Bristol, Croydon & University of Birmingham Join Duffield In PSL Play-Offs
28 Mar 2007
Three clubs claimed places in the play-offs of the Premier League (PSL) for the first time after a night of dramatic action in the tenth and final round of the group stages of the England Squash league sponsored by Clowes Insurance.
Defending champions Benz-Bavarian Duffield, leaders of Group A and already assured of a play-off place, stormed to a 5/0 win at Esporta Oxford - which not only extended the Derbyshire club's unbeaten run this season, but denied Oxford a place in the play-offs in their debut season in the league. The other tie in the group saw University of Birmingham, in only their second season in the PSL, battle to a 4/1 home win over former champions Nottingham to secure runners-up position - and the second place in play-offs.
The balance of power in Group B was finely poised throughout the evening. But when Redwood Probuild Bristol overturned a 1/0 deficit to beat Surrey Health & Racquets Croydon - leaders of the group for most of the season - 4/1 away from home, it became clear that both teams would qualify, Bristol finishing on 113 points and Croydon with 109.
Elsewhere in Surrey, Luxfords St George's Hill had home advantage as they reversed an early match defeat to claim a hard-fought 4/1 win over county rivals UniSport Guildford. According to Guildford team manager Ian Robinson, the result could easily have been 4/1 in the visitors' direction. But it was a disappointed St George's Hill team manager Danny Lee who eventually conceded that, despite also finishing with more than 100 points in the season, and sharing five winning ties over the season with both Bristol and Croydon, they would not be experiencing play-off action in their maiden PSL season.
England number one Tania Bailey was in powerful form as she put Duffield in the driving seat against Esporta Oxford with a 9-3, 9-3, 6-9, 9-5 win over Irish champion Madeline Perry. Lee Drew then avenged his loss to World University champion Chris Drew in the teams' earlier clash in the season when he beat the Oxford No3 9-6, 7-9, 9-7, 5-9, 9-2.
In the final two matches, Jonathan Kemp and squad No1 Nick Matthew both repeated their mid-season victories over the home side's Scott Handley and Cameron Pilley, respectively, to ensure maximum points for Duffield.
There was jubilation at the University of Birmingham when it became clear that their 4/1 win over Nottingham would take the young squad into the play-offs in their first season in the country's elite league. And nowhere was the determination more in evidence than in the opening match between the home team's Laura-Jane Lengthorn and Nottingham's Dominique Lloyd-Walter, ranked 10 and 20, respectively, in the world and separated by only two positions in the English list. Incredibly, it was the longest match of the tie, with Lancashire's Lengthorn prevailing 6-9, 10-8, 10-8, 7-9, 9-5 in 53 minutes.
Nottingham's Peter Marshall, the former world number two making his competitive comeback after five years of 'retirement', was in devastating form to clinch the second game against Birmingham's Stephen Coppinger, but the fast-improving South African ultimately got the upper hand to win 9-5, 0-9, 9-5, 9-6.
Joel Hinds, the 19-year-old squad No3 from Derbyshire clinched the all-important tie victory for the hosts, beating Irishman Arthur Gaskin 9-5, 9-7, 9-1 - but Nottingham stalwart Simon Parke restored some pride for the visitors when he beat world No27 Joey Barrington 9-6, 9-3, 4-9, 3-9 9-5 in the final match.
When Malaysia's world No1 Nicol David beat Australia's up-and-coming Kasey Brown 9-7, 9-6, 9-5, it looked as if Surrey Health & Racquets Croydon would extend their leadership of the Group B points table to clinch the group's top place in the play-offs. But visitors Redwood Probuild Bristol arrived with strength in depth - and Chris Clare, team captain Hadrian Stiff and Welshman David Evans took out Chris Simpson, Tim Garner and Bradley Ball, respectively, to ensure their play-of place - Evans beating world No28 Ball for the second time in 24 hours!
In the final top string match, Italian number one Davide Bianchetti needed a straight games win in order for Croydon to pip Bristol by a single point. But it was the visitors' Australian international Joseph Kneipp who prevailed, winning 9-5, 8-10, 10-8, 9-6 to ensure Redwood Probuild's top place finish.
Despite being out of the running for a play-off place, UniSport Guildford made a powerful start against play-off hopefuls Luxfords St George's Hill when England international Alison Waters crushed the home side's Isabelle Tweedle 9-0, 9-2, 9-1. The visitors showed determination in the remaining clashes, but all went to the hosts - the most dramatic of which saw Guildford's Stephen Meads fail to convert more than ten match balls against Alister Walker before the St George's Hill world No32 finally pulled through in an incredible 9-4, 2-9, 7-9, 17-15, 15-13 scoreline!
"I thought that our team played their hearts out," said a dejected Danny Lee afterwards. "Alister battled through a scrappy match with Meadsy, saving tons of match balls. John Rooney got us off to a magnificent start and Daryl maintained his excellent form against Jesse. Renan fought like a man possessed to nick it from Stacey in the fifth and thanks to Isabelle for being brave enough to stand in against the top class Alison Waters. We are gutted not to make the play-offs - but thanks to the team for all their efforts and to our sponsors Luxfords for their support."
Semi-finals Play-offs line-up:
Benz-Bavarian Duffield v Surrey Health & Racquets Croydon
Redwood Probuild Bristol v University of Birmingham
1st leg: Tuesday 24 April
2nd leg: Thursday 26 April
10th round results
University of Birmingham 4 Nottingham 1
Joey Barrington lost to Simon Parke 6-9, 3-9, 9-4, 9-3, 5-9
Jonathan Harford bt Jethro Binns 9-7, 11-9, 9-1
Joel Hinds bt Arthur Gaskin 9-5, 9-7, 9-1 (34m)
Stephen Coppinger bt Peter Marshall 9-5, 0-9, 9-5, 9-6 (41m)
Laura-Jane Lengthorn bt Dominique Lloyd-Walter 6-9, 10-8, 10-8, 7-9, 9-5 (53m)
Esporta Oxford 0 Benz-Bavarian Duffield 5
Cameron Pilley lost to Nick Matthew 7-9, 6-9, 7-9
Scott Handley lost to Jonathan Kemp 5-9, 2-9, 9-7, 9-4, 5-9
Chris Ryder lost to Lee Drew 6-9, 9-7, 7-9, 9-5, 2-9
Kristen Johnson lost to Andrew Whipp 10-12, 4-9, 6-9
Madeline Perry lost to Tania Bailey 3-9, 3-9, 9-6, 5-9
Luxfords St George's Hill 4 UniSport Guildford 1
Renan Lavigne bt Stacey Ross 9-3, 7-9, 6-9, 9-7, 9-6
Alister Walker bt Stephen Meads 9-4, 2-9, 7-9, 17-15, 15-13
Daryl Selby bt Jesse Engelbrecht 9-5, 6-9, 9-7, 9-5
John Rooney bt Phil Rushworth 9-5, 9-3, 9-4
Isabelle Tweedle lost to Alison Waters 0-9, 2-9, 1-9
Surrey Health & Racquets Croydon 1 Redwood Probuild Bristol 4
Davide Bianchetti lost to Joseph Kneipp 5-9, 10-8, 8-10, 6-9
Bradley Ball lost to David Evans 7-9, 3-9, 5-9
Tim Garner lost to Hadrian Stiff 5-9, 3-9, 4-9
Chris Simpson lost to Chris Clare 9-5, 6-9, 3-9, 4-9
Nicol David bt Kasey Brown 9-7, 9-6, 9-5