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Forres make winning return to the Highlands and Islands squash league with victory over Speedy Pancakes from Nairn

By Craig Christie

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With the easing of Covid restrictions, Forres welcomed the return to competition in the Highlands & Islands Squash Association (HISA) league.

Phil Taylor gets in front of Benjamin Dudley
Phil Taylor gets in front of Benjamin Dudley

First game back meant a short journey along the A96 to Nairn for their opening fixture of the 2021-22 campaign.

Laying in wait was Nairn team Speedy Pancakes, a team full of exuberant teenagers getting rave reviews for their stylish, well-coached play.

Draw, Forres names first:

Seed 1: Graeme Spreng v Zak Paton

2. Robbie Watson v Murray Donald

3. Billy Montgomery v Alexander Dudley

4. Phil Taylor v Benjamin Dudley

The fourth seed match pitched Phil Taylor against young gun Benjamin Dudley.

Benjamin Dudley (left) and Phil Taylor fought out the opening match.
Benjamin Dudley (left) and Phil Taylor fought out the opening match.

Dudley was straight on his game as Taylor struggled with the hot courts and the lively bounce of the ball.

The Nairn youngster took the first game in style 11-7. Taylor recovered well from this setback and adapting his game he was now on the front foot racing to an 11-3 win to draw level 1-1.

Dudley was now looking slightly deflated and as his error count increased, and without further ado Taylor took the next two games 11-4 and 11-8 to take the match 3-1.

Next on court was Billy Montgomery against Alexander Dudley. Would teenager Alexander be inspired by the good showing of brother Benjamin in the first match?

Monty started well and teenager Dudley was a bit tight on his game as his Forres opponent raced to an 11-5 victory.

The next game saw Dudley right back at the races, playing some excellent squash, as he forced the veteran Montgomery to extra points. But Monty kept his head and snuck this one 12-10.

The Nairn lad again played well in the third but Monty took an early points advantage and kept it all the way to win out 11-7, taking the match 3-0. Forres were now 2-0 up in matches with two to play.

Robbie Watson now entered the squash arena to face the challenge of teenager Murray Donald. Would Watson’s squash be as blinding as his canary yellow top?

Robbie Watson (left) and Murray Donald on the court.
Robbie Watson (left) and Murray Donald on the court.

Donald showed great energy and some fine length and drive but the wily match play of Watson was edging the percentages as he took the first 11-7.

Watson kept the concentration level in the next two games and no doubt he had to as Donald was always right on his tail.

The match craft of the Forres man was telling in the end and he took the next two games 11-5 and 11-7. This 3-0 match win meant Forres now had an unassailable 3-0 match advantage on the night.

All eyes now shifted to the last contest of the night.

Could Forres number one seed Graeme Spreng put the icing on the cake against Zak 'Attack' Paton, the 11-year-old Nairn squash sensation who is currently Scotland U13 number one?

Scottish junior star Zak Paton (11) was too slick for Forres number one Graeme Spreng.
Scottish junior star Zak Paton (11) was too slick for Forres number one Graeme Spreng.

As the slight figure of Paton took to the court it looked like man against boy as the contenders spun for serve. Looks can be deceiving right? Yes they can.

Paton started like a whirling dervish, full of attack, precision and speed. It was jaw dropping stuff as a stunned Spreng went down 11-5.

Hopes of a Spreng revival were quashed in the second, the Forres player was better but still this outstanding youngster got the better of him 11-6.

Zak Paton (front) rocks Graeme Spreng back on his heels.
Zak Paton (front) rocks Graeme Spreng back on his heels.

The third was better from the Forres number one and he was edging this one and leading 10-6 and held four game points - surely this game was his?

Paton saw it differently and with nerves of steel drew level 10-10 and then took the game 12-10 in extra points.

Spreng will not sleep easy on reflection of that game. The outstanding Paton had played some jaw dropping squash and had taken the final match of the night 3-0 for Nairn.

All-in-all, Forres headed home glad to be back playing league squash post-lockdown and satisfied with an away win in Nairn 3-1 in matches, 9-4 on points.

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