While the vibrant international squash calendar led to numerous top players being unavailable for their clubs in the Premier Squash League (PSL), TWP St George’s Hill suffered a rare home defeat but former champions Benz-Bavarian Duffield and reigning champions Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets extended their unbeaten records in the third round of the world’s most prestigious squash league.
“We had six players missing tonight,” said downcast team manager Danny Lee after St George’s Hill went down 4/1 to Group B rivals Exeter Diamonds.
The hosts started well when Dominique Lloyd-Walter beat Exeter’s courageous 15-year-old Rhianne O’Donnell 11-2, 11-4, 11-1. But it was downhill thereafter for the home club as James Snell, Tim Vail and Australian international Stewart Boswell delivered straight games wins for the visitors before Dutch No1 Laurens Jan Anjema recovered from a game down to beat rising Finnish star Henrik Mustonen – making his debut for St George’s – 4-11, 6-11, 11-6, 9-11 in exactly one hour.
“I’m not too despondent,” added Lee. “Our players gave a reasonable account of themselves.”
Exeter team manager Tony Snell – whose team now rise to a season-best second place in the Group B tables, above St George’s Hill – felt for their rivals: “I feel sorry for Danny – but that’s the way it goes in the PSL. As it happens, we were able to finalise our squad for tonight about a month ago.
“I was pleased with the win – but more disappointed by our loss last time to Chichester, which was very close and could have gone either way. But our next game is against Bristol and a good win there could take us to the top of the tables.”
Title-holders Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets were taken the full distance by visitors Team Chichester – but reliable squad number one Peter Barker, fresh from a quarter-final berth in last week’s World Open in Rotterdam, defeated the visitors’ top string Anthony Graham 11-6, 11-4, 11-6 to give the Croydon club a 3/2 win.
“We struggled with players – everybody did – but overall I was pleased with the team’s performance tonight,” said Surrey Health manager Pete Smith. “And it was nice to keep the unbeaten record this season.”
Elsewhere in the Group, IGT Winchester claimed their first win of the season by beating UWE Bristol 4/1. Catherine Finlayson began the winning run by beating Bristol newcomer Olivia Howell, the Avon county number one, 11-3, 6-11, 11-7, 11-7 – and victories followed for Phillip Bull, Alex Phillips and Joey Barrington.
“This win has been a while coming – and it was great that it happened in front of a home crowd,” said Winchester manager Gary Hinton. “But what was particularly special was that three of our winners – Catherine, Philip and Alex – are home grown players, and that’s really good for the club.”
While Derbyshire’s Benz-Bavarian Duffield extended their lead at the top of the Group A tables after a 4/1 away win at East Midlands rivals MB Nottingham, the biggest smiles were seen in Yorkshire where PSL newcomers University of Birmingham secured their first win of the season at Courtcraft Pontefract.
England international Sarah Kippax, making her debut for the visitors, beat Pontefract’s Kirsty McPhee 3/0 and James Earles put the University team two up when he beat the hosts’ Sam Wileman, also in straight games,
But Pontefract hit back with wins by Neil Cordell and Simon Parke to set up a decider. The packed crowd were urging on popular top string Lee Beachill – but the now retired former world number one was unable to resist the attack of Birmingham’s Jonathan Harford, who went on to win 11-1, 11-9, 11-9.
“It’s great to get our first win since rejoining the PSL,” said team manager Jonathan Tate. “Hopefully tonight will be the start of us being able to consistently challenge for results against the other teams in the northern group.”
While Duffield rested their new world champion Nick Matthew, the Yorkshireman who successfully retained his title in Rotterdam last week, the club welcomed the return of former world No4 Tania Bailey. In her first appearance for the Duffield for more than 18 months, Bailey took the first game against Emma Beddoes. But the Nottingham number one recovered to win 8-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-6.
But the momentum switched to Duffield from then on, with Stephen Coppinger, Andy Whipp, Matthew Karwalski and Chris Fuller all winning to stretch Duffield’s lead at the top of the tables to 32 points above Nottingham.
RESULTS: Premier Squash League, 3rd round
MB Nottingham 1 Benz-Bavarian Duffield 4
Lewis Walters lost to Stephen Coppinger 5-11, 9-11, 11-13
Mark Fuller lost to Andy Whipp 11-6, 7-11, 8-11, 2-11
Arthur Moineau lost to Matthew Karwalski 7-11, 2-11, 6-11
David Wardle lost to Chris Fuller 5-11, 11-13, 11-8, 7-11
Emma Beddoes bt Tania Bailey 8-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-6
Courtcraft Pontefract 2 University of Birmingham 3
Lee Beachill lost to Jonathan Harford 1-11, 9-11, 9-11
Simon Parke bt Chris Truswell 9-11, 11-6, 11-2, 11-9
Neil Cordell bt Christopher Thomas Hall 11-6, 8-11, 11-8, 12-14, 11-1
Sam Wileman lost to James Earles 9-11, 5-11, 4-11
Kirsty McPhee lost to Sarah Kippax 7-11, 7-11, 4-11
TWP St George’s Hill 1 Exeter Diamonds 4
Henrik Mustonen lost to Laurens Jan Anjema 4-11, 6-11, 11-6, 9-11 (60m)
Stephen Meads lost to Stewart Boswell 4-11, 1-11, 2-11
Philip Nightingale lost to Tim Vail 9-11, 2-11, 9-11
James Simpson lost to James Snell 6-11, 15-17, 9-11
Dominique Lloyd-Walter bt Rhianne O’Donnell 11-2, 11-4, 11-1
IGT Winchester 4 UWE Bristol 1
Joey Barrington bt Lucas Serme 11-5, 11-8, 11-7
Jethro Binns lost to Arthur Gaskin 7-11, 3-11, 3-11
Alex Phillips bt Tom Ford 7-11, 12-10, 4-0 ret.
Phillip John Bull bt Konrad Tyma 11-4, 11-7, 11-6
Catherine Finlayson bt Olivia Howell 11-3, 6-11, 11-7, 11-7
Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets 3 Team Chichester 2
Peter Barker bt Anthony Graham 11-6, 11-4, 11-6
Karim Abdel Gawad bt Alex Gough 13-11, 11-7, 11-4
Steve Richardson bt Peter Genever 11-8, 6-11, 11-8, 11-2
Steven London lost to Jamie Wilde 9-11, 11-3, 11-8, 1-11, 6-11
Nada Elkalaawy lost to Lauren Briggs 2-11, 7-11, 5-11