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15 Jul 2024

Surrey Health Win Maiden Premier League Title

14 May 2008

At the end of only their third season in the competition, PCL Whitehall Security Surrey Health & Racquets Club clinched the Premier League (PSL) title for the first time after beating PNH Properties Chichester 4/1 in Tuesday's final of the established England Squash league sponsored by Towergate tlc.

With both teams supported by determined and vociferous fans, it was clear that a great evening of squash was about to be unleashed on the two adjacent glass-backed courts at Lee on Solent Squash Club.

Surrey H&RC, from Croydon, took an early lead when England international Vicky Botwright, the world No10 from Manchester, beat compatriot Dominique Lloyd-Walter 9-3, 9-5, 9-4 in 21 minutes.

The end of this match coincided with the completion of the first game on the adjacent court - where Surrey's Ben Ford finally clinched the early lead against Peter Genever after the Chichester part-timer had saved two game-balls.

Both teams knew the importance of this particular clash - the pair's first meeting - and both sets of supporters did their best to outdo each other in the decibel stakes!

Genever, a veteran of all 12 of Chichester's PSL campaigns, levelled the match in the second game - and when world No93 Ford took the third, Chichester's former tour player again evened the score.

But when Genever led 7-2 in the decider - then stemmed a fight back by Ford to clinch the match 9-11, 9-2, 4-9, 9-7, 9-6 after 62 minutes - the Chichester followers almost raised the roof!

By now, Surrey were again leading in the second string battle between England international Peter Barker and Chichester's Welsh international Alex Gough - both of whom were playing in their second PSL final, and both of whom had achieved their seedings in last week's Dunlop British Open in Liverpool

Barker, a rising star, took the first two games, but veteran Gough, a 37-year-old former British O35 Open champion, pegged one back. It was to no avail, however, as the 24-year-old world No12 secured the fourth to put Surrey back in the lead.

However, it was more than an hour and a half later - with the final two matches playing side by side and fortunes wavering from one team to the other - before Davide Bianchetti, the world No30 from Italy, finally curbed the brave and determined efforts of Chichester's second part-timer Tim Vail 9-11, 9-3, 9-3, 9-7 in 64 minutes, and Surrey H&RC fans cheered their team's maiden PSL triumph.

The top string encounter was an all-overseas affair - but both players have clearly established loyal followings from their teams' fans. The crowd were mesmerised by the talents of Surrey's Wael El Hindi, the world No9 from Egypt, and Chichester's Mohd Azlan Iskandar, the world No13 from Malaysia who produced last week's biggest British Open shock when he upset second seed Ramy Ashour, also from Egypt.

But it was the Egyptian who ultimately prevailed to win 9-7, 9-4, 7-9, 9-6 in 65 minutes to earn the Croydon club a 4/1 victory.

"I thought it would be a close affair," said Surrey H&RC team manager Pete Smith. "But I was confident we would win and am delighted that we did. Tonight has been a fantastic night.

"Participation in the PSL for the past three seasons has been a very positive thing for us - it has helped with our junior development and has increased our squash membership, leading to more squash being played at the club.

"And the team spirit has been fantastic," added Smith. "Not just the players who have played tonight, but the whole squad who have helped us to get this far - players like British Junior champion Adrian Waller and Tim Garner."

Peter Cullen, representing club sponsors PCL Whitehall Security, added: "There's been a cracking atmosphere tonight. Now that we've won it, we want to retain it next year!"

Chichester, who were playing in the final for the first time despite having reached the semi-finals seven times since 1996, were proud of their achievement - particularly since two members of their team, Peter Genever and Tim Vail, have not played full-time squash for many years, yet have both represented the Sussex club with distinction in all ten ties this season.

"I knew I had to win tonight's match if we were to have a chance of winning the title," said Genever, a former world No23 who is now a highly-respected elite coach.

"A night like tonight is good for the game, where you have a neutral venue with two strong sets of supporters providing a fantastic atmosphere.

"I've represented Chichester for over 25 years now, from when I was a junior. Most of our supporters here are my friends, people I grew up with. Playing for Chichester in the PSL gets me motivated," concluded the 34-year-old England No21.

Egypt's Wael El Hindi acknowledged that he'd never before experienced anything like the atmosphere during the PSL final. "Most of my countrymen don't play leagues - they like to stay at home. But I play all over Europe," said the charismatic world No9 who divides his time between Cairo and Glastonbury in England, where he trains with British squash legend Jonah Barrington.

"But I have never experienced anything like this before. It has been fantastic - an unbelievable evening," said the beaming Egyptian.

RESULTS: Premier Squash League Final, Lee on Solent

PCL Whitehall Security Surrey H&RC 4 PNH Properties Chichester 1
Wael El Hindi bt Mohd Azlan Iskandar 9-7, 9-4, 7-9, 9-6 (65m)
Peter Barker bt Alex Gough 9-2, 9-5, 4-9, 9-2 (48m)
Davide Bianchetti bt Tim Vail 9-11, 9-3, 9-3, 9-7 (64m)
Ben Ford lost to Peter Genever 11-9, 2-9, 9-4, 7-9, 6-9 (62m)
Vicky Botwright bt Dominique Lloyd-Walter 9-3, 9-5, 9-4 (21m)