UWE/Elitesquash Bristol produced their biggest Premier Squash League (PSL) win in eight years when they despatched champions Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets 3/2 in Tuesday’s sixth round of the world’s most prestigious squash league.
The opening round of the second half of the 30th PSL season produced a night of high drama – with all but one of the ties ending in 3/2 scorelines and four resolved by the top string decider. The sole tie which ended in a 5/0 whitewash, for former champions Benz-Bavarian Duffield, saw the Derbyshire club’s new world number one Nick Matthew celebrate his 50th career meeting with former world number one James Willstrop by beating his fellow Yorkshireman, the AJP Pontefracttop string, in straight games.
The Bristol team arrived at the Surrey Health’s Croydon club without an away win in over four years. On paper the likelihood of victory was slim – and, after falling 2/0 down following home wins by Richie Fallows and world No4 Alison Waters, the chances seemed even slimmer.
But the visitors’ Thomas Ford rallied for 67 minutes to overcome world No29 Adrian Waller and long-retired WelshmanDavid Evans rolled back the years to see off Surrey Health’s England international Adrian Grant in five games.
The decider saw home favourite Peter Barker, the world No8 from London making his comeback after injury, take on Bristol’s Mohamed Elshorbagy, the 22-year-old Egyptian now ranked four in the world. Elshorbagy was in powerful form, taking out left-hander Barker 11-9, 11-6, 11-8 to seal a shock Bristol victory.
“I’m absolutely delighted for UWE/Elitesquash Bristol’s second win of the season,” said team spokesman Richard King. “It was a great team effort. Times are changing in the west!”
Surrey Health hang onto top place in the Group B tables, but now share the honour with Exeter Diamonds, whose Egyptian international Omar Mosaad, ranked 12 in the world, pulled off a stunning 11-9, 12-10, 11-8 win over Spain’sBorja Golan - ranked five places higher – to clinch the Devon side a 3/2 win over Luxfords St George’s Hill.
“It was always going to be tight,” said Exeter team manager Adam Lings. “In fact at the start of the night I said it could easily be either 4/1 to us or 4/1 to them. We had an absolutely packed house tonight so It couldn’t have ended better than Omar playing the game of his life to beat Borja and clinch the tie for us.
“It’s the first time we’ve topped the group tables at this stage of the season – so our aim now is to put out the strongest team we can for the remainder of the season so that we can keep this going and earn ourselves a home semi-final, and then a place in the final for the first time.
“We had great news tonight when Omar told me he is planning to move to Somerset to train – which means he will be available to us for the rest of the season.”
Team Chichester move up to third position in the Group B tables after recovering from the loss of the opening match to win the next three to beat South Coast rivals Winchester 3/2.
Benz-Bavarian Duffield headed the Group A tables going into the second half of the season – but extended their lead to 21 points after their 5/0 away win at AJP Pontefract. But the match the packed crowd wanted to see more than any other was the top string encounter between their hero James Willstrop and Sheffield rival Nick Matthew - the 50th in a long and illustrious series of meetings which have taken place in all corners of the globe since the first in the British Open qualifiers in June 2001.
In previous PSL meetings, the head-to-head tally was 3/0 in Matthew’s favour – the score being 38/11 over all meetings, with Willstrop looking for his first individual win since December 2007. But, despite the heartiest home support, Willstrop was unable to make the long-awaited breakthrough, going down 11-9, 11-8, 11-8 to his imperious opponent from the steel city.
“Obviously we know each other like the back of our hands and I think the goal for both of us was to get some match practice for this month’s Tournament of Champions in New York – and we both achieved that!” said Matthew afterwards.
Coolhurst London claimed the most nerve-wracking win of the night when Egyptian Omar Abdel Meguid survived a dramatic 6-11, 12-10, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5 decider over Scottish number one Alan Clyne to give the PSL debutantes a 3/2 home win over former champions Air-IT Nottingham.
