Eldon 1 2018 - 2019 Season Review

After a very disappointing 2017-18 season which ended in relegation into division 2, Eldon 1 were determined to bounce back into division 1 at the first time of asking. Last season saw us struggle to field a full team for the majority of our 1st half games due to injury, so we wanted to do our best to avoid that for this season with the welcome addition of 2 extra players to our ranks; the return of Fran Luquin and newcomer John Perry, who joined us in mid October. This bolstered the 1st team squad and also meant that Will Benson, no.5 last year, was able to step down and strength the 2nd team.

Our opening fixture pitted us against Northern 3, a team who were already tipped as favourites for promotion given the strength of their squad from top to bottom. This fixture had a feeling of déjà vu from the start as we had to call upon Will and Alan Coates to field a full team. Northern took advantage of our weakened team and blew us away 5-0, seeing us pick up only 2 points for our efforts. Not the start to our promotion campaign that we had hoped for.

Next up was our 1st home game of the season, where we hosted Primrose 1 and, again, we had to call upon the 2nd team for reinforcement, this time in the form of Andrew Webber at 5. Andrew kicked off proceedings and very quickly went 2-0 down, but he showed his endurance and performed a brilliant come back in a marathon match, taking it 15-12 in the 5th. Soon after, Milo doubled our lead winning at no.1 fairly comfortably after losing the first game. Captain Mark Steven was up next and he sealed the overall win with a strong performance, winning 3-1 at no.2. Guy Eniona also won 3-1, beating his opponent who unfortunately sustained an injury in the 2nd. Fran was last up and added to Primrose's misery with a comprehensive 3-0 win to give us the maximum points available and the perfect response to our loss in the last match.

The next 2 matches weren't quite so one-sided. 1st up our away trip to Dunston saw us come away with a 3-2 win and 17 points, with 3-0 wins for; Will at 5, Fran at 4 and Mark at 2. Our result at the Northumberland Club saw the score reversed, but a winning start for John and a solid performance at 1 for Milo earned us 7 points.

A welcome return to our home venue saw us take on Sunderland 2 in our 1st of 3 fixtures in November. Both teams were without their top 5, Sunderland had 2 3rd team players in their ranks while we had to call upon the 2nd team, which saw Andrew and Mark Manuel step up. The battle of the substitutes went in our favour as Andrew won 3-0 and Mark, not for the 1st time season, took the victory in 5 after being 2-0 up. Sunderland pegged one back at no.3 as Guy lost in a tightly contested 3-0. John made it 2 3-0 wins from 2 to give us the win and Milo extended our winning margin, beating his opponent 3-0 too.

We continued our winning form in the run-up to the winter break; beating Boldon 1 narrowly 3-2, winning comprehensively 5-0 against bottom team Tynemouth 4 and taking another hard fought 3-2 win at home against Benwell. This saw us sitting in 3rd with a healthy points tally of 115 and well within reach of a promotion spot.

A good start to the 2nd half was imperative if we were to keep up with Northern and Primrose, who held the promotion spots at the half-way stage. With this in mind, John was bumped up to no.2 in the order, after going unbeaten since he joined in mid-October, and Steve Carr was moved down to no.6 after an injury-hit 1st half.

Our 2nd half started with a crunch game against Primrose, who were looking for revenge after their 5-0 rout in the reverse fixture. Despite getting good wins at the top of the order it was the lower strings that proved crucial, and Primrose took the victory with wins at 3, 4 and 5. This loss was compounded as we went on to lose 3-2 to Dunston and Sunderland, picking up only 25 points from a possible 60 in the process, while Primrose and Northern took 48 points and 60 points respectively from their first 3 fixtures.

Our home tie against Northumberland was a must win game if we were to have even a slim chance our staying in the promotion race. We were able to field our top 5 for the 1st time this season, and it showed as we picked up a 4-1 win and 17 vital points. This seemingly kick-started our 2nd half and we went on to beat Boldon by a huge margin to win 20 crucial points.

