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Nuffield St Albans suffer title setback after Potters Bar defeat
12:10pm Wednesday 30th January 2013 in Sport
Nuffield St Albans’ quest to win the Herts First Division Squash League for the first time in more than ten years was dented after they lost a closely fought clash against rivals Potters Bar 3-2.
Over the last three or four seasons, the Herts Squash League’s standard has seen a considerable rise in quality due to a number of clubs developing young players through to the professional ranks.
Nuffield is a prime example of this, fielding five young players based at the club under the guidance of world-class coach John Milton.
Going into the clash, Nuffield were on top of the table and knew if they beat Potters Bar, they would be in prime position to win the league. Losing would put a severe dent in Nuffield’s chances.
Young Czech player Ondrej Uherka was hoping to get Nuffield off to a flying start. His opponent, Alex Ingham, was playing his first match of the season with Potters Bar and has been playing the professional circuit for a couple of years more than Uherka. That experience showed and, as hard as the Czech tried, Ingham was always in control, running out a comfortable 3-0 winner.
At the same time that Uherka was struggling to assert himself in his match, Jack Jago, Nuffield’s 2010 club champion and still only 19 years old, was playing an even younger player, 17-year-old junior England international, Richie Fallows.
Jago made an impressive start taking the first game reasonably comfortably. Fallows stepped up the pace in the second game, making the Nuffield player work harder. The longer the game went on, the more Jago started to tire.
Fallows took the second game and began to exercise a greater control when he won the third game to take a 2-1 lead. Jago raised his performance level at the start of the fourth but was unable to sustain it enough to prevent Fallows winning 3-1.
With St Albans 2-0 down and three matches to play, the pressure was on Will John to provide the home team with a lifeline and keep the tie open. At the same time on the main court, current club champion Adam Auckland, who had his 20th birthday the day before the match, started his contest against the Potters Bar number one Ben Coleman.
Coleman, ranked 96 in the world, 204 places higher than the younger Auckland, just managed to nick the first game 11-9. Making too many mistakes, Auckland quickly went 8-4 down but worked his way back to 10-9 down. Crucially though, he made another error to gift his more experienced opponent the first game.
On the other match court, Will John raced into a lead in his first game against the highly experienced former world number 150 ranked player Rory Pennell. Playing decisive and disciplined squash, John asserted himself on the match, taking the first game comfortably.
News of this drifted across to Auckland and it seemed to lift him for his second game against Coleman. Cutting out the mistakes, he raced to a 10-1 lead and, following a couple of let balls, he took the second game 11-3. More drama followed when Coleman pulled up with an injury at the beginning of the third game and failed to continue, providing Nuffield with their first victory of the evening.
At the beginning of the second game, it looked like it was possible for John to build on the foundation laid by Auckland as he applied the same high quality display as in the first game. Gradually though, his opponent absorbed the attack of John and slowly pushed him deeper into the back corners.
Mistakes crept into John’s game and Pennell began to pull away from his younger, less experienced opponent. Pennell took the second game and then the third. The fourth was nip and tuck until a couple of errors from John allowed Pennell some breathing space.
He didn’t waste it and another error from John handed Pennell a 3-1 victory and Potters Bar an unassailable lead.
It was left to Jack Fowler to record a 3-1 win against Joe Green to provide Nuffield with a valuable point.
A 3-2 loss keeps the Nuffield team within touching distance of Potters Bar in the league. With five more matches to play, there are still enough fixtures for Nuffield to fight for the title, but the advantage is certainly with Potters Bar.