Westfield C vs Mens Feathers, 15 March 2014

Westfield C 7 – 2 Oakbrook

James S & Simon T | Ben A & Aamir K | Jack E & Ben J

A few ‘firsts’ from this match, as we were unable to follow up our excellent 7-2 win at home with a win away.

Sadly it’s not the first time that captain Simon has had only two of his regular team available for a match – with a mix of injuries and work commitments, only he and Aamir were available. But on this occasion none of the second team were available either, so it was the first time that the feathers team was filled two thirds with players more often seen playing for our third team in Plastics Division 4.

Another ‘first’ that was achieved before the match even started was the presence of all six Oakbrook players, ready to play, five minutes early at the start of the match. Punctuality not being a strong suit of ours usually, it was a pleasant stress-free change for Simon – regular team take note!

Westfield’s team were mostly super-trained kids, whose near-perfect footwork and racquet skills stood in sore contrast to our team’s collection of self-taught, make-it-up-as-you-go-along playing styles. This was most obvious against their first pair, where the whole Oakbrook team struggled to get momentum in any game. Usually we rely on youngsters making a decent number of errors to counteract their annoyingly good movement and skill, but there weren’t many to be seen, and between the six of us, we lost in straight sets 70-126 overall.

Their third pair contained their only adult, combining with a twelve-year-old: described by his coach as “one to watch for the future”. We weren’t that bothered about the future, as we were struggling plenty with the present. Probably our height and strength gave us a slight advantage over him, but this was of minimal help when his partner was a strong player too and lacking in neither height nor strength! The two of them together provided more stiff opposition, and although James and Simon went close, being 17-17 in one game before Simon turned useless and hit everything out, the Oakbrook combined attempt again ended in straight sets defeat for a total of 84-126. Nice as it would be to say that’s the first time our pairs have been beaten by a twelve-year-old, it’s not true!

Our only success came against their second pair, where there were two more ‘firsts’. It was the first time we’ve ever played against someone in the national team – in this case Jack Shephard, who is part of the England National Para-badminton squad and has won medals at international competitions. What he lacked in height he made up for with some deft shots and dedication to the cause – the ‘diving net shot winner’ is something the rest of us might consider adding to our repertoire. Partnered with another of Westfield’s youngsters, they took a 21-18 lead in the first rubber before Ben and Aamir made their size count, and went on to win it 18-21, 21-12, 21-11. James and Simon had a relatively comfortable 21-17, 21-16 win, but the match-up of the day was the very last rubber with Jack and Ben. The Oakbrook pair made a good start, taking a narrow 21-19 victory in the first game. This was matched by a 19-21 loss in the second. The third game was an epic with great play by both sides. As the score rose, the mistakes started to creep in, and a tense finish saw defeat for the Oakbrook partnership, 28-30 – the first time our team has had a game go to 30.

So overall a 2-7 loss, which, combined with our 7-2 home win, makes it a friendly 9-9 draw on aggregate against Westfield this season. Many thanks to James, Ben, Jack and Ben for playing for us when no-one else would, and to Aamir for not being injured or at work. Only two matches left for the feathers team now, both against Brunswick C team, which will undoubtedly be a challenge to end the season.

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