PIC: The Boston over 45 team (left to right): David Stones, Mark Hildred, Colin Fisher.
Boston's over 45 squash team lost 2-1 to Racquets Thame of Oxford at the National Club Championships finals weekend, but put up a valiant fight to ensure their pride accompanied the runners-up silverware on the way back to Boston.
Mark Hildred, Colin Fisher and David Stones represented Boston in the final of the national over 45 squash championships, after an unprecedented run in the competition for the club.
With the short travelling distance to the home venue Boston had an advantage over their opposition - support, which ran up into double figures.
#3 David Stones was the first Boston player to engage in battle. He faced Steve Bateman. Struggling to adapt to the movable court, which encouraged awkward nicks, David lost the first game. However, he stormed into a 5-1 lead in the second game, but despite some astonishing reflexes from the Boston player, Steve slowly turned the game around with some well finished drop shots to double his lead in games. The Oxford number three took a 6-0 lead in the third game, which would prove to be too high a mountain for David to climb, as he lost 1/9, 5/9, 2/9.
The 3/0 defeat brought fears of Racquets Thame completing a whitewash, especially as Boston‘s #1 Mark Hildred prepared to take on Darren Withey, who had beaten him 3/0 just a few months previously. However worries were soon banished as Mark immediately took a 6-0 lead. He won the first game 9-3. It all seemed too straightforward and that proved to be the case. In the second game a combination of good shots from Darren and tinned efforts from Mark saw Darren draw level. Mark wasn’t disheartened though, and although Darren showed his speed, the Boston player looked in complete control and took the final two games 9-1 to win 3/1.
It was an unexpected victory with some thrilling rallies, which suddenly meant that the team from a small Lincolnshire town were one win away from claiming a national title.
The responsibility fell to the number twos. Colin Fisher of Boston, and Nigel Pattinson of Racquets Thame. Colin took a promising 4-1 lead in the first game before a topsy turvy few minutes. Despite saving a number of gameballs, Colin eventually lost the first game by an agonisingly close 10-8 scoreline. The final looked as though it would soon be settled when Nigel comfortably won the second game for the Oxford club.
A spirited performance in the third game saw Colin start to claw the match back, despite his racket strings breaking at 8-4 up. He won the game 9-5, and with a fired up crowd and the momentum, Boston were two games away from becoming national champions.
The club's hope was only heightened when Colin blasted into a 6-1 lead in the fourth. So close to forcing a fifth and deciding set in which a replication of the previous two games would have seen Boston take the title, a seventh point for the Boston number two strangely remained elusive. At 6-5 up Colin hit a great forehand volley kill, but a controversial let was called. From that point onwards, Nigel played well to take the match 8/10, 3/9, 9/5, 6/9, and the final 2-1. It was an unfortunate loss for Colin, who certainly appeared to be the better squash player, but was held back by his knee injury.
It was a tale of so close yet so far for Boston, but all three players were pleased in the knowledge that they put up a vigorous fight. There may be a few ‘what ifs’, but the journey was still remarkable, and victories against the likes of Wolverhampton and Doncaster will remain in the records.
At the presentations, Boston Squash and Racketball Club were handed their national over 45 championships runners-up trophy, something they hope can be put next to the winners’ trophy next year, when they will contest the competition again with increased confidence.