2023 Masters Inter County – Men’s O45’s Stage 1

MATCH REPORT: ENGLAND SQUASH MASTERS INTERCOUNTY 2023, MEN’S OVER 45’s

The weekend of 4th and 5th March 2023 saw Berkshire’s team travel to Abingdon to compete in Stage 1 of the England Squash Masters Intercounty over 45’s event. With matches against hosts Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, Berkshire were pleased to have assembled a squad with great strength in depth, boasting numerous national and county titles as well as a smattering of international representative honours:

  1. Tim Burrell ((ex) Datchet)
  2. Stuart Milton (Caversham)
  3. Darren Gray (Wellington)
  4. Rick Weatherall (Caversham)
  5. Richard Bodkin (Greenacre Wanderers)
  6. Dave Weston (Wellington)
  7. Steve Brackley (Greenacre)

First match was against Gloucestershire, with Richard and Steve first on court, playing at third and fifth strings respectively. Richard got off to a flying start against Craig Webb, taking the first game but couldn’t maintain the momentum and lost 1-3 (11/7 11/13 2/11 4/11). Steve, playing Mike Healey, began slowly and despite forcing a tiebreaker in the second game, went 0-2 down before valiantly working his way into the match and taking it to a deciding game. The fifth was a close fought affair, with Steve just going down 2-3 (7/11 11/13 11/7 11/6 7/11) and leaving Berkshire with a mountain to climb.

Next on court were Tim and Dave (strings one and four). Tim raced to a 2-0 lead playing Keith Frith and despite a minor setback in losing the third, he finished in convincing style to take the match 3-1 (11/9 11/8 6/11 11/0). Dave had no such setback against Damien Smith as he stormed to a 3-0 (11/8 11/7 11/0) win, replicating Tim’s final game bagel and levelling the match.

Last on was the talented pedigree of Stuart at number 2 string, who battled to a hard-fought 3-0 (11/3 11/7 11/8) win vs Matthew Terrell, which was much tougher than the scoreline suggested. For Berkshire, an excellent 3-2 (17-7) win against the potential banana skin of Gloucestershire and a fine start to the weekend.

Next up was Warwickshire. The team got off to a great start with Steve and Rick, playing at numbers five and three, showing their class to win 3-1 (11/5 8/11 11/3 11/9) and 3-0 (11/8 11/6 14/12) against Paul Gibbs and Bruce Hopkin respectively. Stuart at number one and Richard at fourth string followed this up with 3-0 (11/7 11/3 11/9) and 3-1 (11/9 11/8 5/11 11/8) wins of their own vs Nigel Stephens and Graham Stanford.

This left Darren to sew up the victory – he didn’t have it all his own way though, battling back from 0-2 down to win 3-2 courtesy of a fifth game tiebreaker (6/11 2/11 11/9 11/8 12/10). Berkshire taking the match 5-0 (20-4) and the winner’s post was now in sight.

With two wins from the first day, the team knew they had to beat local rivals Oxfordshire on the Sunday to guarantee first place and make it to the finals. Berkshire got off to the best start possible with Steve, up against Jon Bennet, snagging a fairly comfortable 3-0 win (11/5 11/3 15/13) and Dave in commanding form vs Lee Burnighman and returning another 3-0 (11/9 11/5 11/2). A little wobble from Richard, going down to Oxfordshire’s stalwart Robin Sparkes 0-3 (6/11 5/11 8/11) gave the hosts a sniff of victory but this was quickly snuffed out by Darren as he won 3-1 (11/8 12/10 5/11 11/9) against Jeremy Shaylor to wrap up the team win. That just left Tim, grinding out a 3-1 (8/11 11/8 12/10 13/11) result against Steve Rogers to seal a 4-1 (17-5) Berkshire victory and confirm Berkshire’s place at the top table of National Over 45’s squash with a well deserved finals berth.

Excellent performances all round from the players and this means the team looks forward to April, where the finals will be played at Peterborough and Hunts County Squash Clubs. The squad will feel they’re in with a very real chance of a strong showing providing they stay injury free and after this weekend’s display, Berkshire will certainly be opposition the other counties won’t fancy much.

Full results can be found here