Bridesmaid becomes the bride as Chandler triumphs for first time

Alan Harper, left, and John Chandler face the camera after the final.

Alan Harper, left, and John Chandler face the camera after the final. - Credit: Archant

After a full week of hard, competitive squash, two of Cromer's increasing band of veteran members, both playing off scratch and evenly matched, contested the final of this year's prestigious handicap tournament.

And it was 70-year-old John Chandler who came out on top as he had to dig deep to beat fellow veteran Alan Harper 15-7 6-15 14-16 15-9 15-7 in another absorbing and enthralling final.

Last year Chandler was narrowly beaten in the final by John Baker, 17-15 in the fifth and when he had to undergo treatment for an ingrown toe-nail on the morning of this year's final he did fear he might once again have to settle for the runners-up spot. However, this didn't hamper him at all in the first game as he stormed into a 5-1 lead and then won five successive points at the end of the game to open up a 1-0 lead.

The second game was completely different as Harper, who was the club veterans' champion three times between 2005 and 2009, opened up a 7-3 lead of his own and then won seven successive points to lead 14-5 before going on to take the game 15-6.

The third game was the closest of the evening. Harper seemed to be cruising at 13-9 but Chandler fought his way back to 14-14 before Harper closed the game out 16-14 to open up what appeared to be a decisive 2-1 lead.

Chandler however is a canny player and, forsaking his favourite cross court drop shots, started to hit the ball harder and as Harper, who had already played two demanding five game matches during the week, started to tire Chandler moved ahead from 9-8 to take the game 15-9 and draw level.

Buoyed up by this success he stormed into an 8-2 lead in the deciding fifth game and although Harper battled hard Chandler went on to take the game 15-7 and the match 3-2 to win his first Cromer title of any description.

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Technical director Barry Starling was among the large crowd who watched the final from the balcony and said afterwards: 'The tournament was held for the first time in 1981 and by my reckoning JC is the 28th different player to have won the title.'