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The Final, 27th May, National Squash Centre, Manchester

                                  
Benz Bavarian Duffield 3-2 Churchill Edgbaston Priory
Nick Matthew 9/5, 9/7, 9/7 (37m) Stewart Boswell
Jonathan Kemp  9/6, 11/9, 4/9, 11/13, 3/9 (77m) Adrian Grant
Gavin Jones   2/9, 4/9, 2/9 (27m) Peter Barker
Lawrence Delasaux   9/6, 5/9, 9/3, 9/6 (42m) Hadrian Stiff
Tania Bailey   6/9, 9/2, 9/6, 9/1 (66m) Vicky Botwright
Duffield clinch dramatic final
Roundup from Howard Harding

PSL TITLE FOR DUFFIELD
Steve Cubbins reports from Sportcity

Brian Hargrave became the first manager to lift the PSL trophy as his Duffield team won a nail-biting see-saw encounter with Edgbaston at the National squash centre in Manchester.

A close match had been predicted, and that's exactly what we got. Duffield took the early advantage as Tania Bailey and Lawrence Delasaux put them two up, but Edgbaston fought back with Peter Barker and Adrian Grant - who saved a match-ball along the way - bringing them level.

It was left to National Champion Nick Matthew and Australian star Stewart Boswell to decide the title, and it was Matthew who repeated his semi-final heroics to delight the massed ranks of Duffield supporters and bring the trophy home to Derbyshire.

  
Duffield 1 Edgbaston 0
Lawrence Delasaux bt Hadrian Stiff
     9/6, 5/9, 9/3, 9/6 (42m)

One up for Duffield

Although they started at the same time as the women's match, Lawrence and Hadrian were off court well before the girls had finished.

In fact by the time Lawrence had won the first game it was just 3/1 to Vicky, Lawrence finding some lovely winners to put Hadrian on the back foot from the start.

The second game saw Hadrian picking up the pace, holding his own and pulling away at the end to level.

But in the next two it was the Duffield man who started better, and he held on to those leads, playing patient rallies when necessary but not afraid to take the ball short, usually to good effect.

A lucky nick on the corner of the front wall which just died took Lawrence to 6-3 in the fourth and probably sealed the match. Hadrian knew he wasn't going to win, and the Duffield supporters sensed some serious cheering was about to begin.

”My movement wasn’t as good as it could have been. I have problems with my hips, and while some days they’re fine, others it’s harder and today was one of those days.

”Lawrence got off to a good start, and I knew that I needed to increase the pace. My team-mates told me that in the intervals, but my body didn’t really want to know.

”Lawrence keeps the ball low, holds it well and plays short a lot, which is exactly the worst type of player for me to come up against. Youth prevailed in the end today.”

Hadrian Stiff


”It’s the first time I’ve played Hadrian, which is unusual considering we’ve been playing the same type of events for a while now.

”You always put in a little extra when you’re playing for a team, when you know everyone is relying on you, and even if sometimes you’re not really capable you’ll do better because of that.

”I hit a few winners at the start, which is always useful. At the end I wanted to be patient and keep my errors down, I was aware that I’d hit too many tins in the semis. I managed to do that and was putting the ball tight, so I was really pleased with the performance.”

Lawrence Delasaux

Duffield 2 Edgbaston 0
Tania Bailey bt Vicky Botwright
     6/9, 9/2, 9/6, 9/1 (66m)

Two up for Duffield

The women’s match didn’t get off to a particularly auspicious start as Tania Bailey and Vicky Botwright found they had nothing on their rackets that could decide the “spin for serve”! In the end they managed, and it was Vicky who made the stronger start.

The first game and a half was tight, very tight. Long rallies, both trying to keep each other pinned to the back. A huge exchange took Vicky to 4/1, and seemed to unsettle Tania as some quick tins followed. One nil to Edgbaston.

But Tania came out for the second more composed, was in control of the rallies and rushed Vicky into committing error after error. Vicky steadied in the third as the pattern of long, tight rallies resumed, but a couple of quick points took Tania into the lead and she raced to a 5-0 lead in the fourth.

