Mens 2 v's Beaver Hill (A) - 9/11/12

After an opening defeat away to Graves, Mens 2 picked up their campaign with a tough road trip to Beaver Hill at Springs Leisure Centre.  The opponents finishing in mid table last season but with wins at home against everybody apart from the two sides who were eventually to be promoted.  The scouting report had come back from Mens 1, advising us to expect a team with three pairs of varying standards, including a father and son pair who last season took unbeaten Mens 1 stalwarts Sam and Ferg to 3 ends before ultimately succumbing.  The captain told us they are a side who can struggle to put out three pairs so their performances last season were likely to be better than results indicated.  Beaver Hill had already two nine-nil victories to their name this season, though had lost away to Phoenix, so this would no doubt be a tough encounter.

Captain Steve had returned from his sabbatical in the Canadian Wilderness and recalled himself to the team along with Alastair who also missed the first game, with Ranmoor reverting back to six of the players who did so well last season.  Trying to put a mixture of power, craft and experience in each pair, Ranmoor went with Richard & Jamie, Alastair & Jethron, Steve & Deepak.
 
Despite the website advising that 2 courts would be in use, dropping to 1, it turns out all 3 courts were available for the match all night long, so there was no time to watch other pairs, nor to pick up little stories for the match report!!  The author was also last one off in each set of games so didn’t see one minute of the other games – as a result this report has to feature more on the score and less on the anecdotes, so sorry for that team!
 
Captain Steve put himself and Deepak straight out against the strongest father and son pair, but this backfired as they were cold, nervous and were far off their best.  In the first game, they were blown away 21-7. Steve was playing “like a mongoose” according to himself (how does a mongoose play badminton anyway?), and the second game improved, but were still way behind facing 8 game points until a late rally on Deepak’s serve secured 7 straight points before a flick serve saw a smash winner for a 21-19 win for Beaver Hill’s top pair.  This pair did not take their foot off the gas, and secured a 3-0 straight ends evening with wins over Rich & Jamie to 11 and 14, then finally to Jethron & Alastair to 10 and 13.  Sometimes, to use a tennis expression, you have to say “too good”, and this pair were just that, with the young star looking to have a decent future in the game.

Captain Steve playing in the Mongoose league over the summer...
The oppositions second pair proved to be the weakest of the three, and started against Jethron & Alastair with Ranmoor’s placement and power proving too much and we secured a win to 10 and 7.  Steve & Deepak were next up, and started in the slow and cold manner of their first game, struggling to find rhythm and having to dig deep, but we edged a 24-22 victory with a few “come ons” from Steve yelled at himself in true tennis fashion.  This released the pressure valve and for the first time in the night they were more like their old selves, winning the second end easily 21-12.  Rich & Jamie then played this pair last, and matched their team mates with a stronger second game, winning to 16 and 10.
 
The match was therefore to be decided by performances against the middle pair of Beaver Hill, with the top pair proving too good, and the other pair facing 3 defeats.  The middle pair were the wily captain and a younger man possessing a nice combination of power, touch, mobility and deception.
 
Rich & Jamie played this pair first, and the first end was a tight affair, and could have gone either way, but Beaver Hill edged it 21-18 and then won the second end much more easily 21-9. Jethron & Alastair played this pair next but also struggled to find too many weaknesses and were eased aside 21-10 and 21-11.  Finally Steve & Deepak took on this pair knowing the match was Ranmoors if they won the last round of games.  This game proved a huge tussle and by the end all other players were huddled around with their coats on ready to go!  We were playing much more like our normal selves now with far fewer errors, and were edged in the first game 21-17 but fought back and took the second end 21-15.  The third end was the only third end of the night for any pair, and this was a seesaw back and forth with good rapport and two lets permitted by the opposition without argument, which we appreciated.  With Alastair coming to keep score to keep himself awake as the shadows lengthened, Beaver Hill played some majestic stuff at the death to edge it 21-18.
 
The final result was a 6-3 win for Beaver Hill. Well done to them, and thanks for being so friendly and accommodating.
 
Man of the Match? Probably a guilty vote this one, but goes to Deepak for getting to at least 17 points in all games apart from one, and for taking the middle pair to three ends.  He must have a sore ear from Captain Steve’s voice in it all night trying to insist on short serves, so well done our little magic man for sticking at it and nearly getting that second point!!
 
Reflections on the night?  This level is a big step up from the Division below with few of us having played much in Div 3, and the noticeable difference is the experience of some of the players who may have played at this level for 20+ years, and the much lower unforced error count.  Patience proves quite rewarding with the opposition trying to tease the other players into the wrong shot at the wrong time.  Mid court lifts are swiftly punished and trying to hit a quick winner often doesn’t work as the shuttle comes back more often, so the side that keeps their head and plays calmly under pressure are likely to come out on top.  The cold hall and fast court was a factor too in this instance.  As a result, we can’t be hard on ourselves for the defeat, we just need to find a way to rise to this new standard, which we will!  Just wait till we get these sides back to Ecclesfield!