MEN'S 50 INTERCOUNTY

Essex O50s Region 2 Stage 2 Finals Weekend 2018

Essex Men’s O50s finish a magnificent 4th in finals weekend

A 6-man Essex team (Will Brand, Nigel Bacon, Mark Shildrake, Matt Hibberd, Simon Witton and John McComish) travelled to Nottingham Squash Club for the Stage 2 Men’s Over 50s Finals weekend - our first finals weekend for many a year - played in a 6-team format including strong favourites and reigning champions Hertfordshire. Essex was seeded to play Cumbria in the quarter-finals and if victorious Herts in the semis with a round robin format being adopted for positions 3-6 and a final for the winning semi-finalists.

Essex beat Cumbria 3-2 in a tight match, before losing 0-5 to Herts and fighting for places 3-6 versus Surrey on the Sunday morning. Our match against Surrey was as close as it could get -more on that to come.

Performances to note versus Cumbria:
Mark Shildrake and debutant Simon Witton both winning 3-0; Will Brand taking the evergreen David Box to 4 games; Nigel almost turning round a slow start against David Gray (2-3); and without doubt the value-for-money, crowd-pleasing performance from our sponsor -Matt Hibberd- winning 18-16 in the 5th having had the chance to waltz through 3-0 earlier in the match.

In the semis with John McComish coming in for Nigel we fought valiantly against the Champions, Herts, but came second 0-5. Suffice to say the overall score line didn’t reflect some great battles with John so close to pushing his opponent to a 4th game losing 14-16 in the 3rd, Mark rolling back the years and giving Las Fernandes a scare in the 2nd game (12-14), and Simon, especially, haring around the court and troubling Marvin Rust before succumbing 1-3 in a most entertaining exhibition of fitness and racket wafting.

So we took our place on the Sunday morning for the 3rd – 4th place play-offs which proved to be, surprisingly, against Surrey. With Surrey having drowned their sorrows rather enthusiastically on the Saturday night having lost their semi to Bucks, we sensed a great opportunity. When Surrey number 1 Mark Aldridge was withdrawn (seeing more than double yellow dots) we were 1-0 up with 4 matches to play. Mark then really stepped up defeating former National O55 Champion Dermot Hurford 3-1. Suddenly Will was ahead of Nigel Stiles 2-0 and all looked rosy for a 3rd place medal. At this point Will’s diet of Sticky Toffee Pudding kicked in and Mr Stiles turned the match on its head taking the next 2 games. Will hit the Marathon runner’s Wall and although battling on, from the balcony we saw what was unfolding. Surrey’s Michael Stewart on the next court played a captain’s knock against Matt and we were all square at 2-2. Final pairing Nigel and Simon Hughes then took to the court. With Nigel moving the quicker a 2-0 advantage was established only for the skipper to hit a psychological barrier and hand back the initiative 2-1. However, in the 4th game he advanced to 4 match points (we could feel the medals) only to be frustrated that Simon’s backhand withstood a barrage of kill shots. 2 games all. And in the 5th after another match ball was saved the inevitable -Simon’s first match ball was converted and the gongs went to our opponents.

And so Essex came a valiant 4th (by that one point). For the record Herts retained their trophy 4-1 in the final against Bucks.

Congratulations go to all for making the trip and the effort put in over the weekend. Thanks to our hosts Nottingham Squash Club and their staff for making all so welcome. On to next season with a spring in our ancient steps…
Nigel (Capt)