The Ashman Cometh
Winchester Veterans first team earned a crucial early season victory at local rivals Fair Oak. A much strengthened Fair Oak team had given notice of their intentions the previous week with a resounding 3-0 victory over last season's Premier Division champions Trojans, so the Bereweeke Road side knew they would be in for a tough battle.
Things were not looking promising for Winchester as captain George Kousseff was outgunned by Fair Oak's Dave Brierley in straight games. And when new boy Phil Ashman (pictured) stepped on court and found himself 0-6 down in the first game against John Merriman, the writing appeared to be on the wall. But the extraordinarily fit Ashman, who had completed the gruelling Clarendon half-marathon just 24 hours earlier, was only just warming up. Playing immaculate length and error-free squash, he clawed his way back to take the game 9-7, and swiftly followed this up with the second game 9-2. However Merriman is not a man to lie down easily and, varying the pace of his game and scampering all over the court to retrieve the ball, he pulled back the next two games to take the match into a decider. By now the momentum was firmly with Fair Oak man and he raced into a 5-0 lead, only for Ashman to claw his way back level once again. With both players fully committed to the cause, Ashman it was who found the final back wall nick to clinch the fifth game 9-7 - but a magnificent match from which both players can take enormous credit.
And so it fell to the remarkable Jon Foster to take on Fair Oak's summer signing Paul Trott to decide the match. The British Over 50 finalist has not lost a Hampshire Veterans match in five years and, in what could have been a testing encounter, was simply too strong for Trott, playing a mixture of clinging drives, precise drops and wrong-footing boasts to run out a comfortable 3-0 winner.
So a hard fought but very valuable victory for Winchester who, with the other title contenders all beating each other, find themselves the only undefeated Premier team just three weeks into the season.