Doubles Final

Mike Wright’s third final of the season saw him paired up with Karl Pople and giving a large start to newcomers Mark Semple and Chris Reynolds.

Once Mike had explained the rules, he settled right into his usual rhythm and Karl provided steady support as the 16 point deficit (from -8, +8) was eroded and surpassed with few alarms - 15/12 to Mike and Karl.

Too easy? Maybe. The absence of points for Mark and Chris was replaced by three pairs of points to get them to 13-7 and within sight of the second game. And a few rallies later they had squeezed it 15/12.

Third game a repeat of the first. Two runs of error-free rallies saw Mike and Karl restore their lead 15/11. 2-1.

At the start of the fourth, we suddenly had an uncharacteristic flurry of errors by the flustering Karl and a contagious rash of mistakes from Mike. Fourth game gone in a flash 15-1 to Chris and Mark. 2-2.

The Marker had decided to change the players’ understanding of the doubles rules during this time, which may have thrown them off their natural game for a while. However, the fifth and deciding game was a handicapper’s dream. Tit-for-tat for the first few rallies, then a bout of carelessness allowed Mark & Chris to extend their lead to 13-0. A loss of serve by the lime green parties left Mike serving at 1-14 and facing 14 match balls.

Needless to say, a few minutes later it was all over, 14 match balls saved and one sudden death match ball won. 15-14, 3-2 to Mike and Karl. The Thompson-Creek era of doubles domination duly ended and another notch on the Wright trophy stick. Mike and Karl face off against each other on 1 June in the Veterans Open final.

Doubles final 2019.jpg

The full match can be viewed here.







Open Handicap

 Form is temporary - class is permanent.  At least for this week anyway.

In a repeat of last week’s Veteran’s Handicap, Mike Wright (still -11) took on Richard Miles (+11).  Would Mike be as ruthlessly efficient and merciless this time around?  Probably.

Would Richard have learnt any lessons from their previous encounter? Not if Mike had anything to do with it.  He was off out of the blocks like a ferret up both trouser legs.  12 rallies later, negative points wiped out, before Richard had won one.  14 more rallies and first game to Mike 15/12.

Then a blip, a couple of bloops, and three points for Richard out of the next six.  Don’t take your eye off the ball, Mike.  Richard now stood at 14, -9 with 24 game balls!  Mike won 10 of them but eventually had to fail and 15/1 to Richard looked as though the wheels had come off in a big way.

Sadly for the crowd, normal service resumed quickly.  Mike reverted to his runs of successive points, only allowing Richard the occasional glimmer of hope.  A couple of services out and a tin or two were not enough, as Mike took the third 15/13, and a tantalising fourth 15/14 - allowing Richard only three game balls just to tease.

So, Richard will have to wait another year to get himself on the Winter Honours Board.  And Mike adds to his litany of trophies and Honours.

Open Handicap final.jpg

 



Veterans Handicap

The experienced Mike Wright (-11) faced off with newcomer Richard Miles (+11) in the first of their two handicap encounters this Winter.

Mike had the bit between his teeth early on, having seen what a large deficit can do if you don’t get on top of it straight away.  The mountain was climbed early on - Richard not able to get away with his attempted winners from the back of the court, managed only 2 of the four points he needed was overhauled at 13-12 after only two hand-outs for Mike. 15/13.

The same in the second, only two points early on for Richard, Mike’s trickle-boasts being a bridge too far for Richard if his volley nicks were not on target.  15/13.

Did Mike take his foot off the pedal in the third, or did Richard move forward? Either way, by the time Mike had wiped  off his -11 to get to Zero, Richard had taken three rallies and led 14-1 with 14 game balls.  A supreme effort of concentration followed, Mike taking all 14 game balls and the first of his own 15/14 Match to Mike. 

The meet again a week later on Saturday 11th.  Open handicap this time.  Any bets on the result?

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Winter Finals Is Coming

With Summer threatening to overtake them, the Winter 2018-2019 Finals briefly spluttered into life this weekend.  Two Senior veterans, Chris Morgan (+2) and Jerry Staffurth (-2) slugged it out for the right to take the Seniors (Over 55) Handicap throne.

In Chris’s case, he was going for a four-peat - having won for the past three years.

In most years, the player receiving handicap points has usually started quickly, taking advantage of the handicap to build up a lead, before the better player finds their range and fitness and stamina kick in.  So, Chris probably started too slowly - not a good idea against a younger old man.  And the -2, +2 handicap was rapidly eroded.    Jerry took the first game 15/7 as Chris failed to capitalise on his advantage.  A closer 2nd game followed a similar pattern, although Chris started to take the ball earlier and occasionally put Jerry on the back foot.  15/12 to Jerry. 2-0.

It looked as though the third game would be over just as quickly, once Jerry had overhauled the handicap deficit and established an 11-8 lead.  However, Chris bravely clawed it back overtaking Jerry to 14-12 with two game points.

Sadly, one final push from Jerry denied Chris his comeback hopes, Jerry taking the next three rallies and a sudden-death game 15-14 and the match 3-0.

Jerry looking for space on the trophy.

Jerry looking for space on the trophy.

Three-time past winner, Chris Morgan, congratulates 2019 Champion Jerry Staffurth

Three-time past winner, Chris Morgan, congratulates 2019 Champion Jerry Staffurth

Chris will have to be on his toes when the two meet again in the Seniors Open soon.

Summer Finals 2018

Three finals played and dusted. The usual suspects, but some different winners and runners up.

