Squash: Chichester keep play-off hopes alive

Chichester and St George's Hill ready for action
Chichester and St George's Hill ready for action

Chichester kept alive their play-off hopes by winning a thrilling final home match in the Premier Squash League against Weybridge side St George’s Hill.

The teams were fourth and third respectively in the PSL Group B league and both knew they could still be in with an outside shot at the semi-finals.

First on the glass-back championship court, Olly Pett played Henrick Mustonen, who is ranked well inside the world’s top 40, while on the adjacent court, Lauren Briggs played Dominique Lloyd-Walter.

Pett and Mustonen started cautiously but Pett nudged a couple of points ahead to close out the first 11-8. The second was nip and tuck throughout but Pett kept his composure to seal it 12-10 to go 2-0 up.

They continued in the same vein in the third but Pett was unyielding - he was always in front and finally took the match 11-8 to put Chichester 1-0 ahead.

Briggs and Lloyd-Walter were having a cracking opening game on the next court. Briggs snatched the first 11-8 and in the second there was nothing between them and both had game points before Briggs closed it out 16-14 to go 2-0 up.

Briggs, however, was having a tighter game in the third which eventually went to a tie-break. Briggs resolutely battled her way through to win it 12-10 for a great 3.-victory. Chichester were 2-0 up.

On the glass-back court Rex Hedrick, world No60, faced St George’s Hill’s Joe Lee, who is world 31. The first game was nip and tuck until Lee stole it 11-9.

Lee was slightly tighter, forcing Hedrick to play loose shots which, in time, Lee converted to points and he was able to take the second 11-6.

Midway through the game, Lee made uncharacteristic errors and Hedrick took full advantage and took the game 11-8.

In the fourth, Lee started well and built up an early 4-0 lead. Hedrick battled but Lee closed it out 6/11.

Steve Wykes was making his home debut for Chichester against Charles Sharpes, the world 68.

Wykes was matching Sharpes stroke for stroke in the rallies but not quite winning the points. The score 11-2, 11-6, 11-5 reflected the difference in class but the talented Wykes’ shot-making was marvellous to watch.

So it was down to the wire with Chichester’s Jon Kemp (world 47) facing Tom Richards (world 28).

It started as a bit of a Kemp masterclass with great holdings and nicks combined with some great lengths to surge to an 11-4 win. The second game saw more of the same and Kemp won through 11-6. In the third, Richards nicked it 13-11 to keep St George’s in the running.

The fourth was a fantastic display of squash for the packed gallery. Both players were at the top of their games but the difference was Kemp’s holding ability. He finally took the game 12/10 and sealed the match for Chichester.

Will it be enough to make the play-offs? Whether it’s too late remains to be seen, but the final match away to Exeter will be crucial.

It’s been a fantastic series of home matches this season - and whatever happens, Chichester are moving in the right direction.

n In their latest match at Hawthorn Road, Bognor’s third team hosted Littlehampton firsts, who won a close contest by the odd match in five.

James Norman, Bognor’s No5, won two tight games against Steve Fluck before conceding the third, but made sure of the win when he edged the hard-fought fourth - the score 9-6, 9-7, 6-9, 10-8.

Fourth-string Jon Burley faced ex-Bognor favourite Ali Lewis and he looked to be well on the way, taking the first two games 9-1, 9-2. Lewis pulled one back 9-2 and just edged the demanding fourth 10-8 to set up a decider which she went on to take 9-3.

Bognor No3 Robert Norman faced Steve Slaughter, who put the visitors ahead with a straight-games win 9-3, 9-5, 9-1, but the second-string match brought the teams level as Bognor’s Greg Jansz beat Mark Simpson 9-4, 9-6, 9-4.

In the deciding rubber, Bognor No1 Will Burley had a good first game against Ashley Squires but the visitor just nicked the exhausting second and then pressed home the advantage to win 6-9, 10-8, 9-1, 9-2 giving Littlehampton a 3-2 win and 15 points to Bognor’s nine.

The first team are at home tomorrow (March 28, 7pm) hoping for success against bottom club Midhurst. Visitors are welcome - details on 01243 865462.