A month ago today Cromer were sitting proudly at the top of Division Three of the Norfolk SRA Squash League after a four match unbeaten run but now they have lost two successive matches and have dropped down to third place in the table having played one more match than the two teams immediately above them. They have not been helped by a sudden unavailability of key players and this week, due to injuries, illness, work commitments and family commitments they were forced to travel to Lime Tree Road in Norwich to take on East Anglia IV with only four players and although playing with one player short they were only just beaten 16-8 and in fact could easily have won the match.
Ross Murray, who is still relatively new to competitive squash, was forced to move up the order to play the fourth string match and he found the difference between No.5 and No.4 a significant one as he went down to a 3-1 defeat. In the absence of John Baker, who was one of those with work commitments, Matthew Jordan again filled the third string slot and when he won the second game of his match to draw level and had a succession of “game balls” in the third game he looked to be heading for victory. Sadly he eventually lost that game 12-14 to go 2-1 down and then in another extremely close game lost the fourth game 15-13 to also lose 3-1.
In contrast Phil Godfrey, who was runner up in the recent club Over 35 tournament, is enjoying a fine run of form and after just winning an extremely tight opening game 17-15 comfortably won the next two games to win 3-0 in what was his sixth successive victory for the team this season. At No.1 Alex Oliver is having something of a mixed season and after he went 2-0 down he looked to be heading for defeat. However he recovered well to win the next three games to win the match 3-2 which left Cromer rueing what might have been.
Technical Director Barry Starling said afterwards: “It was annoying that we could only field four players but at least five of our middle order players had genuine reasons why they couldn’t play. I nearly played the fifth string match myself but I am far from being fully fit and it wouldn’t have helped the scoreline at all. We will now regroup for the second half of the season.”
After two successive defeats in Division Three of the Norfolk SRA Leagues Cromer returned to winning ways this week with a resounding 20-2 maximum against a below strength and injury hit Fakenham III who, despite being at home, were only able to field a team of four players.
Cromer were too strong for their hosts, who lost 20-4 at Cromer in the first match of the season back in October, so Cromer were in the rare position of completing a 40 point double over their neighbours. Technical Director Barry Starling was able to field what is probably a full strength line up with John Baker once again available to play the third string match with Matthew Jordan dropping down to No.4. Alex Oliver and the unbeaten Phil Godfrey played at the top of the order while the unfortunate Ross Murray was denied a match as he was awarded a walk-over at No.5.
Jordan has had something of an up and down season as he has suffered three narrow defeats but he notched up his third straight game victory as he proved to be too strong for the Fakenham veteran Tim Venes. Similarly Baker, who was playing the home team’s captain, Stephen Horn, ran out a comfortable 3-1 winner despite an uncharacteristic blip in the second game.
Godfrey started slowly in his second string match, losing the opening game against Tom Horn but his class shone through and he won his seventh consecutive match as he eased his way to a 3-1 victory while at No.1 Alex Oliver comfortably beat Rob Pawley in straight games.
Starling summed up the match afterwards saying: “It was a great pity that the Fakenham boys had problems raising a full team as we always have good matches with them and they usually have a production line of good talented youngsters coming through. That said our team did what they had to do and I couldn’t have asked for any more. We have now got a month’s break until our next match on January 9th but we will need to win at least five of our remaining six matches, if not all six, if we are to win the Division.
Alex Oliver beat Rob Pawley 13-7 13-9 13-5
Phil Godfrey beat Tom Horn 9-13 13-11 13-6 13-5
John Baker beat Stephen Horn 13-10 10-13 13-7 13-7
Matthew Jordan beat Tim Venes 13-11 13-8 13-11
Ross Murray walk-over at No.5
MATCH EIGHT CROMER v WENSUM SPORTS CENTRE (Postponed until March 6th)
MATCH NINE BOB CARTER CENTRE 4 CROMER 20
ANOTHER MAXIMUM FOR CROMER AS THEY DOUBLE UP.
After their Christmas and New Year break Cromer returned to Norfolk Squash League action this week with a trip to Drayton to take on The Bob Carter Centre in a Division Three fixture. Earlier in the season Cromer had narrowly beaten their opponents 15-10 on their home courts so they travelled expecting a hard match but in the hope of achieving their second “double” of the season.
With former club champions John Baker and Stephen Watts both unavailable and veteran John Chandler still recovering from injury Technical Director Barry Starling was faced with something of a selection problem especially as he himself was unavailable as he recovered from a dislocated shoulder. Fortunately Martin Sanville had recovered from a severe case of “tennis elbow” and he came into the team for the first time this season to play the fifth string match while the rapidly improving Ross Murray moved up the order to play at No.4 with Matthew Jordan at 3 and Philip Godfrey and Alex Oliver filling the second and first string positions.
Sanville got the team off to a good start as he won his match against Graham Woodford 3-1 with the two opening games, both of which he won, being hard fought and closely contested. On the adjoining court Murray was also in good form and he too won his match 3-1, playing exceptionally well against Marco Valori, an opponent who beat John Chandler 3-1 at Cromer back at the end of October.
The closest match of the evening was the third string one in which Matthew Jordan was up against the home captain Ian Pearson. The Drayton player had taken John Baker to five games in the October match so it was no mean achievement for Jordan to come out on top 3-2 which meant that Cromer had won the match.
In the second string match Phil Godfrey, who the previous evening had finished as runner-up in the Over 60/65 event in the Norfolk Closed Championships proved too skilful for Graham Sibley as he won in straight games to record his eighth victory in eight Norfolk League matches, while in the final first string match Alex Oliver also won 3-0 against the Drayton No.1, Billy Draper to leave the final score 20-4 in favour of Cromer.
Afterwards Starling said: “This was an excellent all round performance and our third 20 point maximum of the season. With my discolated shoulder I have not been able to take part in the training sessions but the boys have worked well over the past six weeks and with just four matches remaining they should be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.”
Alex Oliver beat Billy Draper 13-9 13-9 13-9
Philip Godfrey beat Graham Sibley 13-9 13-11 13-8
Matthew Jordan beat Ian Pearson 13-7 12-14 13-9 6-13 13-7
Ross Murray beat Marco Valori 13-7 13-3 7-13 13-7
Martin Sanville beat Graham Woodford 13-11 14-12 6-13 13-9
MATCH TEN BROADLAND ii 8 CROMER 16
THIRD SUCCESSIVE WIN KEEPS PRESSURE ON LEADERS.
Cromer kept up the pressure on the Norfolk SRA Division Three league leaders Harleston when they won their third successive match this week, beating Broadland II 16-8 to move to within nine points of the South Norfolk side with both teams having three matches remaining – one of which is between the two teams on the Cromer courts.
Technical Director Barry Starling, who is still recovering from his dislocated shoulder, was able to name an unchanged team for the trip to Fleggburgh which meant that Martin Sanville, who is still fighting his way back to full fitness after a severe bout of “tennis elbow” was at No.5 with the rapidly improving Ross Murray at 4, team captain Matthew Jordan at 3, the unbeaten veteran Phil Godfrey at 2 and Alex Oliver in the first string slot.
Sanville started off well as he opened up a 2-0 lead against his opponent Mike Cramer but the Broadland player gradually fought his way back into the match to draw level at 2-2 and then in a fifth game which could have gone either way he just came out on top 13-11 to create a remarkable turn around and win the match 3-2.
Murray has lost only one match this season gradually moving up the county rankings in the process and his run of good form continued as he comfortably won his match against Jodie Dowe in straight games and then Jordan edged Cromer ahead as he won his match against the Broadland captain Gary Powley 3-1.
Back at Cromer in November Phil Godfrey had a tremendous match against young Jordan Bowman eventually winning 14-12 in the fifth but this time he had no such problems as, with the match seemingly finely poised at 1-1 he dropped just eight more points in the next two games to come out a convincing 3-1 winner – a win which ensured Cromer would take home the bonus points.
This was just as well since Alex Oliver was not at the top of his game in his first string match going down in straight games to another youngster, Kye McCourt-Hall, who he comfortably beat 3-0 earlier in the season at Cromer.
After the match Starling said: “This was another good win for the team and the match was not as close as the 3-2 scoreline might suggest. Martin Sanville really ought to have sewn up his match and Alex Oliver will be kicking himself that he lost each of the three games by just two points. Sixty eight year old Phil Godfrey is remarkable – that’s now nine wins from nine matches and it is good to have someone like that in the team.”
Alex Oliver lost to Kye McCourt-Hall 13-15 11-13 11-13
Philip Godfrey beat Jordan Bowman 13-6 6-13 13-3 13-5
Matthew Jordan beat Gary Powley 13-7 6-13 13-9 13-9
Ross Murray beat Jordie Dowe 13-7 15-13 13-6
Martin Sanville lost to Mike Cramer 13-9 13-10 8-13 7-13 11-13.
CROMER 19 HARLESTON 7
"BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON" TOPPLES LEAGUE LEADERS
Cromer turned in arguably their best performance of the season this week when they took on fellow high fliers, Harleston, in a Norfolk SRA League Division Three match and defeated the visiting South Norfolk side 19-7. They did it as well without their most consistent player of the season, Phil Godfrey, who was struck down with illness on the day of the match which meant that John Chandler was pressed into emergency service to fill the fifth string slot while John Baker, Matthew Jordan and Ross Murray were all forced to move one place up the order with Alex Oliver continuing at No.1.
Due to injury Chandler had not played a match for three months but after putting himself through a late fitness test with Technical Director Barry Starling who is himself still recovering from a dislocated shoulder, he declared himself fit and able to play and at one stage it did look as though he might pull off an unlikely win. After losing the opening game of his match he won the next two to open up a 2-1 lead but then understandably tiredness took over and he had to settle for an honourable 3-2 defeat.
Meanwhile, on the adjoining court Baker was involved in a titanic struggle in his second string match. He opened up a 2-0 lead and looked to be heading for a straight game victory when he served for the match in the third game. His opponent, however, showed tremendous resilience and determination to claw the game back 19-17 and when he drew level after winning the fourth game 13-11 it looked as though Cromer would lose their second match. Baker however is an experienced player and he won the decisive fifth game 13-7 for an extremely close 3-2 victory in a match of more than 120 rallies.
Ross Murray is in his first full season of competitive squash and he is now learning how to close games out and win important points. This was apparent in his fourth string match which he won 3-1 with two of the games finishing with 15-13 scorelines and then in the third string match Matthew Jordan turned in a good performance to also win 3-1, a win which ensured Cromer would take the bonus points and move above Harleston at the top of the table. Alex Oliver wrapped up a highly satisfactory evening for the team as he won his first string match in straight games – a match which was more straightforward than the game scores might suggest.
Afterwards Starling said: “This was an excellent all round team performance and with just two games left to play we could go on to be promoted as divisional champions. It would be wrong to single out any one player for praise but Johnny Baker was magnificent especially as he lost the third and fourth games of his match.”
Alex Oliver beat Mike Earrye 14-12 13-7 14-12
John Baker beat Dale Foreman 13-7 13-8 17-19 11-13 13-7
Matt Jordan beat Richard Self 13-11 13-10 10-13 13-9
Ross Murray beat Sam McCluskey 11-13 15-13 13-6 15-13
John Chandler lost to Justin Martin 6-13 13-10 13-7 3-13 8-13.
CROMER 20 EAST ANGLIA IV 7
TWENTY POINT MAXIMUM SENDS CROMER THREE POINTS CLEAR
Cromer now know that promotion from Division Three of the Norfolk SRA Squash Leagues is in their own hands. After an excellent 20-7 victory this week over East Anglia IV they are three points clear at the top of the table and know that 18 points from their final match of the season at home to Wensum Sports Centre next week will leave them in an unassailable position and divisional champions.
For their match this week Technical Director, Barry Starling was forced into two changes as Martin Sanville replaced fellow veteran John Chandler, who is still not 100% match fit after his injury lay off, in the fifth string position while Matthew Jordan who was still recovering from his exertions in the previous week’s club handicap tournament followed by a hard competitive game of football was suffering from a slight groin strain. The unbeaten Phil Godfrey, however, had recovered from his recent bout of illness and he came back into the team at No.2 which enabled John Baker to drop down one place to No.3 while the team’s two youngest players, Alex Oliver and Ross Murray, again filled the two remaining slots.
Back in November Murray was beaten 3-1 on the Lime Tree Road courts by his opponent, Phil Ringwood, but over the past three months his game has improved dramatically and he got the team off to the best possible start with a comfortable straight game victory. Meanwhile on the adjoining court Baker was up against one of the quickest players seen at Cromer this season and when he trailed 2-1 and his opponent was retrieving everything it did look as though he would lose. Baker, however, is an experienced competitor who still hits the ball as cleanly as anybody in the club and he recovered brilliantly to draw level and then take the decisive fifth game 13-11.
