Hallamshire have marked the resumption of the Allam Marine Yorkshire Premier Squash League by transforming it into a two-horse race.
Before the Christmas and New Year break Barnsley looked like firm favourites to lift the trophy, after they opened up a 20-point lead.
However, with Hallamshire awarded a 20-0 walkover in their outstanding fixture against Heaton and then following up with a 17-5 romp at Dunnington this week to cut Barnsley’s advantage to a mere three points, a thrilling second half of the season seems certain.
World No 24 Chris Simpson was the defending champions’ sole winner in a 3-0 defeat of Chris Fuller as Mark Fuller, Alex Cutts, Neil Guirey and Dan Lawrence overcame Gareth Lumsdon, Paul Davis, Ed Shannon and Matthew Stephenson respectively.
Barnsley stayed ahead of their South Yorkshire rivals on account of an even more convincing 20-1 home drubbing of Chapel Allerton, which boosted their points tally to 170.
Only South African Shaun le Roux dropped a game – against Malaysian Nafiizwan Adnan – as Declan James, Tom Bamford, newly-crowned Boston Open champion Millie Tomlinson and Oli Harris cruised to victory against Dom Hamilton, Declan Christie, Pedro Pinto and Phil Young respectively.
Despite their heavy loss, Dunnington hung on to third spot, as fourth-placed Pontefract firsts were also beaten – 15-7 at Queens.
The Halifax club owed their success to wins at the top of the order from James Earles, Matt Sidaway and England assistant coach David Campion over Alex Hodgetts, Taminder Gata Aura and Lewis Doughty.
Former world No 15 Sarah Kippax made her YPSL comeback after having a baby, but it ended in a 3-0 loss to Adam Taylor, while Madeline Perry was also beaten, by Sam Wileman.
However, this week’s fixtures did provide joy at last for Pontefract’s second team, as they recorded their first win of the season by a 16-9 margin at home to Heaton, who consequently slumped to the bottom of the table.
Malaysian teenagers Eain Yow Ng and Ong Sai Hung combined with 18-year-old English hope Patrick Rooney to steer Ponte to victory by beating Julian Tomlinson, Isaac Rawcliffe and Stuart Macgregor.
Matthew Powell and Phil Bowker ensured a tight finish, though, by defeating Matt Godson and Ben Hodgetts 3-1.
In the week’s other fixture, eighth-placed Hull and East Riding scored a 16-8 home win over fifth-placed Abbeydale.
The crucial rubbers here were at four and five, with Glyn Saunders and Yusef Forster both triumphing 3-0 against Sam Watts and Murray Scott to back up Harry Falconer’s 3-2 win over Matthew Broadberry at first string.