ESSEX 035’s March 25th Stage 2 Match Report

Team: Paul Wallace, Lee Jemmett, David Smith, Cliff Bennett, Anthony Savage, Stacey Thickbroom
Essex travelled to Maidstone eyeing up promotion into the Premier Division. Also looking to gain promotion was Ulster, Nottinghamshire and Host’s Kent.
I was certainly expecting us to do well. Since 2015 Essex 035’s have won all their matches bar one and that was against Kent in 2016. However in 2017 / Stage 1 we turned this around and beat Kent.
However now Kent was hosting the tie at Mote Squash Club this put them as favourites as they could field a strong team including the likes of Ben Ford, Chris Tomlinson, James Robins and Paul Johnson all top ex Pro’s!
Also the winning team of Stage 1 had been depleted there was no Adam Safwat (injured) Danny Weights (injured) Malcolm McEwen (unavailable). So I was more apprehensive than confident of another victory. So Essex needed to find the fifth player as Dave Smith was also not available for the Saturday. Up stepped Stacey Thickbroom for his first Cap. Stacey finished top of the rankings for Essex League in the season just gone so I knew we had a player with lots of confidence and a good win ratio !!
Going into Saturday against Nottinghamshire and Ulster the team was Lee/Savage/Wallace/Cliff/Stacey
Up first myself and Stacey at 3/5 string. I started off a bit slowly winning 12-10 in the first but came through relatively straight forward to give Essex 1-nil lead over Nottinghamshire.
On the other court Stacey wasn’t going to let his 99% win ratio slip and took a close 3-0 victory 11-9 11-7 11-9. I think he really enjoyed that match!
So a fantastic start to the day with a 2-0 lead. Up next 1 string Lee Jemmett Cliff Bennett at no 4 to win the match…
But I shouldn’t speak too soon as Lee went down 11-3 in the first and certainly didn’t look right on court. Also on the next court Cliff was playing a very formidable opponent and he found himself quickly 1-0 down.
Both players pulled the next game around only again to lose the 3rd game badly. For Lee it didn’t look good I thought he was injured but it turned out that he was suffering from sickness and a few trips to the toilet in-between games didn’t really help and Lee lost 3-1.
On the other Court Cliff was digging deep. We all know Cliff is a true warrior and well he kept his reputation intact in this match. At 2-1 down and 2 match balls down Cliff managed to level the score 10-10. However this is when the fun started … It was like a game within a game every point was crucial and there were some huge rallies most probably finishing in a let! However Cliff somehow managed to win it 20-18!!
Both players still managed to give it their all in the fifth and again it went down to the wire with Cliff coming out on top 11-9.
Last on to complete the win for Essex was Anthony who had too much class for his opponent and ran out a comfortable 3-0 victory.
Essex win 4-1

Nom Nottinghamshire Nom Essex Result Games
1-1 Nick Hargreaves 1-1 lee Jemmett 3 1 11/3 9/11 11/3 11/4
1-2 Keiran Muldoon 1-2 Antony Savage 0 3 6/11 2/11 7/11
1-3 Andy Hopwood 1-3 Paul Wallace 0 3 10/12 6/11 4/11
1-4 Gareth Evans 1-5 Cliff Bennett 2 3 11/5 6/11 11/5 18/20 9/11
1-5 Steve Franklin 1-9 stacy thickbroom 0 3 9/11 7/11 9/11

Points: 5 13
Bonus: 0 5
Result: 5 18

On the other two courts Kent had beaten Ulster 3 games to 2.
Next up for Essex was Ulster. After a much deserved lunch for some! Lee skipped lunch and took to his van for a kip.
Playing number 1 for Ulster was a formidable opponent Steve Richardson who is many times British amateur champion. So I was hoping that Lee had recovered enough to watch an exciting match. Unfortunately he was actually in a worse state than his first game and so he had to forfeit after the first game.
On the opposite court Stacy was up against what appeared to be his twin brother so no surprise that this match went the distance with some epic retrieval and let calling! Stacy just lost out 11/7 in the fifth but was a fantastic effort.
Savage and I managed to level the tie in quick succession leaving Cliff to hopefully keep the winning run going. It was never going to be easy for Cliff or anyone who had just finished the marathon match he won in the previous round. Cliff never say die attitude was at its best yet again and came through a tough game to edge the match 3-1.