The end wasn't far off now, and a tiring Vicky couldn't get back into it, two strokes and two tins brought up match ball and a dying length brought up the Duffield fans ... again.

”I thought I played quite well to start with, but I got tired towards the end. Naturally I would have loved to have won for the team, on paper we should win but in every match we can all beat each other on the day.

”It’s been a long year, with the Commonwealths and everything else, I’m glad it’s the end of the season and I’m looking forward to my holidays next week!”

Vicky Botwright

”Last time we played was well over a year ago, and Vicky’s had a great run of results since then, so even though I’m the English number one Vicky’s world ranking is higher and I still see her as the number one.

”So I knew I would have to play very well to beat her. I thought I kept the ball tight and moved her around well. It may be her local court, but I feel comfortable on it and have a good record on it too and winning the Nationals here gave me confidence.

”She made a few errors at crucial points which helped me, but I’m really pleased with that win and feeling fit and confident in my squash.”

”It’s nice to be England number one, but I’m aiming to get back up the world rankings, that’s what we all look at and try our best for.”

Tania Bailey
Duffield 2 Edgbaston 1
Gavin Jones lost to Peter Barker
    2/9, 4/9, 2/9 (27m)

Barker pulls one back

When Peter Barker took the first game in just five minutes against an out-of-sorts Gavin Jones, there was a real possibility that two men's matches might be over before the women were finished.

It was a close run thing, but Tania had taken Duffield two clear by the time that Peter finished off his match, always in control as the Duffield faces on the outside courts came down one notch from euphoria.

”I felt a bit off the boil. It took me five hours to get here from Cardiff, and now I’m heading back for my best friend’s wedding reception.

”I’ve stopped playing PSA now, I’m hoping to get a coaching job in America, I’ve got a lot of friends over there.”

Gavin Jones
 
”I don’t think Gavin was mentally quite there today, but I thought I played well. It’s one of those matches where you just have to put in a professional performance and get the job done.

”The courts are very warm and the front wall is so responsive, you waste your energy trying to hit it hard so you have to try and float the ball around.

”We needed to win that one, being two-nil down was a bit of a shock.”

Peter Barker
Duffield 2 Edgbaston 2
Jonathan Kemp lost to Adrian Grant
 9/6, 11/9, 4/9, 11/13, 3/9 (77m)

Grant holds his nerve

So were were down to two matches on the glass court, Duffield needing one, Edgbaston both. No looking over to see what was happening elsewhere, no pressure ...

Before the match Brian Hargrave felt that Duffield could win at one and five, and "just had to find another one from somewhere". Lawrence had already delivered, and Jonathan Kemp came so close to gift-wrapping the title for Brian.

Kemp bossed the first, picking out winners when needed, but Grant steadied to to a 7/3 lead in the second. But a couple of loose shots from Adrian let Jon back into it. Adrian had game balls at 8/6 and 9/8, but more loose shots at the end and Jon didn't need a third invitation, two-nil to Duffield.

   

In the third Adrian started well again, and held on to it. In the fourth too, 4/1 and 8/5 leads looked comfortable enough. But three consecutive tins from attempted drops and suddenly we were level. Amazingly Adrian did it again,. and it was match and championship ball to Duffield.

Two tense lets, but this time it was Jonathan who tinned. He didn't get another chance as Adrian closed out the game 13/11, his animated reaction to each point won or lost told us how important this was, and took another early lead in the fifth.

The court sweeper had been on a few times by now. Apparently the trouble was coming from Kemp's sodden shoes. No spare pair, so some fresh socks and a towel down got the match started again, but it was too late for Duffield. We would have a decider.

”Jon’s improved a lot since I last played him, he’s much more consistent which meant I had to work much harder.

”After the first two, where everything seemed to go his way, I knew I just needed to keep the rallies going and it would come back to me, I knew it couldn’t last like that. I upped the pace at the start of the third, then made some errors toward the end of the fourth which were nearly very costly.

