Double Max is toast of Tynemouth
Newcastle’s teenage squash prodigy Max Forster saw off all-comers to retain his Northumbria County Championship trophy at Tynemouth in January… And the 17-year-old finished on top of arguably the strongest field the tournament has seen in modern times. Forster had surprised more than a few in 2018 by becoming County Champion at the tender age of just 16. Although still slight favourite for the 2019 title, there were four or five in the running with all the region’s top eight seeds going head-to-head. In the final, Forster’s energetic high-tempo game saw him take a 1-0 lead in a tight opener (11-8) against his coach and a man 20 years his senior in Dave Barnett. However Barnett is an experienced and wily campaigner – with a stunning record of 13 successive titles under his belt from 2004 to 2016 – and a fierce determination to get back on the winner’s roster. Barnett was hitting peak form and fitness at just the right time, and the 37-year-old had already shown that by seeing off two younger men’s county players in Cai Younger (quarters) and Liam Gutcher (semis) without dropping a game. Displaying great focus and patience, Barnett eked out an 8-4 lead in the second and looked nailed on to level the match – controlling most of the early rallies with high and wide cross-courts, followed up with killer backhand drops. Barnett ended up winning this second game – but the manner of so doing proved crucial. Forster just would not lay down, and his tenacious retrieval forced some long, draining exchanges and the tightest of finishes at 14-12. At 1-1, Barnett had arguably played the more controlled squash. But that late comeback from the indefatigable Forster, was far from wasted effort. His superb consistency and incredible retrievable was sapping his opponent’s energy and Barnett ultimately made a few too many errors at full stretch in the final two games, which the 17-year-old won 11-5, 11-7. Forster had booked his place in the final with hard-fought 3-0 wins over Northern duo Michael Mattimore (also a PSL player with Birmingham University) and
shot-maker Andrew Shipley, showing the current depth of young talent in the North East game. While such was the level of competition that men’s county players Paul Lord (retired injured in the quarters) and Chris Wiggins (a PSL player with Newcastle University) did not even make the last four.
In the A Plate final, Newbiggin’s fast-improving Dave Jackson won a pulsating encounter against Tynemouth’s Jon Evans 3-1, while Max’s older brother Angus made it double joy in the Forster household with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Nathan Dobson in the B event final. Sunderland’s sharp-shooting duo of Peter McLeod and Simon Cliff retained their Doubles titles, while special mention must go to Jon Evans. As well as the A Plate runner-up trophy, the evergreen Evans also collected the Men’s Over 55 and Over 60 titles, beating Glenn Ward (3-0) and Ronnie Freeman (3-1) respectively. That feat took the 60-year-old through three gut-wrenching finals in one afternoon, at an age when he could be collecting his bus pass.
Sam hits it for six.
Northern’s Sam Ward tightened her grip on the Northumbria Ladies County Championship trophy – with a display which hinted at the building of a dynasty. Ward made it a magnificent six county titles – three in a row – in this annual New Year tournament at Tynemouth – and did so this time around without dropping a game. The 25-year-old has been in top form this season – mixing it with some of the best male players in the region by playing for her club at No 3 in the Northumberland Premier League. And she had too much for Tynemouth’s Amy Rowell in the semi-final, taking it 3-0 with some superb volley kills. The final, in front of a packed glass-back crowd at Tynemouth, pitched the hard-hitting Ward against an experienced shot-maker in Emma Gregson (née Barnett, and sister of men’s finalist Dave). Gregson has a full array of attacking shots in her locker, and knows how to find the nicks and how to mix it up when she needs to. Ward, though, was able to up the pace at will, and that proved crucial as she clinched the title in some style. Always hunting the volley, she maintained her customary focus to close the match out 3-0 – 11-5, 11-5, 11-5.
MEN’S A: Max Forster (Northumberland Club) 3-1 Dave Barnett (Tynemouth) 11/8 12/14 11/5 11/7
LADIES: Sam Ward (Northern) 3-0 Emma Gregson (Northumberland Club) 11/5 11/5 11/5
MEN'S B: Angus Forster (Northumberland Club) 3-1 Nathan Dobson (Tynemouth) 8/11 11/5 11/4 13/11
MEN’S C: Sam Sweeney (Primrose) 3-0 Lewis Cruz (Tynemouth) 11/7 11/9 11/8
MEN’S D: Neil Roberts (Primrose) 3-2 Shaun Hood (Primrose) 13/15 11/5 9/11 11/9 13/11
MEN'S E: Louise Robertson (Exiles) 3-1 Neale Pattison (Eldon Leisure) 11/8 8/11 11/8 11/5
LADIES O40: Gill Millington (Tynemouth) 3-1 Louise Robertson (Exiles) 8/11 13/11 11/8 11/7
MEN’S O45: Peter McCleod (Sunderland) 3-0 Charlie Ponente (Benwell Hill) 11/9 11/6 11/4
MEN’S O55: Jon Evans (Tynemouth) 3-0 Glenn Ward (Northern) 11/7 17/15 11/5
MEN’S O60: Jon Evans (Tynemouth) 3-1 Ron Freeman (Newbiggin) 11/4 11/6 11/13 11/8
RACKETBALL: Simon Long (Concordia)) 3-0 John Thompson (Tynemouth) 11/9 11/6 11/8
DOUBLES: McCleod/Cliff (Sunderland) 2-0 Garner/Doran (Newcastle University) 11/4 11/8
MEN’S A: Dave Jackson (Newbiggin) 3-1 Jon Evans (Tynemouth) 6/11 11/8 11/8 11/8
LADIES: Amy Rowell (Tynemouth) 3-1 Emma Rowell (Tynemouth) 11/5 9/11 11/3 11/8
MEN’S B: George Frewing (Alnwick) 3-0 Kieran Mahoney (Northern) 11/8 11/2 7/4 rtd
MEN’S C: Stephen Rutherford (Primrose) 3-1 Tim Shield (Exiles) 11/1 11/8 7/11 14/12
MEN’S D: Nick Thornton (Tynemouth) 3-0 John McLean (Newbiggin) 11/5 11/9 11/5
MEN’S E: Henry Darragh (Eldon Leisure) 3-1 Steve Drummond (Walker) 12/10 11/13 11/3 11/9
MEN’S O45: John Armstrong (Newbiggin) 3-1 Steve Brown (Tynemouth) 11/6 8/11 11/3 11/2
MEN’S O55: Tim Shield (Exiles) 3-1 Henry Darragh (Eldon Leisure) 11/9 10/12 11/5 11/6
MEN’S O60: Mike Cherryman (Consett) 3-0 Clive Lucas (Northern) 11/7 12/10 11/8
RACKETBALL: John Armstrong (Newbiggin) Dave Todd (Tynemouth)