Bull's Eye for Victory
Winchester Men's first team kicked off the new season in sensational style, overcoming last season's Hampshire Premier Division champions Trojans 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at Bereweeke Road.
Stefan Stanton stepped up from second team captaincy duties to get the home side off to a flying start, varying his game intelligently and attacking whenever possible to see off Tim Arthur in four games. Winchester's lead was short-lived however as Alex Crouch found himself just edged out by Paul Rawden on the adjoining court, 11-13 in the fourth game. But the home side were soon back on the front foot as England U17 no.2 Adam Corcoran displayed his trademark precision play and relentless court coverage to outmanoeuvre Trojans' Neil Chambers in three straight games.
And so the stage was set for Winchester champion Phill Bull to take on former world Top 150 player Rory Pennell. At first it looked as though Bull would be simply overwhelmed by the quality of Pennell's play as he lost the first two games 5-11 and 7-11. But Bull's intense summer training regime showed its worth as he clawed back the next two games 11-8, 11-6, combining some extraordinary retrieving with a range of wonderfully improvised winning shots. With both players visibly tiring the deciding fifth game see-sawed first one way and then the next but, spurred on by an appreciative home crowd, Bull it was who found something extra to clinch it 11-9 and so secure the winning points for his team.
With the match won, Winchester club coach Gary Hinton battled hard but found himself unable to break down the resistance of Trojans' Phil Nightingale, losing out in four close games. Nonetheless a flying start for Winchester in what looks likely to be an open campaign in which several sides will feel they have a chance of capturing the coveted Hampshire title.