6:01 pm
16 Nov 2018

Newcomers Bristol & Champions Duffield To Contest PSL Final

26 Apr 2007

Champions Benz-Bavarian Duffield and event newcomers Redwood Probuild Bristol will contest the Premier League (PSL) final next month after contrasting second leg semi-final wins tonight in the England Squash league sponsored by Clowes Insurance.

The manner of the teams' successes could not have been more different: Bristol, going into the home tie with a 4/1 advantage over University of Birmingham from the first leg 48 hours earlier, comfortably took the first two matches of the night to put the overall result beyond doubt.

Duffield, the Derbyshire club which won the title last year and have remained unbeaten throughout this season, journeyed south to take on Surrey Health & Racquets Croydon - holding a slender 3/2 lead.

And it was a gutsy performance from the visitors' Laura Hill - the full-time Derbyshire fire-fighter unable to play in the first leg due to injury - who twice came from behind in the superb opening women's match against Croydon's trainee policewoman Stephanie Brind, then saved two match-balls to win 7-9, 9-2, 7-9, 9-5, 11-9!

The score was soon one-all as Croydon's Ben Ford beat Laurence Delasaux 7-9, 9-7, 9-6, 5-9, 9-6 - then the hosts moved ahead after another dramatic match which went the full distance when Bradley Ball avenged his first leg loss to Andrew Whipp to beat the Duffield stalwart 4-9, 9-7, 9-6, 6-9, 9-7.

A second stunning performance in two days by Jonathan Kemp against the higher-ranked Italian number one Davide Bianchetti put the first straight games score on the results board as Duffield not only delighted in drawing level - but also in a 9-4, 9-4, 9-3 scoreline which did not give any valuable game points to the opponents!

On paper the decider was a banker for the visiting champions - but everybody in the arena knew that Duffield's British Open champion and world No8 Nick Matthew would not be given an easy time by the now-retired legend that is Peter Nicol MBE. The indefatigable Nicol stretched his opponent to a game-ball in the opening game, but was unable to convert it as Matthew kept his cool to forge a 12-10, 9-5, 9-7 victory which gave Duffield their 14th successive tie win - and took the club into the final for the second year in a row.

It was an impressive performance from the Duffield No1 who not only clinched the decider in the first leg, but also the decider in last year's two semi-final clashes - AND in the final!

A delighted Duffield team manager Brian Hargrave was not only full of praise for his victorious squad, but also for the performance of the home side's Peter Nicol: "Nick Matthew has played some tough matches for us this season, but two of his hardest must have been the two this week against Peter. He may be retired, but he played out of his skull on both occasions - he really is one hell of a guy!

"But we owe it to Laura Hill - the fire-fighter fighting for her life against Stephanie Brind in a superb women's match. If Laura had lost that, we wouldn't be in the final!"

Nick Matthew refused to take credit for his successive decisive victories for Duffield: "I just happen to come on last - but it's the other guys who've survived the five-setters - particularly Andy Whipp on Tuesday and Laura tonight," said the modest Yorkshireman. "They're the ones who deserve the credit."

Bristol team captain Hadrian Stiff and squad number one Adrian Grant will also be looking forward to a second successive year in the final - but this time it will be representing Redwood Probuild Bristol, the Avon club enjoying a sensational maiden season in the PSL.

It was Stiff's 6-9, 9-1, 9-4, 9-2 victory over the Birmingham visitors' Jaymie Haycocks, and team newcomer Daniela Schumann's 11-9, 9-7, 9-7 win over Leonie Holt, that relieved the early pressure in the other semi-final tie in Bristol.

The University of Birmingham team fought back to level the tie when the squad's South African star Stephen Coppinger beat the home side's former British Open champion David Evans 9-3, 9-4, 6-9, 9-4, and 19-year-old Joel Hinds recorded an impressive 9-5, 12-10, 4-9, 10-12, 9-5 win over experienced Australian Joseph Kneipp - both Birmingham players avenging first leg defeats.

In the evening's decider, Bristol's Adrian Grant also made up for a surprise loss on Tuesday when he beat the visitors' Joey Barrington 5-9, 9-7, 9-5, 9-1.

Semi-Finals, 2nd leg:

Surrey Health & Racquets Croydon 2 Benz-Bavarian Duffield 3
Peter Nicol lost to Nick Matthew 10-12, 5-9, 7-9
Davide Bianchetti lost to Jonathan Kemp 4-9, 4-9, 3-9
Bradley Ball bt Andrew Whipp 4-9, 9-7, 9-6, 6-9, 9-7
Ben Ford bt Laurence Delasaux 7-9, 9-7, 9-6, 5-9, 9-6
Stephanie Brind lost to Laura Hill 9-7, 2-9, 9-7, 5-9, 9-11

Duffield win 6-4 on aggregate

Redwood Probuild Bristol 3 University of Birmingham 2
Adrian Grant bt Joey Barrington 5-9, 9-7, 9-5, 9-1
Joseph Kneipp lost to Joel Hinds 5-9, 10-12, 9-4, 12-10, 5-9
David Evans lost to Stephen Coppinger 3-9, 4-9, 9-6, 4-9
Hadrian Stiff bt Jaymie Haycocks 6-9, 9-1, 9-4, 9-2
Daniela Schumann bt Leonie Holt 11-9, 9-7, 9-7

Bristol win 7-3 on aggregate