Doubles

Repeaters John & Jolyon took on the Wrights (father & son) as first and second placed in the round robin.

The Wright pretenders were quickest out of the blocks, but John & Jo’s experience eventually prevailed. Video is available:

Doubles final.jpg

Open Handicap

Mike Wright (again) up against newcomer Tim Handel. Mike’s silky trickle boasts and speed around the court is usually enough to overcome a severe points handicap deficit. This time, Tim was up to the task though, and Mike was never into his stride. From a start of +6, -6, the handicap was rarely reduced and Tim won 15/6 15/6 15/4. Evidence of Tim’s own speed and sharpness here:

Open Handicap Summer 2018 final.jpg

Veterans Handicap

Perennial trier, David Hampton took on steady Veteran Jerry Staffurth - with a massive +8, -8 advantage. As usual, Jerry’s consistency and low error rate were the deciding factors. In spite of David’s frantic efforts and occasional (lucky) framed winners, he never quite climbed the mammoth mountain. Judge for yourself here:

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Winter Finals - 2018

For the first time in a few years, all the Finals were held on the same day (bar one).

Open Handicap - Chris Ivey v James Woodman

A really close affair - so much so, that the handicap difference was zero.  A slow start by James saw him go 0-1 down in no time.  His harder hitting and running game got him back into it 1-1, then lapses in concentration allowed Chris to take the third;  2-1 to Chris.  Most of this was captured on video - so judge for yourselves. 15/7, 13/15, 15/8

James upped his game after that, racing around like a blue-backed fly until he took the 4th 15/11.  Then a ding-dong 5th, edged by James 15/14, saw James take his first trophy - and completely vindicate the Squash Levels handicapping system. 

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Club Championship - David Falconer v James Hall

The eagerly anticipated showdown between the Club's top two produced a lopsided score and a quick end to what should have been a closer and tenser affair.  James established an 8-2 lead in the first game - only to give the lead back and more, losing 8-10.  

The next almost went the opposite way - David establishing an 8-2 lead, only for James to claw back most of it.  However, at 6-8, James relinquished serve and David was able to nick the point he needed for 2-0.

With James apparently suffering from a bit of a sniffle (no excuse offered), the sharper David then eased through the third game 9-3 to take back the Championship he had last won in 2014.

Mike Wright (defending Champion) presents the Runner Up small tankard to James Hall

Mike Wright (defending Champion) presents the Runner Up small tankard to James Hall

Then hands the sparkling Champions trophy to David Falconer.

Then hands the sparkling Champions trophy to David Falconer.

Veterans Open - David Falconer v Mike Wright

David Falconer attempting the triple of all three age categories, tackled Mike wright in the second leg - The veterans (Over 45) Open.   Having got his eye in with his 3-0 win earlier against James Hall, David took the first game 9/2 in no time.  The second was a complete turnaround, with Mike being 'mustard' according to his opponent.  Mike won that one 9/3, but then the match followed form with David clinically despatching his younger opponent 9/0, 9/2.

Marker Jolyon Thompson presents the trophies

Marker Jolyon Thompson presents the trophies

Open Championship Plate - Chris Ivey v Gary Mitchell

The Plate (for losers of their first matches in the Championship), was the second Of Chris Ivey's three finals.  He was naturally keen to win this one, after such a narrow loss to James Woodman earlier.  Gary was also anxious to win one in front of many of his grandchildren, who had turned out in force to support him.

The fresher Gary stayed ahead of Chiris until 7-4 up in the first.  Then Chris found another wind and another gear to get on a run of points - through to 9-7.  He then proved to fit for Gary, who may have been nursing a twinge.  Whatever the reason, Chris ran out 9-4, 9-2 to retain his Plate title of 2017.

Plate final 2018.JPG
 

[Seniors (Over 55) Open -  David Falconer v Gary Mitchell

David 's third final (and Gary's second) was to be played on Sunday.  However, Gary's niggle proved a step too far and he had to concede.  This gave David Falconer the title in all three Open Categories - a Club first.]

 

Seniors (over 55) Handicap - Chris Morgan (-7) v David Hampton (+7)

Chris was hoping for a threepeat, having won the trophy for the previous two years.  David, as he does, chased down every ball in the first game - taking advantage of his 14-point lead to keep his nose in front until the game was nearly over.  At 4-13, Chris made a good run at closing the gap (to 10-13), before David was able to get the last two points he needed.  Chris made a better start to the second game, pulling back from 0-12 to 13-12 in one run of points; then closing out the game 15-13.   Thereafter, with David tiring, the handicap was quickly eroded each game, and Chris was able to repeat his victory comfortably 15-8, 15-11.

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Veterans (Over 45) Handicap - Chris Ivey (-2) v John Creek (+2)

Chris's third final should have proved a tough challenge after a couple of hard runs earlier in the morning.   Nevertheless, he was keen to get on with it before the lactic acid took hold.  And with his eye firmly 'in', he was able to overcome the handicap in the first game without losing serve, until he had the lead at 4-3.  John managed to stay level with him then with many hands in and out until at 13-12 Chris took a couple of points in a row and the first game 15-13.  Perhaps easing back, Chris allowed John to get an early run together in the second game and he had extended his advantage to 8-1 before Chris started to play.  John kept picking up cheap points until he reached 15-2, 1-1.

A fairly comfortable third followed, with Chris finding a second wind and steadily hauling the deficit back and then pushing on to 15-9.  The fourth was tighter, with John just holding his 4 point advantage throughout and never letting Chris close the gap.  15-12 to John, 2-2.

