Here’s the weekly round-up of north-west Squash action by Gareth Evans – Squash Column for Macclesfield Express
With the vast majority of North West Counties League winter fixtures having been completed in the last full week before Easter, attention focused last Maundy Thursday to the larger-than-most Fourth Division South, in which two local men’s teams – namely, Bollington 2 and Prestbury 3 – each had one final match scheduled.
The ‘Bolly Seconds’, as it turned out, had rather more lucrative reward to play for than had appeared the case a week earlier. Sitting in third place following their previous victory at promotion rivals Knutsford Sports 2, calculations suggested that they would need maximum points from their last fixture to inch into second place and go up.
But a successful appeal to the League at the beginning of last week restored to Bollington 20 points that had been deducted for an alleged breach of rules in January concerning player eligibility, and this elevated the team to the top of the table ahead of its journey down the M6 to play Crewe Vagrants 4.
A 17-point haul – involving four out of five individual victories – at Crewe would now, instead, guarantee the ‘Seconds‘ not only promotion but also the divisional title and the opportunity to become the end-of-season, pan-regional play-off ‘champion of champions’.
So far, so clear. But their task became rather more demanding after the opening fifth-string match, which saw captain Malcolm Kendrick defeated in straight games. And fourth-stringer Aldo Palazzo then kept his team-mates on the edge of their seats in the course of a five-game battle that left him struggling at two-down, before embarking upon a remarkable recovery to win the third and fourth games and edge the fifth 17-15.
Fortunately, the drama-level had peaked for Bollington, as Mark Collins proceeded to win 3-1, while both Olli Stewart and Rick Walters enjoyed straight-game victories, to complete a 4-1 triumph overall and an impressive 10-match unbeaten run.
In the event, a game dropped at Alderley Park by title challengers Club AstraZeneca left the ‘Seconds’ sitting pretty as champions by a two-point margin. They now travel up to the Fylde coast tomorrow evening and take on YMCA Thornton 1 in the play-offs.
Prestbury 3’s fate had been sealed, in a positive sense, following the penultimate round of matches which ensured Fourth Division safety. A noteworthy achievement in itself for the ‘Thirds’, who, as recently as mid-February, had been firmly, and apparently helplessly, rooted in the drop-zone – before beating five relegation rivals over the course of their next seven fixtures.
And the in-form, eighth-placed side proceeded to make it six wins in eight with a 4-1 victory, as they hosted Alderley Edge 5, sitting one position above.
Captain Rob Thorneycroft, Graeme English and David Fitzpatrick all prevailed 3-1 for Prestbury – in spite of each conceding his second game. And the two matches of the night saw the teams claim a five-game contest apiece – with Paul Maher being edged out in his fourth-string match, but Paul Bartle fighting back from two games down against the visiting skipper to clinch the honours at second string.
The Saturday before Easter, Bollington and Prestbury had staged between themselves a juniors’ match at Bollin Grove. Both clubs, under respective coaches Christian Ogden and Brian Lomas, have established training set-ups for young players that are the envy of the North West, and have already registered a combined total of 13 juniors – aged between 12 and 18 – to play in the men’s teams.
Appropriately enough for a pair of clubs with such great promise for the future, the match finished all-square! The juniors involved on the day were:
Bollington – Ben Gayne, George Lomas, Sam Whirte, Bea Lomas, Dan Jordan, Chris Beeston, James Gilliver, Matt Pond, James Foxton, Jodie Foxton, Olly Smyth.
Prestbury – Kaamil Bhatti, Harry Mattocks, Rory Allen, Archie Mattocks, Marcus Williams, Dan Williams, James Brauckmann, Toni Clarke, Olivia Knight.