Doubles pairings make the difference as York draw with Hallam


Images: Andy Davis

The men’s badminton firsts team were indebted to their doubles pairings as they picked up their first point of the season against Sheffield Hallam today. Despite losing all four singles matches, York twice came from behind to draw a pulsating match 4-4.

York were looking to bounce back from two heavy defeats in the opening games of the season, but they started poorly as Dan Hirst was beaten comprehensively by Mark Pratt (21-7, 21-7). The Hallam man was dominant from the outset, showing the quality of his all-round game to dispatch Hirst with ease.

In the second singles tie of the day, Hallam’s Matt Steel was also a comfortable winner against Tan Jun Chuen. Much like his teammate, Steel raced into an early lead and took the first set 21-4, and although Chuen improved dramatically in the second, it wasn’t enough to prevent his opponent winning it 21-17.

The home side were in need of a comeback in the first round of doubles action, and the team of Jonty Hiley and Andy Henderson helped provide it by defeating Taigh Connor-Watson and Robbie McDonald (21-17, 21-17). In a high-quality encounter, it was Hiley who made the difference, playing superbly from the back of the court and showing great composure at match point to allow McDonald’s lob to drift just wide of the line.

The match was level at 2-2 after the next game, as Baillie Watterson and Tom Dainty beat Hallam’s James Lait and James Abdous. Team captain Watterson was in lethal form and it was his net-play that enabled York to take a tough first set 21-17, followed by a more comfortable 21-11 in the second.

But as the singles matches returned so did the Hallam victories. This time, Hirst put in a brave performance against Steel, but the Hallam player showed enough skill at the net to take a tight match 21-18, 21-18.

Mark Pratt was on fine form again as he faced off against Chuen; the York man put in a solid effort but Pratt’s superiority was evident and he won 21-11, 21-6.

York would now have to win the remaining doubles fixtures to avoid a third straight defeat, but Watterson stepped up once more to keep his side in with a chance. The York captain controlled the tempo of the match from the outset, as he and Dainty beat Connor-Watson and McDonald 21-12, 21-8.

It was now up to Hiley and Henderson to rescue a point against Lait and Abdous in the day’s final encounter. The York duo took a tight first set and would go on to win the tie in style (21-16, 21-11), gaining a valuable draw for their side in the process.

Afterwards, York captain Watterson felt the match had gone according to plan, even if his side couldn’t manage a win. He said, “It was exactly how we wanted it – we knew that we wouldn’t win any of the singles. We needed to try and take points off them rather than beat them, so I’m very happy.”

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