Nom Ulster Nom Essex Result Games
1-1 Steve Richardson 1-1 lee Jemmett 3 0 11/3 11/0 11/0
1-2 David Ayerst 1-2 Antony Savage 1 3 6/11 5/11 11/7 3/11
1-3 Alan Megaw 1-3 Paul Wallace 0 3 4/11 5/11 9/11
1-4 Neal Pollock 1-5 Cliff Bennett 1 3 11/5 7/11 6/11 8/11
1-6 Andrew Curran 1-9 stacy thickbroom 3 2 11/9 12/10 8/11 10/12 11/7

Points: 8 11
Bonus: 0 5
Result: 8 16

Kent also managed to win to 18 points against Nottingham so with their first match win of 16 points against Ulster they had exactly the same total as Essex with only us two to play on Sunday. So it couldn’t have been any more nail-biting !!
When Lee phoned on the Sunday morning I was expecting him to say he couldn’t make it but to my surprise he was on his way just checking the start time which he had got a bit confused. Therefore the team remained the same expect in stepped the God Father of Essex 035’s Dave Smith to at no 4 and Stacy had a well-earned rest.
Kent being Host were the obvious favourites and with our no1 ill it wasn’t looking promising. Kent was taking no chances and brought in Ben Ford for this match at no 1. Ben an ex pro and British 035 champion.
First on court for Essex at no 5 Cliff and no 4 Dave. Cliff started as he finished Saturday and took a very close first match 12-10. Dave on the other hand didn’t have that excuse of heavy legs and managed a tight 15-13 win in the first. Then both lost a very close 2nd game. Dave managed to turn the 3rd around but was Cliff running out of gas as he went 2-1 down! Nope he managed to take the match to 5. On the other court Dave was no also having to battle out a fifth game. Which he won in great style 11=8 .However the fifth game for cliff was one game too many and Kent tired the Match at 1-1.
I then took to the court with Lewis Ryall who had beaten me before in the match which has been our only defeat so far in 3 seasons. He also managed a win over Lee in Stage 1. Therefore I knew I had to go out hard from the start which is what I did and managed to catch him on the back foot to take a close 3-1 win and to give Essex a chance from the remaining two games to claim victory.
After my game I sat down to watch Lee v Ben. Whilst Lee appeared slightly better than yesterday this would take a massive effort for Lee to even get close to Ben well that’s what I thought!
The game started off very close and there were never many points separating the pair. The level of squash at times demonstrated by both was of top draw. At 1 a piece I did think that was Lee done and the dehydration would kick in. However he somehow managed to find another gear and it was Ben who looked the worse for wear and Lee took the match to our surprise 3-1.
There is one thing for sure if Lee had lost then leaving the deciding tie up to Savage would have been Essex safest option. Savage was never in doubt and beat a top opponent 3-0 to conclude the match and the final stage of 035’s Intercounty Squash.

Nom Essex Nom Kent Result
1-1 lee Jemmett 1-1 Ben Ford 3 1
1-2 Antony Savage 1-2 Sam Stabler 3 0
1-3 Paul Wallace 1-3 Lewis Ryall 3 1
1-4 David Smith 1-7 Tom Woods 3 2
1-5 Cliff Bennett 1-8 Mark Steeden 2 3

Points: 14 7
Bonus: 5 0
Result: 19 7

We can now plan and look forward to hopefully becoming National Champions in 2018/2019.
A big thankyou to Essex SRA and all the players that have formed part of this squad over the last few years…

Paul Wallace - Captain