Cromer end squash season on a high

SQUASH: In the Norfolk SRA Leagues the Cromer team was busy meeting the end-of-season deadline and turned in two brilliant performances to record two excellent victories – 20-4 against Broadland II and 19-8 against Barnham Broom III.

That put them in their highest-ever finishing position in their 32-year history, third in Division Two.

In the first match against the Broadland, Cromer were without both the unavailable Alec Burrows and former club champion John Baker, but they welcomed back Alex Foster for his first match of 2011.

And captain Henri Paul sprung something of a surprise by giving a second outing of the season to second-team regular, veteran John Chandler.

He was delighted with his surprise call-up saying: 'I thought my chances of playing again at this level had gone but I have remained pretty fit, and as well as some hard training sessions with Barry Starling and his second team I have also been on court with Martin Pearse at North Norfolk.'

He went on to show that his captain's faith in him was justified as he won the fifth-string match in straight games while Paul won the fourth-string match 3-1 and Richard Keeble completed an easy 3-0 victory at No 3.

With the bonus points in the bag the stage was set for Foster and Ben Herrieven to play without any pressure. And for a game-and-a-half Foster, who has been to Australia, played as though he had never been away.

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He had to struggle, however, to close out the second game 9-8 and then for the next two-and-a- half games it was like watching a different player as his opponent drew level and led 7-2 in the decisive fifth game before Foster suddenly pulled his game together and took the game 9-7 and the match 3-2.

After losing the opening game of the first-string match Herrieven was never seriously troubled and he closed out the match 3-1 to give Cromer their maximum and leave them needing 18 points from the following night's match to clinch third place.

Results:Ben Herrieven beat Justin Miller 6-9, 9-1, 9-3, 9-1; Alex Foster beat Paul Banham 9-4, 9-8, 3-9, 0-9, 9-7; Richard Keeble beat Bob Sewell 9-1, 9-0, 9-3; Henri Paul beat Jake Sallis 9-6, 4-9, 9-3, 9-2; John Chandler beat Mark Woolner 9-5, 10-9, 9-7.

Barnham Broom III the previous week had sprung something of a surprise by beating high-flying North Norfolk and the largest crowd of the season was attracted to the Norwich Road balcony.

Foster was still troubled by his injured wrist but his withdrawal was balanced by the return of Burrows and Baker, while Chandler was stood down after his previous night's good performance.

The first and fourth-string matches were the first on court and Burrows stormed into a 2-0 lead. But after his opponent drew level at 2-2 he rediscovered his form to win the fifth game 9-5 and the fourth-string match 3-2.

Herrieven was playing some of his best squash of the season against one of the best players in the division, and he also opened up a 2-0 lead. He was unable to take the decisive third game and went down 3-2, which left the overall match result finely balanced.

Baker won his fifth-string match in straight games while captain Paul ensured Cromer would win the match as he won a closely-contested fourth-string match 3-2.

With 16 points in the bag Cromer needed the unbeaten Richard Keeble to take at least two games from his second-string match for them to achieve their coveted third place, and he didn't disappoint.

After opening up a 2-0 lead he saw his very good opponent take the third game, but Keeble had a 100 per cent record to maintain and he went on to take the fourth game 9-4 and the match 3-1 to give Cromer their 19 points and their ninth victory of a very good season.

A delighted Paul said: 'It has been a long, hard season but I couldn't have asked for more from the team.

'To finish third in Division Two is a tremendous achievement and I must mention Keeble's remarkable performances — to have a 100 per cent record after playing 14 matches is not something we could have hoped for back in September.

'We lost Alex Foster, who had lost only once in six matches, halfway through the season. But Johnnie Baker came into the team and won five of his six matches, Alec Burrows won eight, Herrieven picked up 19 points and won four matches against some very good players – while all the second team players who helped out all played their part.'

Results: Ben Herrieven lost to Stuart Sutton 9-2, 9-4, 1-9, 5-9, 3-9; Richard Keeble beat Neil Sutton 9-5, 9-3, 3-9, 9-4; Henri Paul beat Wesley Hicks 10-8, 6-9, 9-3, 5-9, 9-5; Alec Burrows beat Steve Cooper 9-2, 9-3, 3-9, 5-9, 9-5; John Baker beat Paul English 9-7, 9-3, 9-3.