Sandwiched between our 2 league wins was our opening cup fixture, away at Hexham 1. This proved to be a confidence boost, as we won comfortably 4-1 with only Umer Chughtai from the 3rd team losing.

Back to the league and it looked like another tough test, this time against table-toppers Northern who had already guaranteed promotion after beating 2nd placed Primrose 5-0 2 days earlier. We still had 3 games remaining and, despite Primrose dropping 12 points against Northern, we were 41 points behind and Primrose still had a game to play. We, however, found ourselves in the fortunate position of facing a Northern team without their top 3 players and needing to bring 3 players from lower teams to field 5 players. While we were taken aback by a bewildering team selection we took full advantage winning 20-1 and closed the gap to Primrose to 21 points.

Primrose's final match was against Northumberland and they had the chance to seal promotion if the won maximum points. However, Northumberland put up a fight and this, combined with an untimely mid-game injury for the Primrose no.1 meant they only scraped a 3-2 with 14 points. This extended their lead to 35 points and piled the pressure on us to perform 2 almost perfect results in our 2 remaining games!

We were confident going into our final 2 fixtures as we were on the back of a 4 match winning streak and our opponents were rock-bottom and relegated team Tynemouth and third bottom Benwell who were already safe from relegation. For the 2nd time this season we took Tynemouth to the sword and ran out comprehensive 20-1 winners, but we still had to win 16 points in our final game to get 2nd spot!

The pressure was on from the offset against Benwell, as every game was important in helping us reach our points target of 16. Captain Mark was 1st on court and, although his display was quite nervy, he got us off to a much needed winning start, winning 3-0 with 2 of his games going to sudden death! Fran was up next and, as always, he looked like he was just playing a casual knocked around, showing no signs of pressure. This worked to his advantage as he gave us the 2nd 3-0 win of the night. Guy was up next and, despite the pressure and tension of the situation, put on a composed performance, with just the odd nervy moment, and won 3-0. This guaranteed us the overall win but still wasn't enough to claim 2nd spot, so the pressure remained firmly on John's shoulders. The 1st game did not go Eldon's way with Charlie Ponente, a previous Eldon 1st team player, trying to spoil the party. John, however, showed his mettle and fought back from the 1-0 deficit to win 3-1, give us the points we needed for promotion and complete his unbeaten season! Milo stepped up last and secured the victory in style with yet another 3-0 win. This gave us maximum points and catapulted us into the 2nd place, beating out Primrose by 5 points in the end!

Despite putting on what can only be described as a phenomenal run of form to snatch 2nd place at the last second, our season wasn't over as we were still in the league cup A! We faced a strong Northumberland 2 team who had just been promoted to the premier division. They showed their quality at 1 and 2 beating Milo and John 3-0 but seemed to underestimate our lower order, fielding a weakened 3, 4 and 5 and we capitalised by winning all of those match-ups to advance into the semi-finals! Tynemouth 2 were our semi-final opponents. They didn't take any chances playing their top 5 players and beat us 5-0 and, although the scoreline didn't do us justice, this proved 1 step too far for us.

Eldon 1 had one goal at the start of this season, to return to division 1. The odds were against us after our 2nd half got off to a 3 match losing streak, but an incredible turn of form from the entire team saw us drop just 3 points in our last 5 matches and storm back into division 1 and the 1st time of asking! This was an excellent season which saw us get promotion after gaining 237 points and 11 wins from 16 matches and reach the cup semi-final. Surely this season will go down in Eldon Squash history books and be will be told for many years to come!

Player of the Season

John Perry - won all 13 of his games, lost only 5 single games all season and was awarded Division 2 Player of the Season.

Honourable Mentions

Milo McKenzie - won 12 of his 15 matches (80% win ratio)

Fran Luquin - won 8 of his 10 matches (80% win ratio)

All of the 2nd team players who played up to help gain promotion - Andrew Webber (4 matches), Mark Manuel (3 matches), James Gilbert (3 matches), Will Benson (2 matches) and Alan Coates (1 match)

-Adam Coates