As midnight approached at the end of a long fourth round Premier Squash League (PSL) tie in the Devon capital,Exeter Diamonds clinched a dramatic 3/2 win over title-holders Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets to become the only unbeaten team in the 30th season of the world’s most prestigious squash league.
West Country neighbours UWE/Elitesquash Bristol also had cause for celebration in Group B after beating Winchester4/1 to record their first PSL win for 20 months.
Honours were shared after the first four matches in Exeter, with the visitors’ Alison Waters claiming the quickest win of the night (in 13 minutes) and Italian star Davide Bianchetti the longest (in 75 minutes), while home heroes Tim Vail and Finn number one Olli Tuominen restored order for the Diamonds.
The top-string decider featured Exeter’s Omar Mosaad, the world No 9 from Egypt making only his third appearance in the PSL, and the Croydon club’s England international Adrian Grant, the world No 20 from London. Left-hander Grant boasted a 4/3 career head-to-head advantage going into the match – but, buoyed by the partisan home crowd, Mosaad wasted no time in securing his crucial 11-7, 11-5, 11-7 victory in 35 minutes.
The win not only makes Exeter Diamonds the only unbeaten team this season – and sees the Devon side top the Group B tables by an eight-point margin – but it also inflicted the first defeat on Surrey Health since the team lifted the PSL trophy for a record fourth consecutive time in last season’s final in May.
PSL stalwarts since the 2006/07 season, UWE/Elitesquash Bristol last recorded a victory in March 2012 – and went through the 2012/13 season anchored to the bottom of the Group B tables without a single win. But a home fixture againstWinchester changed the Avon club’s fortunes.
17-year-old Egyptian Yathreb Adel started Bristol’s winning run with a 3/0 victory over the visitors’ Emily Heyes. Exeter-based Michael Harris followed the teenager’s lead by beating Winchester’s Phillip John Bull in four games before Cheltenham 20-year-old Thomas Ford played one of the most significant games of his life when he recovered from 2/0 down to beat Alex Phillips 10-12, 6-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-6 and clinch Bristol’s long-awaited triumph.
Roared on by the exuberant home crowd, former Welsh international David Evans - now in his 40th year – rolled back the years to see off Portsmouth-based 21-year-old Robert Downer 11-3, 11-8, 11-3 to establish a 4/1 team win.
“Bristol UWE/Elite Squash is delighted with its first PSL win in a few seasons,” said team spokesman Richard King. “‘Southwest team with southwest squad provide home win in the southwest’: what else can you say! Come on Bristol!”
The other Group B tie also went to the wire when Luxfords St George’s Hill beat Team Chichester 3/2. Things started badly for the home side when Chichester’s Jaclyn Kemp beat Dominique Lloyd-Walter in straight games and Olivier Pett fought back from a game down to beat the Weybridge club’s Alex Ingham in four games.
But home wins by Henrik Mustonen and Tom Richards forced the decider – which Spanish star Borja Golan, marking his first season for St George’s, wasted no time in winning, beating the Chichester top string Jonathan Kemp 11-7, 12-10, 11-6.
“Welcome to a great player and fantastic team man Borja,” said St George’s Hill team manager Danny Lee afterwards. “A great effort by Alex and good to see Tom back on form.”
An East Midlands derby in Group A saw last season’s runners-up Benz-Bavarian Duffield beat fellow former championsAir-IT Nottingham 4/1 at the packed Duffield club in Derbyshire. The opener provided one of the night’s biggest upsets when Nottingham’s world No26 Emma Beddoes beat the home side’s world No2 Laura Massaro 11-5, 8-11, 11-5, 8-11, 11-6.
But the visitors were unable to maintain the momentum as Duffield stars Aqeel Rehman, Andy Whipp and Joel Hinds all recorded notable wins – Whipp saving game-balls in all three games before beating Nottingham team manager Mark Fuller13-11, 13-11, 16-14.
Top strings Nick Matthew, the Duffield world champion, and Eddie Charlton then fought out a blistering final match, with Matthew emerging triumphant 11-7, 11-4, 7-11, 11-7 to extend Duffield’s lead at the top of the Group A tables to six points.
“It was a really busy night tonight, in front of a total sell-out crowd,” said Duffield team manager Felix Frixou. “Emma was in tremendous form against Laura and really held her own against our world No2 player. But in fact everyone played really well tonight – and provided a great evening of squash for the packed crowd.