“For a newly-formed team, it can often prove challenging to function together as a coherent unit from the outset, as players get to know each other’s strengths, weaknesses and foibles,” said Coolhurst team manager Nick Sutcliffe later.
“Coolhurst is very proud of its squad members not only for their individual performances tonight, which were exceptional, but also for their camaraderie and natural willingness to work together.
“Huge thanks also to our vociferous Coolhurst supporters who played a crucial part in helping us maintain an unbeaten home match record – long may it continue!”
There was further Yorkshire misery in Leeds where Chapel Allerton went down 3/2 to University of Birmingham. Recent England international debutante Sarah-Jane Perry gave the West Midlands side a strong start when, in her first match after a four-month injury layoff, she defeated seasoned England international Jenny Duncalf, a former world No2, 3-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-9.
Later five-game victories by Nathan Lake and Welshman Peter Creed sealed the tie for the Birmingham visitors.
Coolhurst London 3 Air-IT Nottingham 2
Omar Abdel Meguid bt Alan Clyne 6-11, 12-10, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5
Ben Coleman lost to Eddie Charlton 6-11, 5-11, 7-11
Adam Auckland bt Ollie Holland 6-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-1
Steve Richardson lost to Mark Fuller 12-10, 4-11, 5-11, 6-11
Madeline Perry bt Emma Beddoes 11-8, 11-13, 15-13, 10-12, 11-4
AJP Pontefract 0 Benz-Bavarian Duffield 5
James Willstrop lost to Nick Matthew 9-11, 8-11, 8-11
Lee Beachill lost to Joel Hinds 4-11, 6-11, 10-12
Chris van der Salm lost to Andy Whipp 11-8, 7-11, 6-11, 5-11
Mohd Syafiq Kamal lost to Declan James 2-11, 9-11, 7-11
Sarah Kippax lost to Laura Massaro 12-14, 10-12, 6-11
Chapel Allerton 2 University of Birmingham 3
Daryl Selby bt Chris Ryder 11-8, 11-5, 11-9
Chris Simpson bt Jaymie Haycocks 8-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-5
James Earles lost to Peter Creed 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 5-11, 5-11
Simon Parke lost to Nathan Lake 13-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-13, 6-11
Jenny Duncalf lost to Sarah-Jane Perry 11-3, 4-11, 3-11, 9-11
Winchester 2 Team Chichester 3
Marwan Elshorbagy bt Jonathan Kemp 11-8, 15-13, 11-6
Greg Lobban lost to Rex Hedrick 11-6, 9-11, 6-11, 11-8, 6-11 (82m)
Scott Fitzgerald lost to Robbie Temple 12-14, 12-10, 11-8, 9-11, 4-11
Daniel Poleshchuk lost to Olivier Pett 10-12, 4-11, 4-11
Emily Whitlock bt Lauren Briggs 10-12, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9
Exeter Diamonds 3 Luxfords St George’s Hill 2
Omar Mosaad bt Borja Golan 11-9, 12-10, 11-8 (60m)
Laurens Jan Anjema bt Tom Richards 11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 12-10 (58m)
Joey Barrington lost to Joe Lee 5-11, 8-11, 6-11 (37m)
Tim Vail lost to Charles Sharpes 14-12, 7-11, 4-11, 5-11 (45m)
Victoria Temple Murray bt Judith Allgrove 11-4, 11-3, 11-3 (17m)
Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets 2 UWE/Elitesquash Bristol 3
Peter Barker lost to Mohamed Elshorbagy 9-11, 6-11, 8-11 (44m)
Adrian Grant lost to David Evans 7-11, 13-11, 9-11, 13-11, 8-11 (63m)
Adrian Waller lost to Thomas Ford 8-11, 11-5, 5-11, 11-6, 7-11 (67m)
Richie Fallows bt Sam Ellis 8-11, 11-4, 11-4, 9-11, 11-3 (46m)
Alison Waters bt Camille Serme 11-4, 11-8, 11-6 (34m)