The effort of levelling was too much for the older John, however.  And Chris found his third wind and an extra gear, racing to 11-3 before John could stem the tide.  Chris easily finished the match off 15-7 in a few more hands in, repeating his 2016 and 2017 triumphs in this Veterans category.

Vets Handicap.JPG
 

Doubles Handicap - Jolyon Thompson & John Creek (+2) v Mike & Connor Wright (-2)

The Doubles final was the last of the day, as Summer doubles winners John & Jolyon took on the father and son Wright team.  This was the first time the Winter doubles had been contested since 2008 but is sure to be repeated as great fun was had by all participants.

Mike & Connor had beaten their opponents 3-1 in the Round Robin stage of the competition, with Connor having shown how much his game had improved in his time away from the Club during his studies.  This time, the Wrights were employing some new tactics - including rotating service boxes and crossovers.  [Not sure if these worked as well as they might have done, with occasional clashes when both went for the same ball - Ed.]

As you would expect with doubles, there were some frenetic rallies.  Both teams had some runs of points and all games were close.  In the end, the luck and the breaks went the way of the Summer holders, Jolyon and John coming out on top in three games, 15/12, 15/14, 15/12.   

 

Connor Wright, Jolyon Thompson, John Creek and Mike Wright, flanking David Falconer who marked splendidly and presented the prizes.

Connor Wright, Jolyon Thompson, John Creek and Mike Wright, flanking David Falconer who marked splendidly and presented the prizes.

  

Mark Johnson 'One Shot' Tournament - 12 December 2017

16 players and a few spectators enjoyed a quick-fire one-rally tournament this week - to remember the life and contribution to Squash of the late Mark Johnson.

The tournament, which lasted all of 7 minutes of actual playing time (including the time taken to toss for service), was preceded and followed by some 'three-quarters' friendly knockabouts.  These involved up to 8 players on court at the same time, rallying in three quarters of the court, but with the winner of each rally staying to play the next challenger.

A video of the tournament can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxkKJBqptHc&feature=youtu.be

The trophy was presented by Yolanda to the surprise(!) winner James Hall, and the players and spectators took off to an enjoyable curry at The Raj Bari afterwards.

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The Forgotten Final - Summer Doubles 2017

After several aborted attempts, we had a Doubles competition.   A round-robin of 5 pairs was intended; however, injuries and absences meant that only three of them lined up before Summer's end.

Connor & Mike Wright

Tim Handel & Jerry Staffurth

Jolyon Thompson & John Creek

with Jolyon and John winning both of their matches, they were declared the winners, with the other two pairs joint runners up.

The promised final did not take place, and Jolyon's son Owen proudly presented the shield to his Dad and the scarily skinny John a few weeks later.

Doubles Summer 2017.jpg

 

 

Final Summer Final - Open Handicap Trophy Restored in November 2017

It was nearly a perfect end to the Summer of Squash.  The handicaps were  close – only two points between them so it’s almost a straight fight to the death…..It was the young buck Chris against the silver fox Jerry. Would a 2 point lead suffice for Jerry….

Chris had caught up on the handicap within the first 4 points but first game started off pretty even from there with only a couple of points between them until it Chris hit game points at 14-11. Jerry then mustered a min-run to win 15-14 on the last point. Jerry’s accuracy won it.

The second game was a different story. Chris seemed to have warmed up now, stepping further forward hit to quicker returns seems to have changed the game. A few long rallies aside Chris steam rolled into a 9-2 lead. Jerry got his second wind and rallied back and hit another few good shots but Chris chipped away…. 12-7 to Chris…. Who then got his eye back in with early returns and there was only one winner – 15-8 to Chris to even it up.

Redbull and Sanatagen consumed they started again. This game followed the first as Jerry kept Chris in check opening up a small lead of 4-1. Chris was having none of it and fought back to be 8-5 up. Jerry then huffed and puffed to level up at 10-10. From there the younger man took the game to win 15-11.

Now Chris just had to repeat this to take the crown. Jerry went off like a train with his consistency to lead 4-1. He kept the lead all the way until it evened out at 10-10. From here Chris has the measure of Jerry and again hitting those returns further up the court proved the key and it finished 15-12 to Chris.

3-1 to Chris and plenty left in the tank.

It only remained for Chris to be united with his Trophy (Shield) taking it over from last year's winner (Mike Wright).  Unfortunately, Mike's trophy shelf is so full that he brought the Club Championship (one-handled) Cup instead of the Handicap Shield. 

It has taken a few week's of painstaking research and negotiation by the curator - but the correct trophies can now be restored to their new and old owners and the presentation photograph retouched (below).

 

Wrong Cup (Left)                                                                                                                      Right Plaque (Right)

Wrong Cup (Left)                                                                                                                      Right Plaque (Right)

Summer Finals - beat the first frost

The first of the late Summer finals took place before a frosty and spooky Halloween had begun.

The Veterans (over 45) Handicap final saw last season's unlucky loser Jarrod Clarke (+1) up against the familiar finalist Jerry Staffurth (-1).

Jarrod was probably lucky to take the first game 15/14 (on sudden death) from 13-10 down, but Jerry soon recovered to take an early 6-1 lead in the second - Jarrod recovered to 8-9, but then went through a patch of missing the ball completely on service returns to lose 15-8.  1-1.

Jerry also took the third 15-13 in similar fashion after Jarrod had raced to 6-1 lead and Jerry had pulled back to 9-6.

