COUNTY CLOSED ROUND-UP.
This years county closed took place at the Northumberland Club in Jesmond over the weekend 19th/20th and 21st of January. With entries similar to last year there were mens A/B/C events and a Ladies event. The finals night had a big turn out with upto 150 spectators crammed into the glass back.
Dave Barnett was seeded as favourite to defend his title with Paul Lord seeded to meet him in the final. The first round went mostly to seeding with only 5/8 seed Peter McLeod losing to Andy Dolan of Jesmond 3-0 and 5/8 seed Stuart Hovvels was pushed close by Nick Hale winning through 3-2. In the quarters both 3/4 seeds were pushed to four games with Jon Tate beating Andrew Staley from Northern 3-1 and Stuart Hovvels playing very well to take the first game from Steve Calvert in the bottom half only to eventually lose out 3-1. Both Barnett and Lord had a smooth passage through winning 3-0 against Andy Dolan and Neil Dawson respectively.
The semi-finals threw up a re-match of last years final Tate Vs Barnett. Like last year it was a close affair with Tate taking a 1-0 and 7-2 lead before Barnett fought back for a hard earned 3-1 win. Lord had an easier passage winning 3-0 against Calvert and therefore making his first Northumbria county closed final.
The final began with Lord controlling the rallies and taking a commanding 7-0 lead in the first before a mini comeback to 5-7 from Barnett but it was 9-5 to Lord in the first. At 6-1 up in the 2nd Lord was in total control but the long rallies began to take there toll and he began to tire. Barnett like in the semis held strong and began to turn the tide winning the 2nd and never looking back with 9-0 in the 3rd and 9-4 in the 4th to regain his title .
PLATE- The final of the plate was the closest of matches, it was between Liam Gutcher the number 1 county junior and Jesmond’s Craig Forsyth. Sharing the first 4 games it went down to the fifth with Gutcher taking a commanding 8-3 lead, Forsyth looked beaten but he fought all the way and made it back to 8-8 ,then it went 9-9 with Forsyth claiming an unlikely win in an enthralling match.
The ladies event definately had a young feel with several juniors competing and with 15 year old Kim Hay seeded to meet defending champion and number 1 seed Sarah Bowles in the final. Early rounds only threw up one upset with Karen Heron taking out 3/4 seed Eleanor Bowles to reach the semis. The semis therefore were Sarah Bowles Vs Heron and Emma Barnett last years finalist playing Hay.
Bowles had little trouble beating Heron 3-0 in the top half but the 2nd semi proved to be much closer. Barnett played well fighting all the way into a fifth game , hay however proved to be stronger winning the fifth quite comfortably and making her first senior county final.
Hay started very well in the final taking the game to Bowles setting a high pace and winning it a convincing 9-4. Bowles came back very strong after that matching Hay for pace and using her experience to dominate from then on winning 3-1 and defending her title from last year.
PLATE-There was a junior feel to the plate final also with Rachael Oswald playing against Sian Williams a newcastle uni student . Rachael is very talented and although not as strong as her opponent she out played Sian to win 3-0.
Last years winner Jimmy Tosner was again seeded to win the event with fellow Newbiggin player John Smith as second seed. Both Tosner and Smith progressed as expected to the semis with little trouble, Tosner however was to meet his match against Paul Hey an Australian playing at Northern for a season. Hey’s young legs helped him through 3-0 to the final. The second semi also had Youth Vs Experience with Richard Shellam taking on 60 year old Smith. Experience won through this time 3-1 in a close fought game. The final was one step too far for Smith he lost 3-0 to the younger Aussie Hey.
PLATE- The plate final was a close match going to the 5th. It was Jason Follin from Tynemouth against Steve Atkinson from Jesmond. Atkinson won through in a tough battle.
The ‘MENS’ C had Northerns Rachel Lee seeded 1 as she was ineligible to play in the Ladies event as she is only recently back from Australia. She led a smaller 8 man/woman draw and duely made the final against Gatesheads unseeded Alan Barnfather. Barnfather won this final 3-0 . It was Barnfathers 1st round victim Steve Brown who won the plate beating Neil ### in the final.
All in all it was a great success the change of venue didn’t effect entries and the turnout for the final proved there is a healthy support for squash in the county. A big thanks must go to Clive Lucas who ran the whole event very smoothly and to Derek Collins who made sure all matches had referees to help keep to time. Thanks.