Masters Inter-Counties Finals
The O65 Northumbria county team travelled down to Peterborough to contest the Masters county finals over the weekend of 15/16 April. Rather than face an epic drive the team let the train take the strain and met up late morning at Peterborough station. Andrew Wilkinson (Hexham), Jon Steward (Hexham) and Tony Pensom (Consett) travelled from the North East and were joined by Adrian Alderton (Hexham) who had been visiting family in Birmingham. After comfortably qualifying hopes were high for a strong result.
Having been given a bye in the first round due to a late withdrawal the team had their 1st match against the winner of the Berks vs Durham & Cleveland match so went to check out the opposition in that game. Berks won so at 5.20 Tony Pensom – fresh from some warm weather training in Florida (well, OK it was actually Disneyland with the grandkids) – started at no.3. And he started well against a much higher ranked opponent (John Petruschke) taking the first game by keeping the ball well in the back of the court. However, John came back strongly with tricky boasts to lead 2-1. The 4th game was nip and tuck all the way. John had a chance to clinch the match at 15-14 up but missed a drop. Tony then recovered to be leading 17-16 and when left with the chance to take it to a decider strode forward to crush the ball… into the tin! And lost the next 2 points as well to (just) lose the match.
Andrew was on next up against Ripley Oyler who had recently made his England debut at this age level. Andrew was hoping his hacking cough would put Ripley off but no such luck and he promptly lost the first. He came back well to level the match in the 2nd and the 3rd was close all the way but Andrew lost this 12-14 and also the next 9-11 for a disappointing loss.
Adrian – left to salvage some pride – was up against Alistair Lloyd; an unknown according to Adrian our font of knowledge on masters personnel. This was also a tight match going all the way to the fifth after Adrian levelled to match with a tie break win of the 4th game. Unfortunately he could not go on to win.
So an overall 0-3 loss which not really a fair reflection of how close it all was.
So, after a few beers and excellent curry on the Saturday night it was onto Day 2 and the match for 3rd/4th place against Northants. Jon Steward was making his O65 debut and on first against a much higher ranked opponent (Chris Beeching). Jon plays a style of squash not widely known – or understood – even by his Hexham colleagues. Spectators on the balcony were heard to describe many of his shots as “interesting” and meant that although losing the 1st game he came back to level the match in the 2nd. The next two were very tight affairs but Jon just lost both; the 4th by 11-13.
Andrew was on court at the same time against Ian Holmes and started brightly winning the 1st quite easily. Ian changed his game and took the next 2 and at 9-4 up was on the brink of winning. However, Andrew dug deep and nicked the 4th on a tie break. After starting badly in the 5th Andrew came back again to reach match ball but crumbled at the end to lose out in another tie break!
Adrian was again left to try and take something for Northumbria and played really well against Julian Craxton to secure a 3-0 win; finishing strongly after the first two very tight games.
So the match finished 6 games each but with Northumbria actually winning more points, it should have been an overall win – in the writers view!!
A bit disappointing not to get on the podium but some good games all the same.
The event was won by Lancashire against Berkshire who could field two England players including the current British Champion Alan Barwise.
Adrian Alderton/Andrew Wilkinson