Last season a combination of David Melrose, Gary McDougal, Louis McLeod, Craig Linton & Tony Brentnall had gone all the way to the final and lifted the trophy. This year's random generator machine introduced by our Ex Treasurer, Craig J, had put together David, Craig & Krzysztof in the first round. With Krys being unavailable this time, in stepped one of our defending champions, Gary, as they faced West Lothian at Ladywood. The Bathgate side comprised a trio of positive handicapped players and when Penicuik raced into a 4-1 lead the match looked like being over in double quick fashion. After two consecutive wins for the visitors, however, nerves were starting to jangle a little as the final matches got underway. Gary took on Tommy Hamill (0-9 to 17) in Match 8 and what a game it was - fitting that it went to a deciding fifth end, not so fitting that that last end saw Gary fall to a heavy defeat. 4-4, time running out rapidly and we had a female caretaker in charge which meant we couldn't even lock her in a cupboard as we had earlier in the season with her male counterpart! David v Martin Rumsey (0-11 to 21) was the final match of the night and it had to go to five ends didn't it! The handicaps were pretty accurate - 21-19, 20-22 and 23-21 saw David take a 2-1 lead. But Martin fought hard and won the fourth 21-13. The stage was set for a nail-biting finish and unfortunately, as with Gary's match, the fifth end went the way of the visitors who secured a nerve-racking 5-4 victory. Has anyone seen the Handicap Cup Trophy? We'll be needing it back soon!
After a terrific win in the previous round Colin Green, Abby Wighton & Rachel Petrie stayed together as they took on Murrayfield 5. Unfortunately for them, their adventure came to an end for this season as they fell to a 5-3 defeat. We are shamefully going to steal Charlie Ellis' report on this match (only subject to correcting his grammar!) which is in the following terms:
Team 5 (Stuart Wilson, Derek Hamilton & Charlie Ellis) made it through to the quarter finals of the ELTTL Handicap Cup via a battling win versus Penicuik 4 (Colin, Abby & Rachel) at Ladywood. The match started promisingly for the away side with Stuart Wilson landing with some good swats to lead Colin 2-1; Colin recovered in typical fashion to win the 4th and 5th sets with some ease. Crucial to the win was the contribution of Derek who answered the call to play at the last minute and produced two vital wins, starting off with a 3-1 win versus Abby to level the match a 1-1. Key was probably his 3-2 win against Rachel, in a match of evenly handicapped players (+7 vs +6). After Derek cruised to a 2-0 lead , Rachel came back well and was generally ahead in the decider. A cruel net dribbler from Derek at deuce helped him scrape over the line and give Murrayfield a 4-2 lead (Rachel had lost out in a similarly close one against Charlie - the net again assisting Murrayfield at the conclusion).
Charlie seemed to be on course to close out the match, as he lead Abby 2-0. However Abby (armed with useful tactical suggestions from Tom Mackenzie - a rare sighting of the Penicuik coach in the UK!) came back to force a decider as her attacking play pushed Charlie back from the table. Charlie, who was running on empty after two long matches (& too much ping pong training the night before), was given a boost from a chunk of chocolate (cheers Stuart): he got off to a good start in the 5th and concluded the match with a 25-20 scoreline. (the match between Rachel & Stuart had started so was played to a conclusion). An excellent match with the closeness of the games further evidence of the accuracy of the handicaps.
PTTC 1 had secured a narrow victory in the previous round but with Hannah McDonell unavailable, Kristian Skotzen stepped in to join James Wighton and Sonny Taylor as they travelled to take on another Murrayfield side. The match didn't get off to the best of starts as Sonny realised that he had picked up his dad's bat rather than his own. We won't put into print how Julian's bat was described for fear of offence being caused to our readers! They took on Jingu Kang, Arjun Singh & Masoud Nowbaveh. James was disappointed as he failed to overturn a 0-9 deficit v Jingu in Match 1 and Sonny couldn't get used to dad's bat quick enough as he lost the second match to Arjun. Kristian v Masoud was to prove critical. Kristian had chances in end 4 to finish the match but agonisingly lost out 18-16. In the fifth a little tension sneaked into the arm and mistakes cost him the match. A four end victory for Arjun over James then gave the hosts a commanding 4-0 lead. Was there any way back for the visitors? There was a glimmer of hope as Kristian and Sonny then reduced the gap to 4-2 before Kristian succumbed to Arjun, who was, by far, the player of the Match with his three wins for the hosts?
So only one team left to salvage a terrible week - Greig McDonell, Julian Taylor and George Wilson travelled to Bathgate where they took on Keith MacKay, Richard Masterson and Jim Stewart. The first match saw Julian take on Richard (3-0 to 14) - three of the five ends went to deuce. The decider saw Julian hold his nerve for a 16-14 win. Greig then gave Jim a 15 point start in a race to 23. When Jim hit his first shot (a backhand winner down the line) Greig was left cursing whoever made up the handicaps. However, he battled on and despite a 23-10 hammering in end 3, he levelled the match with a 23-21 win in end four - that seemed to knock the stuffing out of Jim as Greig dug in to win the decider 23-18. Matches 3 and 4 were played simultaneously - George almost made his 6 point advantage count but in yet another 5 ender, he lost out 17-15 after having been caught at 11-11 before he played his best TT of the night. Jim v Julian also went to five ends. When Julian scraped through 13-10 in the fifth the match score stood at 3-1. With time marching on, for the fifth consecutive match 5 ends were required - this time George lost out narrowly to Richard and when Keith wasted no time in putting Greig away in three the match was tied at 3-3. Julian v Keith and George v Jim were next on with Captain Greig praying for two wins to avoid him having to play Richard in a ninth match decider. Under strange circumstances, George gave Penicuik the fourth win of the night (more on that later) and then Julian rounded off his excellent undefeated night with a four end victory over Keith. 5-3 in the end for the visitors but this match could easily have gone the other way.
