hill team manger Danny Lee. “Joe played the best I’ve seen him play – especially in the first two games. Laura did well to recover her poise after a wobble in the third against Ali and Mark continued his amazing winning form for us.
“Nicolas had Rosner on the ropes in the fourth, but couldn’t quite capitalise on his physical advantage – and Daryl competed all the way and ran Pete Barker very close.
“Maybe this will be our year!” concluded Lee.
Exeter Diamonds, St George’s Hill’s rivals for second place in the group, crashed down 3/2 to UWE Bristol – a result which gave the Avon team their maiden win of the season! Bristol recovered not only from the last-minute unavailability of seasoned Welshman David Evans, but also from being 2/0 down after Exeter’s Victoria Temple Murray and Lyell Fuller posted early wins.
Tom Ford and Lucas Serme brought the home team level, however, before rising Egyptian star Mohamed El Shorbagy clinched Bristol’s historic victory by beating Tim Vail 11-7, 11-3, 11-9.
Now ten points adrift of St George’s – and 19 behind Surrey Health – Exeter face the group leaders in the tenth and final round in two weeks. The Devon club’s only realistic – albeit faint – hope of grabbing a semi-final place would be to crush Surrey Health 5/0 and ensure maximum 20 points.
The other Group B tie also produced a 3/2 outcome – with Team Chichester prevailing at IGT Winchester. Victory for the visitors was clinched by Sussex stalwart Olivier Pett who took just 19 minutes to wipe out experienced Stacey Ross11-1, 11-9, 11-2.
Winchester number one Marwan El Shorbagy, the rapidly rising star from Egypt, was taken the full distance by Chichester’s lower-ranked Robbie Temple before beating the Gloucestershire left-hander 11-4, 10-12, 11-7, 2-11, 12-10.
With Benz-Bavarian Duffield already assured of a semi-final place from Group A – and not in action in the ninth round – all eyes were on the battle for second place, featuring MB Nottingham and Oxford Health & Racquets.
But a 4/1 Nottingham defeat by Courtcraft Pontefract, countered by a stunning 5/0 home win over University of Birmingham by Oxford reversed the two teams’ places in the tables – leaving all to play for as the two teams line up for the final clash of the season in round ten in a fortnight.
Yorkshire club Pontefract celebrated their best win of the season as world No1 James Willstrop and Indian No1 Saurav Ghosal enjoyed straight games victories – and vastly experienced Yorkshiremen Simon Parke and Lee Beachill also prevailed in matches which went the full distance.
Emma Beddoes produced Nottingham’s sole victory, fighting back from two games down to overcome Pontefract’s former world No1 Vanessa Atkinson 9-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-5.
But Oxford were in sparkling form, with Scott Handley, Mark Cairns, Ben Coleman, Andrew Birks and Madeline Perry all recording wins to claim near maximum points.
RESULTS: Premier Squash League, 9th round
Oxford Health & Racquets 5 University of Birmingham 0
Scott Handley bt Jaymie Haycocks 11-6, 10-12, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9
Mark Cairns bt Jonathan Harford 14-12, 11-6, 11-8
Ben Coleman bt Chris Truswell 8-11, 11-7, 11-3, 11-5
Andrew Birks bt Nathan Lake 11-5, 14-12, 11-6
Madeline Perry bt Sarah-Jane Perry 11-4, 11-9, 4-11, 11-8
Courtcraft Pontefract 4 MB Nottingham 1
James Willstrop bt Chris Simpson 11-4, 11-6, 11-3
Saurav Ghosal bt Eddie Charlton 11-6, 11-4, 11-2
Lee Beachill bt Lewis Walters 11-9, 11-9, 4-11, 6-11, 12-10
Simon Parke bt Mark Fuller 11-5, 11-3, 9-11, 8-11, 11-8
Vanessa Atkinson lost to Emma Beddoes 11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 7-11, 5-11
UWE Bristol 3 Exeter Diamonds 2
Mohamed El Shorbagy bt Tim Vail 11-7, 11-3, 11-9 (24m)
Lucas Serme bt Peter Creed 12-10, 11-3, 11-3 (38m)
Tom Ford bt James Snell 11-8, 2-11, 2-11, 11-6, 11-6 (48m)
Peter Joyce lost to Lyell Fuller 9-11, 7-11, 7-11 (33m)
Olivia Howell lost to Victoria Temple Murray 4-11, 5-11, 7-11 (19m)
IGT Winchester 2 Team Chichester 3
Marwan El Shorbagy bt Robbie Temple 11-4, 10-12, 11-7, 2-11, 12-10 (60m)
Stacey Ross lost to Olivier Pett 1-11, 9-11, 2-11 (19m)
Alex Phillips bt Alex Gough 11-6, 4-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-7 (55m)
Michael Harris lost to Alex Ingham 6-11, 11-6, 9-11, 7-11 (39m)
Catherine Finlayson lost to Lauren Briggs 4-11, 5-11, 7-11 (21m)
Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets 2 TWP St George’s Hill 3
Peter Barker bt Daryl Selby 11-4, 6-11, 11-8, 11-8 (64m)
Simon Rosner bt Nicolas Mueller 5-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-8 (54m)
Adrian Waller lost to Joe Lee 6-11, 4-11, 11-8, 7-11 (57m)
Sunil Seth lost to Mark Krajcsak 5-11, 8-11, 6-11 (30m)
Alison Waters lost to Laura Massaro 9-11, 9-11, 11-8, 10-12 (64m)
PSL TABLES (after 9th round)
|St George’s Hill||9||7||2||26||19||94||71||129|
10th round line-up (27 March):
MB Nottingham v Oxford Health & Racquets
Benz-Bavarian Duffield v Courtcraft Pontefract
TWP St George’s Hill v IGT Winchester
Team Chichester v UWE Bristol
Exeter Diamonds v Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets