Derby Day Delight for The Don’s Diamonds
Close Neighbours, close encounters, close to top spot for LT&SC
The final Wednesday of the month saw the high-flying Leicestershire Tennis and Squash Club Second Team make the short trip down the A6 to local rivals Leicester Squash to take on their third string in a hotly-anticipated local derby. Despite the close proximity of the two Clubs in terms of location, there is a veritable chasm between the two in terms of popularity, aesthetic excellence, and in terms of the respective bar areas, atmosphere.
With Ollie Wood (Businessman of the Year 1984), still across the pond taking advantage of the post-Brexit chaos tying up deals faster than Embers ties up repeat business discounts with newly opened local take-ways, Captain Don shuffled his pack and brought back in-form Dan “The Professional” Willets to the side at number 5 in an otherwise unchanged line-up. As for the auld-enemy, they too freshened things up by bringing in a couple of new faces to try and apply the pressure to their visitors.
1. Robbie “The Natural” Wynne vs Rich “Tin Cup” Reed
2. Chris “The Don” Trafford vs Al “Lord Farquhar” Lockhart Smith
3. Matt “Embers” Williams vs Robbie “The Younger” Dalby
4. Adam “Hands” Popowicz vs James “The Gentry” Greenlees
5. Dan “The Professional” Willets vs Rich “Tin-Tin” Dalby
With the players ready, and LT&SC mascot Paul “The Drinker” Hart already on his third pint, the opening matches got underway and the old rivalry was resurrected.
Match 1: Matt “Embers” Williams vs Robbie “The Younger” Dalby
On a run of 5 straight wins, Williams decided to keep the racquets in the bag for his final pre-match preparation and instead took the trip out to Loughborough in his hand-me-down sedate family estate to watch the glamour tie between LT&SC and Loughborough Students first Teams. Hoping to take inspiration from seeing how top players approach the game, he was able to study in detail the movement patterns of Ujesh “The Wrist” Ranchod; marvel at the elegance and form of James “The Technique” Hodson; admire the sportsmanship shown by Mark “The Wizard” Potter; gloss over the insipid performance of George “The actual Professional” Parker, and most importantly keep his eye on Robbie “The Natural” Wynne’s antique racquet bag under the constant glare of the home sides wide-eyed and penniless student population.
Having taken in all of this invaluable information and experience, Williams proceeded to (under the tutelage of Steve “One for the Road” Parker), down 5 pints of premium-grade Japanese lager in the Student Union and subsequently forget the lot.
It was hard to make a case for the defence during the first two games of the match which saw an exuberant Dalby flourish in the calm and inviting waters created by Williams’ opening salvo. Clearly all at sea, a puzzled crowd looked on as Embers proceeded to lay on a coaching/feeding session for his younger opponent who barely had to move around the court as the ball acted like a magnet and found his hitting zone repeatedly. On a side note, one thing this performance has shown is that should local squash pro and part-time Tesco model Parker need a ball-boy for feeding drills, he need look no further than the 40-year old Williams.
At 2-0 down, things did not look good for a visibly rocked Williams and during the mid-game break, Captain Don went to his charge with his work cut out. Fortunately some of the dialogue was captured by a lucky bystander and is now brought to you in association with Just Eat – Freshly Cooked Food Delivered (www.just-eat.co.uk)
Embers: “I can’t work out if I am playing badly or he is playing well”
Captain Don: “You’re playing badly”
They say honesty is a dish best served cold (I think), and it seemed that this slice of brutal but very much needed honesty was just the piece of pie that Williams needed to eat to get his assault back on track. In what will be talked about for days to come, onlookers witnessed an almost unbelievable turnaround in the fortunes of both players. Suddenly the hard-nosed thuggery of Dalby’s shots was being neutralised by the placement and poise of the rejuvenated LT&SC stalwart. When not handing the match to his opponent on a plate, Williams was able to cause a number of problems of his own, and in a show of great mental dexterity and physical strength, the match was squared up at 2-all.
This surprising but welcome pattern of play continued into the final game to the point where The Don and The Natural were discussing the huge boost the comeback win would give Williams, particularly against a higher-ranked opponent who has had some good wins in recent times. At 7-2 up, both Wynne and Trafford began to turn their attention to their own matches thinking that it was not a case of if but when Williams would wrap up the victory.
At 7-all, they, like everyone else, were transfixed. I will now switch to a commentator-style prose in the present tense to create additional suspense and drama.
“Williams stands to receive on the backhand side, he really should be wearing better kit as opposed to a freebie t-shirt handed out at a tournament at this very clu…Dalby serves, it’s a solid serve but not a great one, chance for Williams to apply some pressure and get into the point at this crucial stage of the…he’s tinned it. I’m not sure that was the right option at this stage of the game but we all know he has a reputation of playing perplexing squash. So it’s match ball for the Baby-faced assassin after what can only be described as a humdinger of a match. He serves, Williams returns with a forehand volley cross-court to the backhand wing of Dalby who responds with a cross-court drive. It’s not exceptionally wide but Williams is on the stretch, can he…he can’t..he hasn’t.