“In the final match of the night, Eddie played out of his skin – but Nick did what he had to do. It was Nick’s first home match since the publication of his autobiography, so we had a good signing session after the match – and loads of copies flew out of the door. He must have been disappointed not to have been shortlisted for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, but he didn’t let it affect his match.”
“It was a big ask for the team tonight after Chris pulled out,” said Nottingham’s Mark Fuller. “But as always everyone gave everything they had. All the Nottingham players are improving so quickly with everyone putting in better and better performances every match, Felix had better watch out in the return fixture. Emma was brilliant, 2 wins in 2 against Laura, don’t need to say anything more than that!”
PSL newcomers Coolhurst London strengthened their grip on second place in the tables with a 3/2 win at University of Birmingham. Irish international Madeline Perry, Englishman Adam Auckland and Frenchman Yann Perrin were the Coolhurst winners – but Birmingham University stalwart Chris Ryder gave the home crowd something to cheer at the end of the evening when the 33-year-old top string beat the London club’s Ben Coleman, aged 22, 11-9, 11-3, 11-2.
It was a 3/2 away win in the all-Yorkshire clash in Pontefract where Chapel Allerton beat AJP Pontefract. A stunning performance from the Leeds club’s Chris Simpson saw Chapel Allerton clinch their win – the world No24 from Guernsey beating India’s world No17 Saurav Ghosal 11-6, 11-8, 11-1.
Benz-Bavarian Duffield 4 Air-IT Nottingham 1
Nick Matthew bt Eddie Charlton 11-7, 11-4, 7-11, 11-7
Joel Hinds bt Ollie Holland 11-9, 11-5, 11-9
Andy Whipp bt Mark Fuller 13-11, 13-11, 16-14
Aqeel Rehman bt Josh Taylor 11-6, 11-7, 11-3
Laura Massaro lost to Emma Beddoes 5-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-8, 6-11
AJP Pontefract 2 Chapel Allerton 3
James Willstrop bt Daryl Selby 7-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-6
Saurav Ghosal lost to Chris Simpson 6-11, 8-11, 1-11
Lee Beachill lost to Shaun le Roux 10-12, 5-11, 7-11
Adam Taylor lost to Simon Parke 6-11, 10-12, 5-11
Sarah Kippax bt Jenny Duncalf 8-11, 9-11, 8-3 ret.
University of Birmingham 2 Coolhurst London 3
Chris Ryder bt Ben Coleman 11-9, 11-3, 11-2
Jaymie Haycocks lost to Yann Perrin 10-12, 8-11, 3-11
Nathan Lake lost to Adam Auckland 4-11, 2-11, 3-11
Bradley Hindle bt Steven London 11-5, 11-9, 11-5
Deon Saffery lost to Madeline Perry 11-9, 7-11, 6-11, 8-11
Luxfords St George’s Hill 3 Team Chichester 2
Borja Golan bt Jonathan Kemp 11-7, 12-10, 11-6
Tom Richards bt Rex Hedrick 11-5, 11-6, 11-7
Henrik Mustonen bt Robbie Temple 8-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-8
Alex Ingham lost to Olivier Pett 7-11, 12-10, 8-11, 8-11
Dominique Lloyd-Walter lost to Jaclyn Kemp 8-11, 6-11, 7-11
Exeter Diamonds 3 Integrity Surrey Health & Racquets 2
Omar Mosaad bt Adrian Grant 11-7, 11-5, 11-7 (35m)
Olli Tuominen bt Raphael Kandra 11-5, 13-11, 14-12 (42m)
Joey Barrington lost to Davide Bianchetti 9-11, 11-13, 11-6, 10-12 (75m)
Tim Vail bt Richie Fallows 13-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-2 (59m)
Rhianne O’Donnell lost to Alison Waters 2-11, 2-11, 1-11 (13m)
UWE/Elitesquash Bristol 4 Winchester 1
David Evans bt Robert Downer 11-3, 11-8, 11-3
Thomas Ford bt Alex Phillips 10-12, 6-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-6
Michael Harris bt Phillip John Bull 11-5, 11-3, 9-11, 11-4
Jethro Binns lost to Daniel Poleshchuk 11-7, 7-11, 3-11, 8-11
Yathreb Adel bt Emily Heyes 11-2, 11-3, 11-7