12:41 pm
19 Jul 2024

Champions Duffield In Record PSL Hat-Trick Blow

4 Apr 2008

Benz-Bavarian Duffield's hopes of becoming the first club to win a hat-trick of successive titles in the 25-year history of the Premier League (PSL) suffered a blow on the eve of next week's semi-finals when England number one Tania Bailey became the third leading player to pull out of the Derbyshire squad as a result of injury.

Champions Duffield, who established a record 24-tie unbeaten run midway through this season, host PNH Properties Chichester on Tuesday - while University Sport Birmingham entertain PCL Whitehall Security Surrey H&RC at the Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham.

The reverse semi-final fixtures in the established England Squash league sponsored by Towergate tlc take place two days later on Thursday 10 April - with the final to be held on 13 May.

Bailey, in her fourth season for Duffield, has been troubled for the past few weeks with tendonitis in her right knee and a hole in her cartilage - and has now been advised to undergo surgery. "I am really devastated and sorry to let the team down," said Bailey in a message to team manager Brian Hargrave.

This was the third piece of bad news received by Hargrave as he prepared his squad for their historic hat-trick bid: Team number one Nick Matthew, the world No6 from Sheffield who led the club to title success in 2006 and 2007, is still unavailable following shoulder surgery in January - then stand-in number one Stewart Boswell revealed that a recurrence of a back injury had forced him to return to his Australia homeland for treatment.

'Never-say-die' Hargrave refuses to bow to the inevitable: "I still think we have the strength in depth to give Chichester a run for their money - and sometimes out of adversity comes triumph!"

By contrast Chichester will field a full-strength squad at Duffield, led by Malaysia's newly-elevated world No13 Mohd Azlan Iskandar, supported by Welshman Alex Gough, ranked 22 in the world.

Semi-finalists for four successive seasons from 2003, Chichester have never reached the final: "This our best chance of making the final - and one which we must grab with both hands," acknowledged team captain Tim Vail.

The other semi-final line-up is certain to provide a first-time finalist: Both University Sport Birmingham and Surrey H&RC made the last four for the first time last season, but were unable to progress further. The full-strength Croydon club squad will arrive at Edgbaston Priory with two world top ten players - Egyptian Wael El Hindi (ranked 9 in the world) and England's world No10 Peter Barker. England's world No28 Joey Barrington leads the Birmingham University squad - and the women's match between Lancashire and England team-mates Laura Lengthorn-Massaro and Vicky Botwright promises to kick off the tie in stunning fashion.

"We are delighted to have made the semi-final stage for the second successive year, and will be keen to progress a step further this year," said Surrey H&RC spokesman Tim Garner. "Although we go in to the match as favourites their side is full of young and upcoming talent, so our players will have to play well to avoid the Birmingham banana skin!"

University of Birmingham captain Jonathan Tate is similarly delighted with his team's achievement this season: "We are very proud and excited to have reached this stage for the second season in succession. Our players have worked hard to continue to improve their games both while studying at the University and since graduating, and these two matches against Surrey are a reward for that hard work. Obviously we face formidable opponents in Surrey H&RC - however, as always, the University players will battle hard and endeavour to overcome our higher-ranked opponents."

Semi-finals, first leg line-up (Tuesday 8 April):

Benz-Bavarian Duffield v PNH Properties Chichester
Andrew Whipp v Mohd Azlan Iskandar
Alex Stait v Alex Gough
Nick Taylor v Tim Vail
Peter Billson v Peter Genever
Laura Hill v Dominique Lloyd-Walter

University Sport Birmingham v PCL Whitehall Security Surrey H&RC
Joey Barrington v Wael El Hindi
Jonathan Harford v Peter Barker
Joel Hinds v Davide Bianchetti
Alistair Mutch v Adrian Waller
Laura Lengthorn-Massaro v Vicky Botwright