Jarrod's eye was now getting in though, and with jerry's shot choices losing their consistency, Jarrod comfortably ran through the fourth and fifth games with steady accumulation of points.  15-11 and 15-10 to Jarrod.  So the underdog is relieved to take his first Knole Park trophy - a boost for his morale as he contemplates the prospect of a knee operation on the horizon.

Vets Handicap Final Summer 2017.jpg
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Coaching Live

Jason Barry coaching - Thursday evenings

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The Winning Streak Begins - Winter has come for KP1 - at Cobdown

James didn't look rusty - but just to make sure he drilled the ball to all 4 corners. Chris was no match for James' court coverage. James took no prisoners in cruising to a well deserved victory. Chris seemed to hit the ball harder by default and would have won more points with more drops. James made him run more than we've ever seen.

The less said about Jerry's game the better. Shane was awesome. Purple patch. Especially on back hand cross court drops. It wasn't a fair fight.

Peter lost. Too many bad shots. And Ryan ran him over. Crucial points didn't go his way - but it's a great learning curve.

Mike's game was fast but in hand. Kevin has a bent wrist action that sent him the wrong way for a bit. Kevin's drops in the front left were a foot high and easy to retrieve. Mike made too many unforced errors in game 2 but the rest was reasonably tight. Mike powered to win in the 4th. The 3 weeks off did him well.

And now the EPIC CLASH

Will and Lazare absolutely mashed the ball.  Like a rifle. Dead. And then the other player picked it up. In the first game Lazare argued a stroke on 8-5. He convinced the marker that it was a let and evened up the game 8-8. Both players had chances to win at 9-9 but Laz took it 10-9 with a low drive.

The second game was just like the first. With the exception of a sprinkle of trickle boasts from Laz. But Will didn't wilt. And it was 8-8 again. This time Will prevailed.

The third showed the strain. Will sprang to a 4-0 lead and hit an easy forehand into the tin. Momentum changed - but Laz gave it back and then won it back 5-5. Will fought back - Laz was on the floor and sprang up from the dead to almost return the next one. 7-5, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 8-6, 6-8 - both guys dead on the court. 9-6 to Will off a wonderful backhand volley drop.

4th game and Will kept Laz waiting. With the game underway again, loud noises from the court with Laz bitching about his drop that was called down. Backwards and forwards, quarter neither asked nor given. Will took an early lead 4-1. And then 5-1 with a great forehand drive. Laz steamed back 3-5. Front court not working for Will. Laz 5-5. But a nick for Laz and a tin from Will gave Laz the lead. 7-5. And then 8-5 and an amazing retrieval from Laz to win the game 9-5.

Onto the final game. 10.30pm and one game to go. Both boys are soaked and Laz arguing vociferously any time a let was given against him.

Will dashed into a 4-1 lead. Hand out, hand out and a tin. 2-4. Hand out. The gallery were getting hungry. 5-3 but Laz plays a gentle backhand cross court drop. Controversial call in the front court, Laz went ballistic. Let, no let, let, side out. And 2 cross court boasts. Will runs to 8-3. But Laz counters to 6-8 and 7-8. And then it's 8-8. First match ball to Laz. Saved. But then another. And saved. And then Laz goes down with cramp. He clutches one leg and then the other. Great point, depth from Will. 9-9 Will serves. Contact on the swing and Will puts it in the tin - no let (really ??? it was tight, but Will had no opportunity to have a swing) - Laz cramps. Revives. Serves, line drive Will tries to go straight through Laz. NO LET ! Game to Laz - NO - Laz agrees to a let. Serves - Will hits cross court winner. Will serves - ball is flying. Tight drive. Ball into the tin. Will wins.

Awesome game. Apart from the constant challenges to the Marker - it was played in a combative spirit on the court and exceptional sportsmanship.

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Michael Wright

New Season - Guest Writer's Circle

[As Knole Park only has one team in the Kent North West League this season, members starved of first-hand news will be eager to learn of their progress.   I therefore have pleasure in posting the first match report from this week's Star Writer - Ed.] 

Our Winter season 2017/18 kicked off with a tricky home match against Bexley on Tuesday.  

I have the dubious honour of writing the first match report.  This honour has been bestowed upon me on account of putting in the most dubious performance.  So I will start with two apologies, one for my performance, and two for not really paying attention tothe other matches, I would have done if knew I was writing the report!. 

First up Jerry playing a larger than life Dean.  I missed the first game which sadly was the one Jerry won.  What I did see looked like a very competitive match with Dean playing at one pace and Jerry varying more with lobs and drops.  Unfortunately Dean was ultimately too strong but a good performance from Jerry - 1-3 loss

On the other court a young, sprightly, fast paced Peter, was up against the less than friendly looking Paul.  Similar to Dean over on court one, this was played very much at one pace.  The ball was bouncing all over the place.  I thought Peter did a great job to recover from the first game 9-1 loss, which didn't reflect how close it was,  to pull back level at one game all.  Unfortunately Paul won the next two with the fourth a really tight 9-10.  Well played Peter, unlucky 1-3 loss

Next up, I played Ross.  I will keep it short, much like the match.  Niall not good enough, Ross too good.  0-3 loss.  (must do better next time, whenever that might be)

Now for the big guns...

James versus Anthony on court 1.  

