Edgbaston Keep Manchester/Pontefract At Bay - And Chichester Bounce Back

1 Feb 06

Churchill Edgbaston Priory and Manchester/Pontefract resumed their campaigns for success in the Premier League (PSL) in the New Year with identical 4-1 wins in tonight's sixth round ties, with the Birmingham club maintaining their three-point lead over the trans-Pennine cooperative at the top of the North Group points table. The lead has changed, however, in the South Group after Team Chichester pulled off a 3-2 home win over rivals Oberthur Strings Tewkesbury to replace the Gloucestershire club at the top of the table.

Edgbaston Priory hosts Benz-Bavarian Duffield took a quick lead when full-time firewoman and part-time squash player Laura Hill scored a stunning 9-2 9-10 9-2 9-4 win for the Derbyshire club over Manchester-based world No27 Rebecca Botwright. It turned out to be a good night for non-full-timers when Edgbaston's Hadrian Stiff, a 33-year-old from Devon who last played on the PSA Tour three years ago, held off the challenge of Duffield's fast-improving world No40 Gavin Jones, beating the 25-year-old Welshman 11-9 4-9 6-9 9-1 10-8 in 53 minutes.

Priory stalwarts Peter Barker and Stewart Boswell also recorded notable wins for the visitors - over Frenchman Renan Lavigne and Englishman Jonathan Kemp, respectively - leaving team-mate David Palmer, the world No4 from Australia, to contest the final rubber against Duffield No1 Nick Matthew.

The pair met only 24 hours earlier in a Super League clash - but Palmer reversed that result to ensure the vital extra points needed by Edgbaston to maintain their North Group lead, and beat the English world No9 10-8 6-9 9-5 11-9 in 58 minutes.

Manchester/Pontefract also lost the opening match in their tie at Pontefract against bottom-placed Nottingham when the visitors' Sarah Kippax beat Kirsty McPhee 6-9 9-4 9-7 9-3. But it was downhill for the hosts thereafter as Andrew Whipp, Nick Taylor and David Evans all gained straightforward wins over their Nottingham opponents to leave home hero James Willstrop to face long-time Nottingham stalwart Simon Parke in the end-of-evening top string battle.

The Yorkshire pair always provide an entertaining spectacle for the loyal crowd - and tonight was no exception. Willstrop, focused on success in next week's British National Championships in Manchester, battled for four games to keep Parke at bay, eventually taking 38 minutes to win 9-7 10-8 2-9 9-7 to strengthen his team's position in second place in the North Group - 14 points ahead of Duffield and 54 ahead of bottom-placed Nottingham, who are still looking for their first PSL win of the season.

Coming into tonight's tie, Team Chichester were in third place in the South Group table. But fine early performances by Sussex players Linda Elriani and Tim Vail, and Surrey's Tom Richards, put the hosts into a 3/0 lead over league leaders Oberthur Strings Tewkesbury - British champion Elriani crushing the visitors' Selina Sinclair in 14 minutes for the loss of just a single point.

The Gloucestershire club, national semi-finalists in their debut season last year, reduced the deficit when Daryl Selby fought back from two games down to beat Chichester star Peter Genever 6-9 7-9 9-3 13-11 9-5, then South African Rodney Durbach held off the challenge of Chichester's Ben Garner to win 9-6 9-11 9-7 10-8.

The 3-2 result takes Chichester to the top of the table by the narrowest margin over Strings - both teams sharing 66 points but the Sussex clubs holding a better 'games lost' figure than their rivals.

The other South Group battle saw the league's two University sides battle for honours in the West Midlands, with University Sport Birmingham hosting UniSport Guildford. Matches were shared going into the top string clash - with the hosts claiming the early lead through wins by Laura-Jane Lengthorn and Steve Coppinger and the University of Surrey squad fighting back with confident straight games victories by Scotland's Neil Frankland and Zimbabwe's Jesse Engelbrecht.

The decider was an exhilarating display of squash - with Guildford's ex-pro Stephen Meads taking on the fast-improving young Joey Barrington. Meads was in excellent form, fresh from national coaching duties in Hong Kong - but Barrington, the 26-year-old son of the legendary Jonah Barrington, was untouchable - and soon despatched his opponent 9-3 9-2 9-4 to give the Birmingham squad a notable 3-2 win.

North Group:
Manchester/Pontefract 4-1 Nottingham
James Willstrop beat Simon Parke 9-7, 10-8, 2-9, 9-7 (38m)
David Evans beat Duncan Walsh 9-4, 9-2, 9-3 (22m)
Nick Taylor beat James Wright 9-7, 7-9, 10-8, 9-2 (38m)
Andrew Whipp beat Arthur Gaskin 9-5, 9-4, 9-3 (19m)
Kirsty McPhee lost to Sarah Kippax 9-6, 4-9, 7-9, 3-9 (45m)
Benz-Bavarian Duffield 1-4 Churchill Edgbaston Priory
Nick Matthew lost to David Palmer 8-10, 9-6, 5-9, 9-11 (58m)
Jonathan Kemp lost to Stewart Boswell 5-9, 4-9, 3-9 (22m)
Renan Lavigne lost to Peter Barker 8-10, 9-7, 8-10, 7-9 (51m)
Gavin Jones lost to Hadrian Stiff 9-11, 9-4, 9-6, 1-9, 8-10 (53m)
Laura Hill beat Rebecca Botwright 9-2, 9-10, 9-2, 9-4 (49m)

South Group:
University Sport Birmingham 3-2 UniSport Guildford
Joey Barrington beat Stephen Meads 9-3, 9-2, 9-4
Jon Harford lost to Jesse Engelbrecht 7-9, 8-10, 4-9
Joel Hinds lost to Neil Frankland 4-9, 6-9, 6-9
Steve Coppinger beat Phil Rushworth 9-5, 9-6, 9-5
Laura-Jane Lengthorn beat Rachel Willmott 9-2, 9-5, 9-1
Team Chichester 3-2 Oberthur Strings Tewkesbury
Ben Garner lost to Rodney Durbach 6-9, 11-9, 7-9, 8-10
Peter Genever lost to Daryl Selby 9-6, 9-7, 3-9, 11-13, 5-9
Tim Vail beat Greg Tippings 5-9, 9-3, 9-4, 9-4 (29m)
Tom Richards beat Rob Sutherland 6-9, 9-6, 8-10, 9-6, 9-3
Linda Elriani beat Selina Sinclair 9-1, 9-0, 9-0 (14m)