It was a cruel end to a titanic battle, but much like the fictional tale, the end was not one of joy, but one of sadness and sorrow. On this occasion there was no freezing cold water, no orchestras playing solemn hymns on a lifeboat, or an old lady narrating over the top of the visuals, just two players, one elated, the other deflated.
It is said that grief is the price we pay for love, and on this night, unfortunately it was Embers that made a large withdrawal from his account.
Match 2: Adam “Hands” Popowicz vs James “The Gentry” Greenlees
On the adjoining court, a clash of styles saw Squash purist and self-appointed poshest man in the County, James “The Gentry” Greelees, take on the antithesis of conventional squash, Adam “Hands” Popowicz.
With the action described above unfolding at the same time, this match was very much the ‘second child’ of the night and battled in vain for a share of the love and affection it so desperately and fruitlessly craved. A shock result saw Greenlees take the first game 9-6 but a determined looking ‘Hands’ had already begun to figure out what was required to turn the match around.
It was like there was a direct line from the sun-soaked sands of Miami to the squash brain of Popowicz as a tweaked tactical game-plan saw an immediate turn around in fortunes for the tennis convert. Now playing with much more variation and patience, Greenlees was made to cover every inch of the court before seeing the ball caress the front wall with but a delicate kiss before falling gracefully to its wood-laden resting place.
Greenlees simply had no answer for this brand of squash and the match was over as quickly as The Natural’s car leaks coolant. Although disappointed to drop a game, Pops is said to be pleased that he was able to contribute to the overall match result. Indeed, it an excerpt taken from the local press this morning it can be seen this is exactly the case.
“Frigging did my nut mate!!!!!!”
Match 3: Dan “The Professional” Willets vs Rich “Tin-Tin” Dalby
Being on the kind of run that The Professional is on, it is right that he be confident and take on the role of Chief motivator and coach, indeed shouts such as, “Come on Matt, keep accumulating”, will live long in the memory of this esteemed and hugely respected reporter.
It seemed on the night however that something was not quite right, something felt amiss. Willets has a long history with the London Road Club, and it seemed that there could be a danger of this affecting his performance on the night. The fact that we was up against the older Dalby brother, known affectionately as “Tin-Tin”, made his task all the more difficult as on his day he can be a very good player.
The opening exchanges did nothing to appease the fears of the LT&SC faithful as it saw the return of the old Dan Willets. Seven tinned attempts at drops gifted the opener to Tin-Tin, and there was no mystery surrounding where this match was going. Wynne leapt down the corridor to deliver words of encouragement, but his words were met by complaints of ailments ranging from a stiff back to sore lungs (see Diagram 1).
Despite claiming the second game with some solid and more recognisable play, The Professional was not able to sustain the level and went down in 4 games. It was not a surprise in the end as Dalby played a strong game and did not succumb to the spate of errors from which he earned his nickname.
A defeat for Willets but there were signs that the form he has shown to date is still in there somewhere ready for future battles on less hostile and heavy ground.
Match 4: Chris “The Don” Trafford vs Al “Lord Farquhar” Lockhart Smith
With the match score sitting a two to one in favour of the visitors, Captain Don took to the court to take on the swashbuckling Al “Lord Farquhar” Lockhart-Smith. Having met a number of weeks earlier, the two knew each other’s game well, but this time, both would be armed with their weapon of choice, Lord Farquhar having been made to use a wooden racquet the time previous.
Looking confident and determined, The Don quietly went about his business of moving the ball around and taking his opponent in short with some tight and well placed drops. It was as ever, a joy to see the Swashbuckler career around the court with all the grace and poise of a startled Lama on hind legs, and it seemed that the LT&SC Captain also got caught up in the strange spectacle as it appeared that he lost concentration and allowed his lead to momentarily slip away. However, he isn’t called Never Say Die Captain Don for nothing (or ever, in fact), and he soon re-gathered his wits and saw out first game 10-8.
I wish I could say more about the second and third games but unfortunately I was away preparing for my own match so cannot provide any additional detail. What I can say however is that from information passed to me by a Junior who once did some work experience at The Wynne Times, is that there must have been at least a couple of flashpoints judging from this statement taken from “Hands” courtside having witnessed yet another epic rally.
(Clapping) “that’s Chris Trafford!”
Chris went on to win the final two games 9-3 and claim both the match and the overall tie.
Final match: Robbie “The Natural” Wynne vs Rich “Tin Cup” Reed
I’m bored now. Rob beat local golf pro and all round good lad, Reed, 3-1.
So the wheels roll on and the Sumptuous Seconds march towards the top of the table. A potential banana skin has been avoided and attention now turns to the visit of a revitalised David Lloyd outfit. Team news suggests a few outgoings and in-comings for the clash at Westenhay Road, but the LT&SC side will be buoyed by the returning Wood from his State-side training camp, although Popowicz misses out as he embarks on a cultural trip to Copenhagen.