I missed the startbut what I saw was high quality from both players. James looked like he was moving really well. His talented opponent had great racket skills but could not match James' all round game and fitness levels.  It might have been over quicker had it not been for a lucky shot from Anthony at 8 all in the third, having called set one.  Last game was a 9-0 whitewash from James.  3-2 win,  well done Jimbo

Last up was Will versus Paul

This match was fantastic. It's fair to say some of Will's performances in friendly matches are 'variable' however when it comes to team games he shows such mental strength.  Could almost be South African if he wasn't so effeminate.

10-8 in the fifth tells you how close this match was.  Both players pushing themselves, and the marker (who is really a Golfer) to the limit.  Luckily the marker had JCs ever present commentary which I'm sure he would have enjoyed.

Pleasure to watch, especially as Will came out on top. Kept us all from the pub but it was worth it. 3-2 win. Well done Tindall.

Overall the match was a 3-2 loss. If you consider we were missing David and Mike, this wasn't a bad result and I suspect many in our league will do far worse against a strong Bexley Side.

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Well done all and see you soon,

Stay Healthy.

Niall

Season's End - Summer's Last Throw - 19th September

So a strong looking Knole side headed to Park Langley to take on their third team. PL were pumped up and looking for promotion, while Knole were seeking to prove they could match it with the top of the table. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a drubbing with KP failing to secure a single point. Well done to PL hopefully we get the chance for revenge in seasons to come.

First up it was Jerry against Adam. Jerry was under the cosh from the beginning as Adam hit vicious lengths and boasts to catch Jerry out. In the third Jerry fought back with some nice short play but it was all too little too late.

Mike took on Stuart at 3rd string and lost 27-0. Stuart was simply awesome. Mike did not play badly he was simply blown away. Unfortunately for him, this means that there a number of penalties coming his way at the next team curry.

Niall went 6-0 up in the first to only be pegged back to 6-6. Shortly afterwards his opponent hit him on the elbow incapacitating him for the rest of the match. This is a shame because I think this could have been a cracker.

Will took on Kevin and like Jerry did not really get into it until the third game. Kevin is a quality player and Will learned a lot from the experience I hope. The quality of your length at the end was excellent but you need to learn to close out the game when you are on top. The key will be working on watching the ball better and coming off the ball better after striking it. Work in progress.

Last but least yours truly took on Si at 1st string. For all the knee troubles that had nothing to do with it and there was a real lack of mental strength to play positively and get the job done. That will be solved with some more matches and training.

So onwards and downwards for Knole with voluntary relegation for the winter season. John asked if promotion was a possibility. With David back sure why not! Bring it on.

Keep fit and healthy

James

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MARK JOHNSON - In remembrance

Sad to report, we lost our friend Mark Johnson last Sunday.   Here are a few memories.

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Mark Johnson will always be ingrained in the squash history of Sevenoaks - he was the consistent thread that ran through the WiIdernesse Squash Club and then was instrumental in merging with Knole Park to create a sustainable future for squash in the district.

Mark could often be found hitting a squash ball with unerring accuracy up and down each side wall on his own or with a partner. He was a master at returning a ball less than an inch off the wall into the back corner with minimal movement.

Mark welcomed many new players with a game of "down the wall" and quickly sussed out their squash capability. I would have loved to have played him at a time that he was fully mobile.

As club captain for more than a decade he organised, ran and supported the team in home and away games. He offered cutting critique of any game and an infectious enthusiasm for the finer points of the game, maintaining that any ball was just a step and a dip away.  

Mark will live on forever in the memory of the club and bring a smile to the balcony when anyone serves the ball out...

 Michael Wright

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Mark Johnson lived and breathed squash more than any other person I have known. I don't know many people who are prepared to captain squash teams and write reports when they are not actually playing. Mark just loved the game and loved being there to witness the cut and thrust of another spine tingling squash encounter. As our captain, he took great pleasure in writing up the match reports something that even my good lady enjoyed reading. He was a wordsmith, and his reports will likely never be equalled. 

As a player, unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of seeing him his prime. I did, however, see him beat players many years younger with a sublime display of his talents. He would just be in the right place at the right time and then deliver the cross court nick that provided the coup de gras. Yes, there was a fiery temper but the competitive juices continued to flow strongly whenever he stepped on the court.

I trained regularly with Mark and was often on the receiving end of a good hiding when we first started. In fact, up until very recently, there were very few players that could really challenge him in an alley game or up and down the wall. His racquet skill was just second to none. I personally learnt a significant amount from him and I know he will always be in my thoughts whenever I step on the court. 

Mark always provided convivial company and the squash world will not be the same without him. He was truly a special person and a dear friend. He would sincerely hope that we all continue to enjoy the great game of squash and I for one certainly will. Keep on playing....

James Hall

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As both Mike and James have said, Mark will be remembered for his untiring match reports; for me it was his rich vocabulary and forthright opinions, and for teaching me some apt phrases – my favourite being ‘As fit as a butcher’s dog.’   So I can do no more than offer below a selection of his last reports for your enjoyment and remembrance.    Please feel free to add your own thoughts and memories using the Comments facility below, or on our facebook page.   

John Creek

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AWAY TO NUFFIELD 8/12/15

Hi winners.

Expectations were high for this last half match.

Expectations were comprehensively met.  20 more points and many happy bunnies.

In festive spirit one might say "ding dong merrily on high"

"High" being a consolidated 2 spot in div 3 which is no mean achievement in anybody’s book

Of course it must be acknowledged that this was the best team I have ever been associated with in all my time at Wilderness and Knole.  And, Nuffield are also propping up the bottom of the league, but this is mere churlish detail.