”You always want to win, but when you see all these people buying tickets and coming to support their team it spurs you on to do well for them.”

Adrian Grant

 
”I had a problem like that with my shoes about six years ago in Malaysia, but nothing since then. I think they were still damp from training, and it's pretty hot on there under the lights.

”It was a good game, pretty tight. I was controlling the game at the start, dominating the rallies, but I was quite lucky to win the second, he let me back in a couple of times. In the fourth I was trying to be patient and let him make the errors. I should have concentrated on my own game, not waiting for him to give it to me, he’s too good a player to do that.

”I was giving him two or three point leads each game, you can’t do that in nine scoring, you have to be on the pace from the start.”

”Playing for a team always brings out more in you, when you know the supporters have come along way to cheer you you want to do your best for them.

”This is why you play squash, for days like these with big crowds, real atmosphere and team spirit.”

Jon Kemp

Duffield 3 Edgbaston 2
Nick Matthew bt Stewart Boswell
   9/5, 9/7, 9/7 (37m)

Leave it to me, boss ...

In the Duffield pre-match team talk Nick had apparently said, "get me to two-all and I'll win it for you."

Brian was a little nervous over that prediction, he knew that Nick was looking forward to a holiday after a hard season, and he'd already won the decider in both semi-final legs, could he keep on doing it?

Brian needn't have worried. Nick was up for this one, on the court where he won the Nationals a few months ago, and always looked the likely winner.

Stewart pushed him close but could never quite get onto terms. A desperate dive which sent him crashing into the back corner showed how much he wanted it, but it wasn't quite there, and it wasn't to be.

By the third game the rallies were getting shorter, and it was Nick winning most of them. Stewart pulled it back to 7-all, but a tin followed by a stroke and it was time for the massed ranks of Duffield fans to rise to their feet for one last time ... the rest is history.

“I was up for it. It would have been a bonus if Jon had won, but I was prepared.

”I wanted to start well, I’ve found myself having to come from behind too much lately. It was tough early doors, but once I got the second I knew it was going to be hard for him, he had a bit of a tumble which seemed to affect him.

”The crowd were fantastic they’re the ones you do it for.”

Nick Matthew

”It was a great final, a see-saw match that changed from one minute to the next. Well done to Adrian, it was a great comeback which just set it up for an even better climax.

”Twice in earlier rounds we had match/match balls and didn’t convert them, and when Jon lost I thought ‘surely it can’t happen again’.

”Our supporters made a big difference tonight, and Felix told me on the bus that the team were on a win bonus, so I’m sure they’ll be even more delighted with that.

”Any team with the two National Champions has to be in with a chance, but we also have a great squad, great team spirit and great supporters. Renan was with us tonight in spirit, we were texting each other all night, and I’m sad he couldn’t be here to enjoy it with us, it’s the players who do the job in the end and I’m very proud of them tonight.”

Brian Hargrave
Duffield
”A fantastic night, what a finish to a great day. The see-saw match just capped off a great season, it’s what PSL is all about and I look forward to more of the same next year.”

Adrian Christy
England Squash
”Very disappointed to lose. We’ve had such a great season, with full houses and massive support, we’ve lost only once before, here to Manchester, and even tonight we probably scored more points than they did

”I’d like to congratulate Brian, he puts in such a lot of work for the team, the club, and squash in general. It’s down to Brian and he should accept this win as his own. Nd everyone at the club, reception, bar staff, manager, supporters, they’ve all played their part in a great season where we just fell short at the end.

”I’d also like to thank James Bailey of Churchill’s, without their support we couldn’t have done any of this, a

”We’ll get the squad together again, David Palmer will be back, and we’ll be back to do better next season.”

Matt Suckling
Edgbaston
”That’s two wins in the nine years we’ve been involved, not bad at all. You couldn’t ask for any more from any of the players, they always pull out that extra 10% when they’re playing for the team.