Player of the Week Award this week is surely the easiest one of the season - only one player had an undefeated night in the Handicap Cup and that resulted in a win for our Team in Bathgate - despite George wanting the award for his "strangest" win of the season there really is no competition this week - well done to Julian.
Our Controversy of the Week is a good one! Our visit to West Lothian saw us embroiled in a really entertaining tight match. With the scores tied at 3-3, George faced off in his last match against a fellow Division 3 player The overall match was in the balance and in the first few points George became a little vocal regarding his own play. At about 5-6 in points, the home Umpire called a let for a ball that he thought he saw come into the court just as George was in control of the rally - there was no ball in the Court and George pointed that out to the Umpire (Where's the ball??). Umpire apologised for his error but point had to be replayed - George then whacked his return of serve into the net, shouted at himself and generally looked moody! His opponent then asked what the problem was to be told by George "nothing - let's play". I'm not playing in this atmosphere says the WL player. George then attempted to explain to his opponent that he was angry at himself, no one else and once again said let's get on with it. Having none of it the WL player inexplicably indicated he was going to concede the match! What? Really? No one on the other table (nor the umpire) could really believe what was happening as they tried to continue with their game. With George's teammates playing and umpiring the other match with no clear view of what was going on, they overheard the best line of the week come from George in response to the offer of a concession - "Ok thanks - I'll take it!!" A shake of hands followed!
The "discussion" continued until Greig (umpiring the other match) asked the pair of protagonists to leave the hall if they wanted to continue their "friendly chat" so match 8 could proceed without interruption. They both remained to support their teammates but with that win for George, Julian's win then secured the overall victory. At the end of the match, we asked the Bathgate player why he had conceded - I play for fun came his response - I don't like playing in bad atmospheres! Wow! Honourable? Don't be ridiculous! That was the craziest decision we've ever seen in a match which was clearly in the balance and we couldn't help but point out to the Bathgate player that it was a good job he hadn't been a member of the away team - whether you play for fun or not doing that to your teammates who were trying their hearts out and wanting the chance of a decider was utterly ludicrous!! This fun game we play is about having some talent but as with all sports your mindset has to be right - you have to be able to cope with what comes from the opponent and lots of times block out what your opponent is up to. Maybe he remembered that George had beaten him 3 straight in the League earlier in the season and just fancied an early finish! Crazy stuff.
Away from the Handicap Cup, the Heriot Watt story rumbles on and on. We're beginning to think people do actually read this piece after we saw various exchanges between a couple of Clubs and the League Match Secretary which raised the same points we made in last week's Report! The main issue remains that the promotion of the HW side is conditional upon them completing all of their Div 3 fixtures and, more than that, winning them all comfortably by no less than 8-2 seemingly!! As we pointed out last week, we had stupidly fallen into that trap of thinking that a promotion which was conditional upon another event happening meant that event had to happen before the promotion would be ratified - silly us - the condition doesn't need to be fulfilled until.........?????? The end of the season maybe?? Who knows - what is for sure is that it is not conditional upon HW completing their Div 3 fixtures before they start playing their Div 1 fixtures - what an absolute load of nonsense!
Rather than compromising in any way with suggestions made by a couple of Clubs, we are told that if HW don't win their last 3 fixtures handsomely then the Match Secretary will resign from his post! Really?? So now we have the promotion of HW and the Match Secretary's position conditional upon the results from 3 outstanding fixtures in Division 3! Crazy stuff. The other issue which has been fudged is what the promotion and relegation situation will be - the response to a direct query regarding this was in the following terms:
"Promotion and relegation will BROADLY (our emphasis) remain two up and two down". The word broadly has never been used before. What does that mean? It was then pointed out that the composition of the Divisions will depend on the number of teams entered next season etc. That of course is true but what we need clarity on is the simple question posed by our friends from North Merchiston and Edinburgh International - will promotion and relegation remain two up and two down across the divisional structure - surely that can't be a difficult question to answer!
2019 is coming to an end - eventful as ever this ELTTL business - we wouldn't change a thing and can we make our position clear - we have nothing but admiration and appreciation for all the hard work that certain people put in every year to make the League run smoothly. Every amateur organisation needs committed and dedicated individuals and we are most grateful to those who give their time so we can then play the game we love. As for Mr Benjamin's silly suggestion that he will resign - we would hate that to happen - not only is Ken Ben a good friend to the Club, a dedicated member of the league committee and an all-round nice guy but if he resigned our write ups would be much less enjoyable!
Merry Xmas to all our friends (including some from Fife) and best wishes for 2020 from all at PTTC.