"Socks" Falconer is really enjoying his squash and, boy, does it show.  Crisp, snappy, tight, and most entertaining.  Because David is moving so well and getting "on it" so early he has two or even three shot options most of the time and that micro - pause before striking the ball means he has usually figured out the best place to hit the ball which least suits his oppo.  Scott is a good player, as reflected by his ranking points, but David did not really give him room to play.  By the end Scott was frustrated and making just too many errors due to the pressure exerted on his game.

Very sharp 3/0 win.

Pete "wings" Sykes blessed us with his considerable presence from his normal base in gay Paree.  Looking fit and lithe as one would expect he has been playing good quality squash across the water.  Surprise indeed then that he struggled to impress in the first game and lost the second narrowly playing some frankly ragged stuff (of course by his high standards -- most of us - who are right handed - would give our left arms to be able to play the same sort of game that Pete conjures up on his WORST day).  What was this leaning on the racket at the end of the second --- surely not fitness issues!!???

Fergus was playing a very tight and measured game, matching Pete on court coverage and things looked dodgy.  It would appear however, that a certain chili burrito with boiled haloumi cheese (what !!!!) was presenting Pete with some intestinal issues that were impinging forcefully on his performance.  This rancid concoction probably figured on a nice quiet transformational transit through his nether regions (if indeed its possible for such a feast to harbour any thoughts or expectation) so it must have been a shock to be abruptly introduced to god on the big white telephone half way through the match. We need not linger on the graphic details, suffice to say, with a fourth game score line of 9/0!! all became clear.

Don’t expect me to write about your excellent court coverage, finely honed competitive instinct etc.  blah, blah, do you Pete?  -- The above was much more interesting to play with. 

Gritty win under adversity 3/1.

In the context of the above informed and incisive "sports" analysis Dan the man should appropriately carry the epithet "gaviscon" such was the smooth and soothing way in which he relieved his quick, young and talented opponent of three , not very tight, games.  I don’t want to see you lose Dan but I look forward next half, to a really tight 5 setter to enjoy your durable talents to the maximum.  Sublime win 3/0.

Gentleman Jim had a much less challenging game with Karen who is very successful lady veteran player in the dusk of her playing days.

A 27/0 was clearly well within James ' capabilities but I am pleased to say he gave Karen just enough room to express some of her considerable talent and tenacity.  A nice considerate 3/0 win.

Mike was also clearly going to find Pete Young a limited challenge and also treated him with restrained consideration.

I said to Pete afterwards that I play you guys in conditioned games, when I can play the whole court and you have to hit everything back to me ONLY to the back right, I still only get one or two points if you try, and Pete is probably near enough my peer even now.

Well played Mike, you did the necessary nicely!  win 3/0

Unfortunately we were not presented with a Nuffield Christmas nosh and one can only appreciate Barry’s efforts that much more.  Stato has availed himself of two such fine feasts and I am sure we all agree, he fully deserves it.

Best seasonal wishes to all and look forward to seeing some of you on Sunday at Zizzi.

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BLACKHEATH AWAY 18/10/16

Hi guys

JC was of the opinion that this match could be a very tight affair and certainly a points haul of 7 is a great improvement on last week’s effort of only 2 points.

This Knole 1 team is most surely competing at this elevated level of division 2 and the team that played on Tuesday is unlikely to be outclassed.  The great challenge however is to actually FIELD this team every week.  Next week James and David are likely to be unavailable so immediately JC will next to wave his magic wand and conjure up a competitive starting line!!??

It is interesting to observe that two matches started with 9/0 games and the second games only got to 3/9 (James) and 2/9 (Will).   One would think that these were destined to be brief encounters but these two matches proved to be closest tussles of the evening.

I have often said that a 9/0 starting game generally means very little with regard to the final score, but JC would perhaps be interested to validate this??

James exhibited a most impressive degree of physical and mental durability to pull round that apparently disastrous start and push the match to a very tight 5 setter.   Nailing that 5th game after such application was much more a tactical challenge (for him) than a physical one and we must applaud James for overcoming knee and Achilles issues.

I rarely challenge marking as a balcony observer but was minded to ask Ville how he marked two shot in James' final game as strokes rather than lets.   I find it extremely provocative when (especially very good) players call lets of balls that have not even REACHED them and moreover, it is clear that by the time they CAN actually hit the shot, their opponents are clear and the front wall is fully available. With absolutely no danger and nothing but minimal interference the striker pulls up knowing that the marker will favour a stroke rather than a let call.  James was remarkably restrained about these potential game changers and even-handedly blamed himself for putting the ball down the middle of the court rather than down the wall.  Mike, moreover, felt that Ville did not obviously get these calls wrong.

I however remain resolutely unimpressed by players who do not make EVERY EFFORT to play the ball.  Great match 2/3 loss.

I shall take this out of order and comment next on Mike v Ville (4th string) -- the marker in James' match.  Mike has never got more than 5 points off Ville but heroically took the first 9/5.  I think this first game was remarkable for the extreme amount of interference from Ville not moving off his shot. Had he been marked by the same standards that HE applied to marking James' match, he would have struggled to get any points.

As a general tactical observation players who do not clear their own shot also profoundly disadvantage themselves in preparation for their next strike.  It is no surprise therefore that as the interference quotient from Ville dropped the match turned on its head and Mike only got one point in the next two games.

Mike turned things round and looked good for the fourth from 7/2 but served out and lost the initiative. This one should have gone to 5.

