SEMI-FINAL CUP MATCH, Oakham 1 v Stamford Green Man
The tension in the car on the journey to Oakham was noticeable as Stamford attempted to put themselves in the final of the Peterborough cup. This was our third encounter against Oakham this season and though we had won the last two matches, they were both 3-2 and too close for any complacency tonight. Back to full strength, with Barker junior gracing us with an appearance, let the match begin.
Simon Barker on first against Ian Lidbetter. From the off it became apparent that Oakham wanted this match as badly as we did and Ian started very strongly. His tactics of cutting everything off early gave Simon no opportunity to settle into the match forcing errors from Simon and catching him with a lovely trickle boast. Consistency was the game from Ian as he took the first 9-6. The second game allowed Simon a little more time on the ball as Ian eased off, to his cost, as Simon cruised through 9-1. Disaster then occurred as Simon suffered a complete loss of confidence. Opportunities presented themselves to put the ball away but Simon tinned them with such regularity those watching complained of the noise. Had the pressure finally got to the Stamford captain as he threw away the third 9-5 (and his racket)? Simon 2-1 down – now Yorkie was busy trying to mark and bite his nails at the same time. The game break gave Simon time to regain his composure as he came out in the fourth looking more in control. Better squash from Simon, hitting to a length and moving Ian well saw the points rising to take the fourth 2-2. More of the same in the fifth, leaving Ian unable to get back into the game and a win for Simon 3-2. Way too close for those with a dickey ticker! 1-0 to Stamford.
Mark Smith on next against Dylan Ross. This was not looking good historically, as Mark was yet to beat Dylan. Mark though was on a high from his lucky victory in the Stamford club championships on Saturday evening, so anything could happen. The first saw Mark flying around the court, picking up everything and sending it back to Dylan with interest. Outstanding stuff from Mark as he took the first 9-6. The cost though was a severe sap on Marks energy and concentration as Dylan took control. Though some excellent squash was played, Mark was unable to contain Dylan as he went on to win the next three 9-0 9-1 9-1, levelling the match at 1-1.
Richard Barker on next against Mick Skuse. Mick was again fired up for the occasion and battled well for everything but Richard just did enough to take the first 9-6. The pressure (and a week off skiing again) suddenly hit Richard as he fell apart in the second playing – in his own words -“like a Muppet”. Errors abounded from Richard as Mick took advantage, finding his own form to hit a number of nicks and good width and length. 9-6 to Mick this time. The third went the same way with Richard struggling to raise his game allowing Mick control of the tee. 9-7 to Mick, now leading 2-1, with Richard in trouble and Yorkie with no fingernails now. This time it was Oakhams turn for disaster to hit as Mick lost his concentration and Richard found some aggression to storm through the fourth 9-0. 2-2 and it was a very tense time on the balcony. Both players started the fifth evenly, but as it progressed Richard gained the edge and pulled away to lead 7-2. Again the pressure told as mistakes crept in and Mick clawed it back to 7-7. Yorkie was now on drugs to keep his sanity and calm as Richard did everything to lose the match before recovering for two great winners to take the tie 9-7. Relief or what! 2-1 to Stamford.
Jon Oakley v Dave Battersby on next and with Yorkie’s form against Justin playing at 1 we had to win this match to go through. Jon though was looking very focused after some serious psyching up during the car journey. Again though the first game went badly for Stamford as Jon went down 9-2 playing short and loose, allowing Dave time to put the ball away. Tables turned in the second though as Jon got tighter and longer, playing much better squash he had Dave moving all over the court. 9-4 to Jon. Jon’s squash just got better as he took control of the court and it was only some excellent retrieving from Dave that kept him in the game. This was not enough though as Jon took the third 9-3. The fourth game saw some superb squash from both players as the rallies got harder and harder. Dave though could not rescue the situation and Jon went on to win 9-6 and the tie 3-1. Outstanding – Stamford 3-1 up and through to the final.
Yorkie was on last against his old adversary Justin. With lessons learnt from their last meeting Yorkie put them into practise, mixing it up and playing unorthodox shots trying to catch Justin out of position. This worked well allowing Yorkie to take the first 9-7. Justin though was now reading the game better. He made fewer mistakes playing a mixture of tennis, table tennis and the odd squash shot to put Yorkie in trouble taking the second 9-4. Yorkie was unable to change the run of play as Justin’s indomitable game did the business as he took the next two 9-5 and 9-0. The tie to Oakham 3-1 but the match to Stamford 3-2. Oundle in the final, come on!