”For a small village like Duffield to produce a champion team like this is great for the community, but especially great for the kids, it’s bound to encourage them into the game, which is what it’s all about.”

Felix Frixou
Benz-Bavarian

Duffield Clinch Dramatic PSL Final
Roundup from Howard Harding

 

Benz-Bavarian Duffield clinched the 2006 Premier Squash League title in a dramatic final tonight (Saturday) at the National Squash Centre in Manchester.  The Derbyshire club led 2/0 before Churchill Edgbaston Priory staged a mighty fight back to draw level then, to the delight of the vociferous East Midlands supporters, claimed the PSL trophy for the first time since 1998 when team No1 Nick Matthew, the British champion, beat the Birmingham club's Australian star Stewart Boswell in the decider.

 

"It was a fantastic team effort," said long-time Duffield manager Brian Hargrave at the presentations afterwards.  "There were two occasions earlier in the season where we failed to capitalise on match balls which would have won us the ties  and I thought to myself earlier tonight, 'surely we can't do this a third time?'."

 

Yorkshireman Laurence Delasaux gave Duffield an early lead in the finale of the THB Clowes-sponsored league when he beat Hadrian Stiff in four games.  Delasaux, from Hull, was making his PSL final debut - but Stiff, a Bristol-based Devonian from Exeter, knows what it's like to compete in the league climax:  The 33-year-old England No18 did so in 1998, when he led tonight's opponents Duffield to the title for the first time!

 

Delasaux, at 20, the youngest player in the final, recovered from a game down to triumph 9-6, 5-9, 9-3, 9-6 over his Priory opponent - and was delighted with his relatively error-free performance in his first ever meeting with the experienced Englishman:  "All credit to Hadrian, he made me work hard for my victory  but I managed to keep a good length throughout the match and came through OK.  Playing for a team always puts that extra pressure on you  which makes you want to go that extra yard."

 

The star women's match between England team-mates and Commonwealth Games bronze medal-winning women's doubles partners Tania Bailey and Vicky Botwright took more than an hour to resolve on the all-glass showcourt at the NSC.  And again Edgbaston took the opening game through Botwright - before the Duffield crowd screamed for joy when Bailey fought back to win 6-9, 9-2, 9-6, 9-1 to open up a 2/0 lead for the Derbyshire club.

 

Bailey, the 26-year-old world No9 from Stamford in Lincolnshire who became British National champion for the first time in February, was recently elevated to England No1, though Botwright is ranked five in the world.  "I'm thrilled to be called England number one, but I think of Vicky as the country's number one as she's ranked higher than me in the world," said Bailey.

 

"I knew I had to play well to beat Vicky tonight, I felt comfortable on the court and feel a lot fitter than I have done for a long time.  This may be Vicky's 'local' court as she's based here in Manchester, but I always play well on it,  it's where I won my national title earlier in the year - and winning that, and doing well in the Commonwealth Games, has given me a real boost."

 

It was only shortly after Bailey's game ended that Duffield's lead was pared back as Priory's newly-capped England international Peter Barker raced to a straight games victory over Welsh international Gavin Jones.  Barker, the only player in the final to boast a 100% turnout for his club this season, failed to put a foot wrong as he wrapped up his 9-2, 9-4, 9-2 win in just 27 minutes.

 

But Jonathan Kemp then put in a blistering performance which raised Duffield's hopes of an early triumph when he opened up a two-game lead against fellow left-hander Adrian Grant, the third England international in the Edgbaston squad.

 

Grant, the world No16 from London who is ranked 10 places higher than his Duffield opponent, admitted later that he had to raise his game in the third game, but Kemp pulled back in the fourth to reach match-ball.  Grant saved that, and fought on to gain three game balls before finally pushing the match into a fifth game. 

 

To the relief of the Edgbaston section of the crowd, Grant eventually claimed the match 6-9, 9-11, 9-4, 13-11, 9-3 after 77 agonising minutes to leave a mouth-watering decider between the two top strings.