As another general observation of the evening, I counted six out serves and often after very tough rallies. To give the initiative straight back to one’s opponent, when this is the only dead ball situation one ever plays in squash, is  careless to say the least -- a discussion I have had several times with Tim Handle !!. (Of course I have never hit a serve out in my life -- great being an observer eh??). Good one Mike - well played 1/3 loss.

Neill made a strapping start to this match and took the first with impressive confidence and court coverage.  Raould worked his way back into proceedings and without anything flashy took complete control.  Neill has all the driving length play one could want but the short stuff and necessary variation to win these matches AT THIS LEVEL don’t quite manifest.

It is telling that the balcony enjoyed a moment of levity when Neill hit a great lob followed by a tight drop and we asked if we were watching Neill.   Cruelly the next shot went into the tin and we said "he is back".  No doubt Neill would also like to be a tad fitter.  Hard work 1/3 loss

Last but not least our only winner Will.

After a very shaky start to which I have already alluded Will reeled Nico in in a most entertaining fashion.  Nico is not athletically constructed to play squash and very often seemed to be at full stretch, which is unsustainable in a tough 5 setter. His straight arm forehand is a technical weakness rarely seen in this higher league but limits his control on drop shots dramatically.

Will did great not to be fazed by the first two games and clearly takes the time honoured view that it aint over till the fat lady sings.

It takes me two hours to construct an epistle like this so it would be nice to know if anybody reads my efforts!!!

Well played all. See (some of) next week. Stay fit MJ

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HOME V BEXLEY 2 ON 6/12/16

Season’s greetings to all.

It was not exactly a disappointment to be instructed at 5pm that Bexley would not have number 5 (they would be coming with a four man team only) so that puts 3 valuable points in the bag before we start.  Sorry to CSB if this late advice was too inconvenient but they were pretty unsure till the last minute.  Apparently Rob got a call but was installed on the bar at Bexley, and it appears that unfortunately he has regained the cuddly proportions he had for some years before his recent drastic denial of alcoholic beverages and consequent stunning weight loss -- pity!!

James has had most impressive spin of matches digging out wins from being 2/0 down. Last week we saw a most competitive loss by the finest of margins and this week it ended up another very close 9/7 in the 5th - maybe a touch of "regression to the mean" to which I have alluded before.  One wonders how two such excellent players could contrive to have a 0/9 Scott followed by a 9/2 James then a 1/9 Scott. The margins are so fine at this level that just a small lapse or elevation of standard can give a dramatic score swing.  Nerves apparently crept into James' final shots and robbed him of a win he richly deserved.

It was interesting to note that this game was not plagued by any of the interference and relentless lets of last weeks' match -- just goes to show that it takes two to "tango".

We saw more recovery shots off the back wall (by Scott) than I have seen in a whole seasons' worth of play which maybe indicates that James was doing good at getting the ball past him in unexpected ways.  Scott was a master at the cross court volley into the front nick and found that "kill zone" relentlessly -- this is certainly one of my favourite shots.

Very close and competitive 2/3 loss

David looked well up for a tussle and commenced proceedings accordingly streaking to a 2/0 advantage and finishing the second game with a six point straight run with no hand changes. Anthony, however is a deceptively effective and tight shot maker and covers the court with strong drives and clean recovery. It did strike me watching this, that Anthony’s' backhand serve was rarely tight to the wall and some of those cross court volley nicks a la Scott (above comment) could have paid dividends  for David .  SO-OOOOOO  2/2 and 8/4 down in the 5th looking all the way like a 9/4 , David rallied his resources and injected a rich seam of hallmark kills allied to stupendous physical effort and dragged this one to 8/8. The call for 1 to decide meant that winning just one point in the game would have rendered SIX match points to either player -- no pressure there then- but it didn’t go David’s' way this time.

Gallant loss 2/3

Mike sweated for England against a very steady opponent who forced a high error quotient and struck some very accurate hard flat kills.  The nip and tuck second game presented some tantalizing opportunities but Graham effectively stifled all burgeoning ambitions.  The third saw Graham taking comprehensive control and he ran out a fairly comfortable winner.

Hard fought 0/3 loss.

Will has been making an impressive fist of his matches every week and this was no different.

I didn't see the dropped first game but Will had this one well and truly under his control by the time I checked into the final fourth game.  This was a solid win against a stout opponent and Will looked no more than mildly physically affected at the end.

Good solid match squash and the only win at 3/1.

Stato reckoned it would be an 8 pointer so 10 looks good despite the obvious challenge of getting so close with two matches -- and it is much to James' and David’s' credit that they did not bring their inevitable disappointments off court (I rarely managed to do this myself in the day)

Great Xmas nosh -- sorry I will miss next week’s but warmer climes beckon again.

Hope you all have a great Xmas. 

STAY HEALTHY AND GO EASY ON THE LIBATIONS.

Best wishes. Mark Johnson.

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Home to Blackheath 24th Jan 2017

Morning all.

It’s good to be back in saddle and see everybody in great fettle, playing well and enjoying themselves at this dreary time of year.

John has been keeping the infrastructure in great shape also and the courts are playing very reliably despite some minor floor deterioration and ongoing attention to the front wall on court two.

James was looking like a hungry whippet, full of impressive confidence and obviously feeling fit and focused.  Tats was a known entity from past matches and whilst James was the ranking favourite Tats was looking like a formidable physical challenge, (but maybe carrying a pound or two since we last saw him). Tats has a most surprising backhand technique -- he rolls his wrist through the shot and flicks the ball, particularly on backhand high volleys -- losing reliable accuracy and certainly not getting the cut and work on the ball that nearly all good players exhibit (and which James demonstrates with aplomb).

