Lincoln’s Josh Lambert takes on Nottingham’s Sam Jones.

The University of Lincoln’s men’s squash firsts fell to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the University of Nottingham men’s thirds at the sports centre.

Nottingham, the league leaders who were also a man light powered their way into a 3-1 lead early on yesterday; Sam Jones, Ivan Parslow and Toby Palmer all defeating their respective opponents 3-0.

Then, in a thrilling final match, Lincoln’s Andy Oram recovered from a 2-0 deficit to take the final set 3-2, adding some respectability to the score.

Nottingham arrived boasting a 100% record, having won all nine of their previous matches. They beat De Montfort University firsts 4-1 last time out.

Lincoln meanwhile found themselves blowing hot and cold. Their last home match saw them thrash the University of Derby’s firsts 5-0. However, that was followed by a 5-0 defeat to the University of Warwick’s thirds.

Lincoln were awarded a free point prior to the clash, as a result of the visitors bringing on four players.

Lincoln’s Josh Lambert takes on Nottingham’s Sam Jones.
Lincoln’s Josh Lambert takes on Nottingham’s Sam Jones.

The first set saw Lincoln’s Josh Lambert take on Nottingham’s Sam Jones. The visitors took an early foothold in the match, courtesy of Jones’s tenacious forehand drives that Lambert found difficult to return. Jones steamrolled into a 6-1 lead, going on to take the first game 11-7.

Jones’ power showed no sign of ceasing as the second match got underway. The Nottingham man’s unpredictable drives continued to make life difficult for Lambert, who found it tough to halt Jones’ rhythm. He powered into a 6-2 lead, before collecting the remaining five points needed to double his advantage.

The third game in the set followed a familiar pattern. The sharper Jones found himself 5-0 up, before Lambert started to mount a comeback. Finding success with the backhand, the Lincoln man drew the scores to 5-8 at one stage, before Jones steadied himself and took the game 11-6. This pulled Nottingham level at 1-1 overall.

The next set pitted Joshua Maddison of Lincoln up against Ivan Parslow of Nottingham on court four. It was a cagey opening in the first match, both opponents eying each other up and mentally noting down their areas of strength and weakness. Parslow’s hit a speculative forehand to put himself 5-4 up and never looked back from there, using excellent shot variety to take the first game 11-6.

Parslow, donning the green of Nottingham’s kit utilised his agility to take control of the second game, going 6-1 up. There was a brief flicker of a Lincoln comeback, Maddison bringing the game to 3-8 on one occasion before Parslow secured a 4-11 victory.

The third game in the set started similarly to the first; it was a tentative opening. A superb power shot from the edge of the court that saw the East Midlands outfit go 4-3 in front and from there they drove through to victory. They took a 2-1 lead overall, winning the final game of this set 11-2.

Lincoln’s Jarek Grebenik then took on the visitor’s Toby Palmer in the third match, back on court three. Palmer’s court craft was the catalyst for victory here, the Nottingham man utilised his low centre of gravity and manoeuvred around the court gracefully. Yet at the same time, striking shots with devastating power and accuracy.

He soared into a 6-2 lead and held off late pressure from Grebenik to take the first game 11-5.

The second game followed a similar narrative, Palmer continued to glide around the court picking clever, intelligent shots forcing his opponent to overextend when attempting to return them. Nottingham raced 5-0 in front and kept their foot firmly pressed down on the gas pedal, accelerating to an 11-3 victory.

The third match began with a riveting rally. Palmer looked to be tiring ever so slightly and Grebenik, wearing his trademark No 99 shirt was able to predict where the ball would rebound to. The Lincoln man, hit a lovely dink shot that brought the score to 2-3, before Palmer pushed on again, collecting three unanswered points, bringing the score to 6-2. The Nottingham man then held on to secure an 11-3 win, bringing the overall score to 3-1. This ensured their winning run would continue regardless of the final match’s conclusion.

In that final set, the host’s Andy Oram faced off against Marios Puocopiou of Nottingham.

Puocopiou looked sharp and fast in the opening exchanges, showing good shot variation to obtain an early 8-4 lead and going on to win the first game 11-5.

His speed transcended into the second game and was a major factor in the Nottingham man racing into a 7-0 lead. Oram, the Lincoln captain responded well by striking low and hard drives that troubled Puocopiou, halving the deficit at 8-4 on one occasion. It wasn’t long though until the East Midlander rallied himself and secured an 11-4 victory, mounting a 2-0 lead in games.

In the last home match against Derby Oram found himself in a similar scenario. However, he recovered from losing the first two games to win the final three and claim victory. But could he repeat the feat again?

Oram, got off to a blinding start in the third game soaring into a 6-0 lead, demonstrating good shot imagination and variation. Puocopiou reduced the arrears to 8-4 on one occasion, before Oram secured a pivotal 11-7 victory to halve the overall deficit.

There was a sense in the fourth game that Puocopiou had used up most of his energy as he looked lethargic. His shots lacked the venom that characterised those present in the previous rounds. Oram took advantage of this and with the scores at 4-4, he piled on the pressure and secured a 11-9 win. To do this though he had to fight off a late Nottingham resurgence from the tiring Puocopiou to level the set at 2-2.

Oram’s momentum from consecutive victories in the previous two games was in full flow in the final match. He looked fitter, faster and powered home this advantage. With the game balanced, again, at 4-4, Oram seized the moment and went for the jugular. His impressive footwork and shot power were enough to take the final game 11-7, winning the final set 3-2. Although it had no impact on the overall score, it did add a touch of respect to the final standings.

After the match, Lincoln captain Andy Oram said: “It was very disappointing.”

“We had very hard games, they are number one so we expected it to be hard, but we tried our best and one of four pulled through.”

FINAL SCORE: University of Lincoln 2-3 University of Nottingham