On Friday the 2nd of January we drove from Conwy in North Wales to David Lloyd in Chorley, near Manchester. We were immediately impressed by the professional feel of the club, where Laura Massaro (currently 3rd in the world with a highest wsa ranking of 2 and many world titles) bases herself along with her husband, Daniel Massaro, and her brother who is the head coach, Chris Lengthorn.. There are indoor tennis courts which the guys had a go on, 3 glass-back squash courts, spa and pool facilities and a restaurant serving some much needed health foods. We were generously allowed the use of all the club's facilities before and after our fixture.
The team we faced was Daniel Massaro at 1, Chris Lengthorn at 2, Laura Massaro at 3, Julian Tomlinson at 4 and Dan Turner at 5. All of these players train at David Lloyd but 2 of them play for different clubs to get to play higher up in the leagues. Dan and Charl both lost in 3 and we realized we were up against it. Michael played Laura in a very closely contested 5 setter where he came out on top in the 5th. Kyle played a very clinical player in Chris, making Kyle move all over the court. The match went to 5 but Kyle went down and the fixture was unfortunately lost. Stef went on against Dan Massaro, a grafter who moved Stef relentlessly around the court and did not make many mistakes. Stef lost in 3 and we received our worst loss of the tour 4-1. We took a lot away from it however, and noticed how well their players were able to absorb pressure and pace and then dish it out when they were on the front foot again.
We had a lovely healthy dinner and a good chat with the team. Chris told us that their team had a financial benefactor who agreed to sponsor them for a season for anything they needed, as long as they won the league. Apparently they were well clear of 2nd place on the log and the plan was working well. It's amazing what can be achieved with some financial backing and incentives!
We were hosted at the 'squash house' co-owned by Laura and Chris. Julian and another top player from the club, Ashley Davies, lived there permanently and we stayed with them. Julian taught Kyle how to string racquets using the machine and Kyle strung his prince and Dan's Harrow. Charl had a room to himself, Mike and Dan roomed together and Stef and Kyle took to the makeshift beds of pillows in the lounge. Dan was so sick after the knock on effects of the past few days that Mike thought it would be a better idea to move downstairs to the lounge to avoid catching the same flu. After all those nights out, it was both a relief and a disappointment to hear the following day that our match at the famous Pontefract club was not going to happen. We don't know exactly why it didn't happen and we never heard back from Mr Malcolm Willstrop afterwards. The courts at Pontefract had not been booked, we were told by the club's front desk, and Malcolm was unreachable.
Dan was sick in bed for the whole day after the Chorley fixture after we were able to spend another night at the squash house thankfully. We could use the club to freshen up and eat the next day too. The world darts championship was on tv's and in the news and we all began to follow the tournament in the quarter and semi final stages. The guys became experts with the scoring and tactics of the interesting sport!
We had a lot to learn from and take away from the Chorley fixture. Winning matches with clever play, little risk and good pressure management seemed to be what this strong outfit of a team did best and we could all try to emulate this in our games going forward.
Thanks to Chris, Laura, Dan, Julian and Ashley for the match and hospitality, especially the next day when the Knights had nowhere to go!
Knights Lost 1-4
4-11 4-11 4-11
8-11 11-4 8-11 11-9 5-11
14-12 7-11 7-11 11-4 11-5
7-11 2-11 7-11
6-11 5-11 5-11