A 9/1 to James then a 9/0 to Tats whetted the appetite for gallery then normal service was resumed and James took over, demonstrating an ability  to really push for pickups  -- an enthusiasm that Tats did not show the same desire to emulate.

On form comfortable win 3/1.

David is also clearly in good shape, and fundamentally, is enjoying his squash. Having lost to Gareth badly in the not too distant past this match was a significant challenge which David attacked with gusto and took the first game 9/3.  Gareth is a tall lanky and imposing player with all round excellent racket skills but maybe he was missing the level of desire that David was exhibiting.  However midway through the third set It looked like David may have been fading but then he suddenly picked up the pace with dominant enthusiasm and then carried this through to a 9/2 fourth game.

This was a very satisfying and much deserved win against a most capable opponent and bodes well for the remainder of this winter season.  Solid 3/1 win.

Having not seen any of Niall's game I asked him for a report quote and he commendably saw his role as pushing his team mates down the order.  It would be great if he was having a spell like James and David -- winning and enjoying his squash, but everything is cyclical as we all know and his time will come again.   A very tight second game nearly nailed another point but it was not to be and he was all in for the third.  Valiant 3/0 loss.

Will came off a famous win two weeks, which I missed unfortunately. With various nomination machinations it appeared that Rauld was maybe playing lower than he merited, so it was much to Wills credit that he dragged himself into strong contention and levelled the match 2/2 having looked second best in the third game.

 Having divested myself of marking duties on this one I came back to see Will 6/0 down in the fifth and despite commendable application he was unable to turn this around.

Rauld was very flaky in the second game when I gave a decision not to his liking -- losing 9/4 from a 4/1 lead!! But he proved a dedicated competitor, to eventually tidy up a 3/2 win.

Good oppo Will so 2 points was commendable -- however 3 points would have won us the match!!!!!!!!!!

 Mike apparently took to court with a 4 kg handicap shortly to be rectified by some serious carbohydrate avoidance the pursuance of which was not much aided by Barry’s potato dominated scram??  His extra "luggage" did not however stifle his enthusiastic court coverage which gave him the first game and a very close second game.  After this it appeared that his opponent had him on a string with some relentlessly accurate early takes and tight drops.  After so much time away it always takes a while to get back into the match mode so this was a commendable performance -- obviously with more to come in a week or two.

With a 6 point prediction, 8 points means the boys done good - and there was a very real opportunity to actually win ----- so WELL DONE.

 Good to see you all.  Stay fit and see you next week. MJ

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AWAY - BEXLEY 3 - 22/02/17

Salutations to all.

Prior to the main event I should like to present the following "horses duvers" for you to enjoy.

Being no match on Tuesday I thought I would pop along to support the second team endeavours.

This little squash "vignette" was something I have not encountered before -- i.e. a bit of "edge" before a single ball was struck.

CSB spun his racket to decide server and his opponent questioned what actually designated up/down from the racket markings since this was not obvious and Chris, if he so chose could call his service wherever the racket fell ??!!  Chris's sense of fair play was thus impugned before they even started.

And who, you may ask, was this insulting specimen??? none other than the one and only Tony Davies who works hard in every match I have ever seen him play to bolster his league-wide reputation as a bit of a "miserable sod" as also confirmed by his own team.

Needless to say the rest of the match was much as one might have expected and all credit to Chris for pushing it close and having a positive experience on the night.

James just loves his tussles with Kieran.  Kieran is a tall athletic much younger and talented opponent but James now seems to have his number, even if the play extends to the full five sets. Alternate games were taken till the fifth and it really looked that Kieran might break James' spell, but it went nip and tuck to the very end and 9/7 in the fifth to James.

James is playing some really penetrating squash now, almost always achieving tight length and good width and since he is so well prepared for his next shot the killer drops really work well.

Great stuff -- only winner on the night.   WIN 3/2

Will was confronted with a fine athlete and GREAT mover in Lloyd, who just picked up EVERYTHING at the front of the court.   Floyd played a beautiful measured game and never over hit anything. His somewhat shaky service style belied the fact that the rest of his game was tactically very mature and very effective.

Will was disappointed but Lloyd deserved his dominant win ON THE NIGHT. Were you sharing phone numbers to play a friendly, Will? -- I would like to know how you get on if this transpires.

(PS -- you will owe me two dobs on the old match fees next time mate)

Challenging 0/3 loss

Mike looked very well set a two games up but Ross stuck to his task to take it to 2/2.

Play was interrupted by equipment issues and also Mike turning his ankle -- fortunately not badly -- though I am sure it will be tight today.  From a 9/0 down in the fourth Mike rallied with determined application in the fifth and VERY narrowly missed taking it.

Perhaps sticking with more shots down the line rather than cross court would have made the difference but one always tends to revert to one’s comfort zone tactically when under extreme pressure.

Valuable 2 points Mike. Very close 2/3 loss.

Both Jerry and Mr Creek really had their work cut out helping us this week in the absence of both David (back issues) and Niall (serious "dadding").

Thanks for your input and the odd extra point was not that far from adding to the above 5.   Thanks for playing -  0/3 losses.

We wish David the best of luck sorting his physical problems and i have to say that kids have never seemed a great idea to me, however i do appear to be the odd one out in this regard.

Stato seems to think that 5 or six points in each remaining match should fend off relegation but as we know too well, anything can happen before the apocryphal large person has sung.

Stay healthy or get healthy.  Best wishes MJ

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