Eldon 3 2018-2019 Season Review

Eldon 3 found ourselves starting yet another season in division 6 with a rag-tag bunch of players expertly organised by our long-time captain Matt Waddington. As is customary for any Eldon team, we lost a few players over the summer but managed to replace them with some new additions. Adam Coates finally swapped the rival Walker jersey to play for us along with; experienced team player Paul Albone, the ever-enthusiastic David Brocklehurst and Eldon league regular Tony Hall also joined the roster to give us some much-needed squad depth.

We began our season with the long trip to Alnwick, a game that summed up our season, nearly but not quite. No.4 Matt Barnes kicked off the fixture with a faultless performance, beating his opponent comfortably 3-0, but Alnwick pegged us back with a 3-1 over captain Matt at no.5. The tides turned in our favour with birthday boy Adam scraping a win in his inaugural Eldon match, winning a tight 3-0 at no.2. Then, Richard Martin, at no. 3, played his part in probably the slowest squash match ever witnessed against Alan Morgan. The pace was so ferocious the marker was seen reading a book between shots, but after what felt like an eternity, the match was finally over and went in favour of Alnwick 3-1. This set up a decider in the match between the no.1s, Umer Chughtai for Eldon and George Frewing for Alnwick. Unfortunately, the scales were heavily balanced in Alnwick's favour, as George would not look out of place playing in division 1! The inevitable happened, despite the best efforts of Umer, and Alnwick took the tie 3-2, but we took a healthy 8 points for our efforts.

The next 3 games came thick and fast. We came out with 1 win, a 5-0 demolition of Northern Jrs 2nd team, and losses against Chester-le-Street 4 and Newbiggin 3, 4-1 and 3-2 respectively. However disappointed we were with 1 win out of 4 we took encouragement from the 43 points we had earned.

Our next match was the biggest rivalry in Northumbria Squash Division 6 history, Eldon v Walker, a feud which was only heightened with Adam crossing enemy lines from Walker this summer! We made sure to bring out the big guns, not only playing our top 3 players but we also rolled out Eldon Squash hall of fame member, Richard "Tricky-Dicky" Adamson and a 1st team game for Tony at no.5. We proved to be too strong for Walker across the board, and despite some close results, we took the maximum 20 points, while Walker only picked up 5.

The last 2 fixtures before Christmas were possibly the toughest we had, both Northern 5 and Boldon 3 were battling for top spot and promotion to division 5. We pulled off our best result of the season against Boldon, beating them emphatically, and somewhat surprisingly, 5-0, with both Umer's and Adam's games going to 3-2 in our favour, Richard's Martin and Adamson winning 3-0, and Paul taking a solid 3-1 win at 5. This shock result put us top of the table, albeit very briefly due to having played 2 matches extra than our closest rivals. We very nearly repeated our heroics against Northern but came up just short losing out 3-2, but as usual picked up a solid 8 points to end the 1st half on 91 points, keeping us in with an outside shot at promotion.

The 2nd half began with a shuffle up of the order, Adam and Umer swapped due to Adam's great form resulting in 6 wins from 7 in the 1st half. Richard Martin, Richard Adamson and Paul were also bumped up the rankings after some stellar performances.

Our promotion chances, however, were extinguished before we knew it, as our 2nd half start left something to be desired, but some results out of our hands. We started off with the return leg against Boldon 3, who were clearly looking for revenge after were turned them over before Christmas. We got off to a positive start as Dave got his 1st win, 3-1, against a seasoned team player at no.5, but it all went down-hill from there with both Richards losing out at 4 and 3. Adam was up next but was clearly not 100% having picked up a minor hamstring injury in the warm-up, an unfortunate recurring theme for Adam throughout the remaining matches. He carried on to try and salvage a few more points, but this effort was in vain and the tie was lost before Umer even stepped foot on the court. Umer also lost, but did still pick up 2 crucial points.

Up next were title favourite Chester-le-Street, where we were immediately at a disadvantage, as Adam and Umer had been called up to play for a depleted 2nd team on the same night! This led to our first, and only, 5-0 loss of the season. Even with the tough loss we still had some strong performance, not least Richard Martin who stepped up to no.1 and lost a close 3-2 against a strong opponent who only lost 2 matches all season.

After the toughest games were over we picked ourselves up went 3 matches unbeaten, completing a 5-0 double over both Northern Jrs and Walker, which was another highlight of our season. The Walker game saw a winning return of last season's no.1 and shining star Bob Lightowlers after struggling with an injury early in the season. We also took out Newbiggin 4-1 with only Adam, who had won a marathon 3-2 for the 2nds in their cup run the previous night, failing to convert in his game.

Despite this run yielding us 58 of a possible 60 points, we were left in squash purgatory with 2 matches remaining. Unable to reach the prized top 2 spots to gain promotion, yet comfortably safe from the dreaded relegation battle we have faced in previous seasons. Our penultimate match was against a strengthened Alnwick, who now had their no.3 from the 1st half playing 5! Richard Martin continued his solid form winning at no.3, but despite some close battles, particularly with Umer at no.2 and Matt B at 5 (both going to 5 games), we lost 4-1.

Our last match was against a Northern team who needed a win to guarantee promotion, but we didn't plan on rolling over and giving them the victory. Dave got us off to a strong start winning 3-0 at 5, but at no. 4 and 3 Northern pulled off 2 comfortable wins to take the ascendancy in the fixture. Umer then levelled it up winning 3-1 with his usual display of blisteringly fast squash. All the pressure was now on the no.1s, Adam and Simon Babb. The 2 had met in the reverse fixture with Adam taking a very narrow 3-1 win. Simon came out firing and pulled out a 2-0 lead but, never a one to give up, Adam fought back to bring it back all square at 2-2. A very nervy Northern team watched on as the decider went almost point for point to 14-14, where Simon finally put them out of their misery and won the match and the fixture for Northern. Once again, it was a case of nearly but not quite for us.

This was a frustrating but overall positive season, seeing us finish in 5th place with 6 wins from 14 matches and 177 points, a solidly mid-table performance with flashes of brilliance. Just to put this season in perspective we finished 6th, with 130 points and 5 wins from 14 matches last season, showing far we've progressed but also how tough the division was.

Player of the Season:

Paul Albone; won 5 of his 7 matches (71% win rate)

Honourable Mentions:

Richard Adamson; won all 4 of his matches in the 1st half

David Brocklehurst; won 3 of his last 4 games in his 1st team season

-Adam Coates