In the fifth string match Sanville was playing one of the top lady players in the county, who recently reached the quarter finals of the Norfolk Ladies championships, and he had a terrific battle for four evenly contested games before his greater power and strength enabled him to cruise through the fifth game 13-3 and win 3-2. With three wins under their belt Cromer knew they had won the match and then Phil Godfrey continued his remarkable unbeaten run as, despite not having fully recovered from his illness, he made it ten wins from ten matches as he beat the East Anglia No.2, James Thacker 3-1.
In the final match of the evening Alex Oliver, despite going behind 2-1, always looked to have enough in hand to win the first string match and he comfortably won the fourth and fifth games to win his match 3-2 and round off a highly satisfactory evening’s work for the Cromer team.
Afterwards Starling said: “This was a brilliant result against a team who beat us earlier in the season. There is now a complete log jam between three teams at the top of the division but we know what we have to do in our last match to ensure we get promoted. Depending upon other results we may not even need eighteen points but we will need to win to make sure”
Alex Oliver beat Simon Elphick 11-13 13-7 13-15 13-4 13-8
Phil Godfrey beat James Thacker 9-13 16-14 13-11 13-9
John Baker beat Oliver Phillips 14-12 11-13 8-13 13-7 13-11
Ross Murray beat Phil Ringwood 13-2 13-10 13-4
Martin Sanville beat Sue Kuhaudomlarp 10-13 13-10 13-7 12-14 13-3
MATCH EIGHT (RE-ARRANGED)
CROMER 7 WENSUM SPORTS CENTRE 15
LAST MATCH OF A LONG SEASON IS ONE MATCH TOO FAR
Cromer’s last match of the season in Division Three of the Norfolk SRA Squash Leagues proved to be one match too far in what has been a long and demanding season as they went down to a 15-7 defeat at home to fellow promotion hopefuls Wensum Sports. Cromer were up against it before a ball was hit as four times former club champion John Baker was unavailable due to work commitments and fellow veteran Martin Sanville was forced to pull out on the day of the match as he succumbed to illness.
After several fruitless phone calls the club tennis coach Andrew Margarson, who was runner up in the club championships way back in 1996 agreed to play the fifth string match and although he understandably tired towards the end of his match he turned the clock back and showed that after almost 22 years his racket skills and movement around the court have not gone away as he came out on top 3-0, taking the all important third game 16-14.
On the adjoining court one of Margarson’s assistant tennis coaches, Ross Murray, continued his run of good form winning his fourth string match 3-1 and he has not been beaten since the end of November and, in what has been his first season of regular Norfolk League squash, has lost only one match throughout the season.
Sadly for Cromer this was the end of their success for the evening. Matthew Jordan, playing at No.3, found his hard hitting and super fit opponent too strong and went down to a straight game defeat while in the second string match Phil Godfrey’s phenomenal unbeaten run came to an end as was not quite able to give almost fifty years to his young opponent and was beaten 3-1. He narrowly lost the first game 12-14 and had he been able to win this game the result could well have been different as he comfortably won the second game 13-5 before just losing the next two.
In the final match of the evening Alex Oliver was up against an opponent who is simply too good to be playing in Division Three and the result of his match was never in doubt as he went down to a straight game defeat.
Cromer have finished their season with nine victories from their twelve matches and a highly creditable total of 183 points. They now have to wait for the results of other matches to see whether they finish the season in first,second or third place in the division.
Technical Director, Barry Starling, was forced to miss the match but he was kept up to date with the team’s progress throughout the evening. He did say “When we won our first two matches I did think we might get another victory but Phil’s unbeaten run had to end sometime and at the end of the day our Wensum friends just had the edge on the night. We have had a good season and everybody who has played has acquitted themselves well.”
Alex Oliver lost to Mark Bagnall 4-13 8-13 9-13
Phil Godfrey lost to Josh Hall 12-14 13-5 9-13 10-13
Matthew Jordan lost to Keane Pye 4-13 10-13 10-13
Ross Murray beat Ben Serruys 10-13 13-6 13-10 13-9
Andrew Margarson beat John Milton 13-10 13-8 16-14