Northumbria survive relegation battle!

A SIX-PACK of men’s county squash players proved too hot to handle on home turf against Derbyshire and Cheshire.

Step forward Dave Barnett, Liam Gutcher, Cai Younger, Jamie Todd, Sean Millington and Chris Boyer for an impressive and crucial double-victory.

With one of the three teams facing relegation, Dave Barnett’s team needed at least one win at the Northumberland Club to stay in Division One.

And they got off to an absolute flyer when 5 string Millington – after lulling his opponent, Matthew Barton, into a false sense of security by losing the first six points – bounced back to take the first 11-9 and rattled off two more to register an impressive 3-0 win.

Tynemouth team-mate Todd was not to be outdone. Celebrating his recent call-up to the Scottish International junior team for the forthcoming European Championships, he kept the after-burners on to see off Derbyshire’s Owen Whitfield in double-quick time (dropping only FOUR points in the whole match!)

At No 3, Younger seemed to be on cruise control at 1-0 up and 7-1 ahead in the second. But his athletic opponent, Sam Watts, found his range to take the second and push the 19-year-old all the way to the fifth, which Younger clinched 13-11.

Second string Gutcher lost the first, levelled and then fought tooth and nail in an epic third game against lively Derbyshire shot-maker Phil Scully. The Gutch took that one 14-12 and didn’t look back, winning the fourth 11-4.

Skipper Barnett looked to have a real match on his hands when he lost the first 11-8 to Adam Turner – a superfit player who has just come into the senior ranks. But the Northumbria No 1 upped the pace and took control thereafter – winning three games in a row for the loss of only 11 points.

Cheshire were up next and, themselves having registered a 4-0 over Derbyshire, our home boys knew they were up against it. Somebody forgot to tell Tynemouth tyros Todd and Millington though. They both win their matches 3-0 in double-quick time, keeping the tempo high from the off to register impressive victories and give the homesters a solid platform.

Westoe No 1 Chris Boyer – in at 5 with Liam Gutcher resting an arm injury – produced the goods with an all-out attacking display to win 3-1, after the losing the first – and the match was suddenly in the bag.

Younger, playing at 2, decided once again to get his money’s worth. From 1-0 up, he went 2-1 down against talented shotmaker Ollie Hudson – only to find top form in the fourth and fifth. Both players looked shattered by the end, with the Newbiggin No 1 battling hard to take it 11-8 in the decider.

Best squash of the day though, was undoubtedly and not surprisingly between the one seeds. Barnett faced a huge challenge in his match with another former pro, Andy Whipp.

The top dogs – both with legs like tree trunks – produced a superb display of volleying, athletic fast-paced squash. Whipp – incredibly accurate, even under extreme pressure – edged a brilliant first 13-11 and the second 11-8. Barnett raised his game and played some brilliant winners of his own throughout, but the pressure told in the third as the visitor took a great match 11-6.

Northumbria were safe, though, and the future of the men’s county team looks in safe hands on this evidence, with an impressive mixture of experience and youth helping the team to two impressive wins on home turf.

Report by Dylan Younger

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