 

Boswell and Matthew have enjoyed parallel careers, with both playing major parts in their respective countries' international team successes – most recently in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne - and both in fine form.

 

But it was Matthew, the world No7 from Sheffield, who had the upper hand throughout the decider, and Boswell, despite leading his club to victory in the league in both 2001 and 2003, who this time capitulated.

 

"I was really up for it tonight," said the delighted Duffield No1 after his 9-5, 9-7, 9-7 victory in 37 minutes.  "I wanted to make sure I got a good early lead, and by the time I'd won the second game, I was confident I was there," said Matthew.

 

"I felt I'd lost a few crucial matches early in the season, and I said to manager Brian before the match that I wouldn't do it tonight!"

 

It was an emotional Brian Hargrave who clasped the trophy for the second time since 1998, following the club's third appearance in the final. 

 

"There's been a tremendous team spirit this season and our supporters have been simply fantastic -“ in fact they've probably contributed towards a good few points tonight," explained Hargrave.  "But ultimately it's the players who do it on court , and I'm very proud of them tonight."

 

Hargrave paid tribute to Benz-Bavarian, sponsors of the team for the past nine years.  Felix Friloux, of Benz-Bavarian, echoed his appreciation of the success:  "Two wins in nine years?   That's really special, it's been really good to have been involved, you just couldn't ask more of the players than they achieved tonight.

 

"For a small village like Duffield in Derbyshire to produce a team like this is great and it will undoubtedly inspire more kids to get involved, and that's what it's all about," added Friloux.

 

But Duffield's Jonathan Kemp - interestingly, a member of Edgbaston Priory's title-winning squad five years ago - perhaps summed the evening up best:  "It's days like this that you play squash for - the big crowd and the big occasion. There's nothing like it."


Crystal Ball Preview
from Brian Hargrave

Priory, who have 3 male players ranked in the top 25 in the world, start as favourites to win the first final under the newly titled Premier Squash League.

However, the absence of David Palmer, world No 2, gives Duffield some hope despite finding themselves without No 3 string Renan Lavigne who earlier in the season committed himself to playing in the Final of the Dutch League at a time when the Derbyshire Club’s chances of reaching the play offs were a distant dream.

It is perhaps fitting that despite the overseas player regulations 8 of England’s top players plus an Australian and a Welshman will be on parade.

The two top matches involving No 1 strings Stewart Boswell and Nick Matthew and England’s top ranked lady players Vicky Botwright and Tania Bailey should be worthy of the £10 admission money.

There are intriguing matches all the way down the order although Duffield are very much the underdogs based on England rankings.

The crystal ball predicts that "a Midlands team will win 3-2" but will the trophy go East or West?

Chris Nutley reports that “We already have over 100 people to watch the final – from the Champion of Champions Graded Finals which run all that day from 9.30am to 4.30pm prior to the PSL Final”.

Edgbaston Priory manager Matt Suckling is keeping a low profile whilst yours truly is still recovering after the journey down south and the hurly burly of playing two legged semi finals last week.

Duffield Squash Club has laid on a free coach for supporters and expect to have over 50 loyal supporters heading North on Bank Holiday Saturday

Priory won both Group matches, 3-2 at home and 4-1 away, but both ties could have gone either way.

Disappointingly world class referee John Massarella will not be allowed to officiate. According to England Squash this is because he acts as Duffield’s MRC and not because he was seen at Nottingham on Saturday wearing a Barcelona style Benz- Bavarian Duffield shirt or because of the “shuffled” red or yellow card decision “confusion” newly introduced in the semi final second leg.

The consolation is that John advises me that he sold 137 of his famous lemon meringue pies in one day after the semi final report mention on
www.squashsite.co.uk

 
Semi-Finals: 
 

please
 

Venue:

The National Squash Centre
Rowsley Street, Manchester, M11 3FF

(Follow signs for Sportcity)
Saturday 27 May at 5.30pm

 
Edgbaston v Duffield, 28-Sep


Duffield v Edgbaston, 31-Jan