Team 1’s last match before the festive break was made much simpler by their opponents, Corstorphine 2, showing up with only two players. Greig McDonell, David Melrose and Iain Johnstone didn’t lose an end as they racked up a straightforward 10-0 victory, a win which confirmed their spot at the top of the Division 1 table at the conclusion of the first half of the season.
Team 2 faced an important trip to Corstorphine 1 for a battle at the wrong end of the Division 1 table. Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, Gary McDougal and Charlie Brindley know they are in a bit of a battle to get away from the relegation zone and with Fife securing a surprise win against North Merchiston 3 to lift them of the foot of the table, this match was even more important. It transpired that the reason Corstorphine 2 were understrength against Team 1 was that one of their normal trio was playing up in this match! This really was one of those matches which could have been anything from a 7-3 defeat to a 7-3 win. Corstorphine’s top man, Stan Stoodley squeezed through in 5 against Charlie in match 1 before Krzysztof levelled the scores and Gary managed a 12-10 in the fifth win in match 3. When Charlie then won match 4 in five ends the signs were positive for the visitors as they led 3-1. Stan reduced the deficit and match 6 was then to prove pivotal. Team 2’s Dave Hall v Krzysztof – renewing their battle from a couple of weeks ago. The match see-sawed one way then the other, 11-6, 7-11, 11-5, 9-11 – the final end went all the way as Dave proved the importance of missing his Team 2 match with an 11-9 victory in the fifth. 3-3 going into the doubles and a comfortable win for the home side gave them their first lead since match 1 on the night. The Midlothian side, however, bounced back with wins in 4 ends for Charlie and Gary. The difference on the night was Corstorphine’s number 1, Stan – he completed an undefeated night in Match 10 as the spoils were shared between the teams, a 5-5 draw not really the result either team wanted but, in the end, probably a better point for Penicuik than for the hosts. Five teams within two points of each other at the foot of the Division 1 table with Team 2 a point clear of the relegation zone as the Christmas break arrives. It’s going to be a tough and nervy 2ndhalf of the season for Team 2.
Team 3’s Division 2 campaign has been somewhat up and down in the first half of the season and their last three matches have been tight anxious affairs (two 5-5 draws and a 6-4 win). They hosted Murrayfield 7 at Ladywood in need of a boost before the festive break. James and Abby Wighton were joined by Ian Hislop and when James squeezed home 11-9 in the fifth in Match 1, it looked like this was going to be another tense, close encounter. Abby, however, had other ideas as she didn’t drop a set in singles play and by the end of Match 6 the tie was over, 6-0 to Penicuik. Abby and Ian combined for the doubles win and with 5 and 4 end victories for Ian and James respectively in Matches 9 and 10 the whitewash was complete. A terrific result for the hosts and their promotion chances are just about still alive, 4 points behind 2ndplace as the first half of the season ends.
Like Team 1, Team 5’s night was made all the more straightforward as their opponents, North Merchiston 6 could only muster a two-player team for their Division 4 match. John Bald, Craig Johnson and Stuart Bennett knew that a win would guarantee top spot in the division and the result was never in doubt as the hosts made quick work of their opponents with a 9-1 victory, young Kai Hely providing the solitary win for the visitors. So, a terrific return for Team 5 in their quest for promotion but they know they will probably have to play just as well, if not even better, in the 2ndhalf of the season in what is probably the tightest of all 5 divisions. 7thplace is only 4 points behind the second automatic promotion spot and with the top 6 or 7 teams all capable of beating each other, this looks like being a battle for promotion which could go all the way to the last week of the season.
And finally, in Week 14, Team 6 played their second consecutive Derby match as they visited Team 7. Team 7 were on a high after their win over WL 8 the previous week but with other commitments (or as some at the Club saw it, a desire to protect his average), Team 7’s top man, George Wilson sat this one out. Phil Daly, Kristian Skotzen and Hannah McDonell therefore hosted Team 6 of Louis McLeod, Rachel Petrie and Craig Linton. Louis has, without doubt, been Team 6’s rock in the first half of the season with 25 out of 30 wins going into this match. Team 7 without Captain George appeared to have, in their minds at least, conceded three to him before the match started! When Kristian lost the opening match in 3 uninspiring ends to Rachel, Team 7 knew they were in for a long night. Hannah v Louis perhaps gave the “home side” some hope – it looked plain sailing for Louis with an 11-7 win in the first end but back came Hannah with an 11-5 win in the second. 15-13 in the third to Louis would surely knock Hannah’s confidence – it seemed to make her more determined as she won the 4th11-4! 10-10 in the fifth and this match could go either way – Louis gave the biggest sigh of relief ever seen at Ladywood as he squeezed over the line 12-10. No panic yet for Team 7 though, their replacement Captain and 500+ rated player Phil would take care of new boy Craig to get Team 7 on the scoreboard. Eh, a 4-end loss for Phil and suddenly Team 7 were 3-0 down and in big trouble! Matches 4 and 5 on the night were to prove crucial – first Hannah won in five ends against Rachel before Kristian came back from 2-0 down to do the same against Craig. 3-2 and Team 7 were back in the hunt. But in the blink of an eye, Louis defeated Phil and the “Kristian and Hannah” doubles combination faltered against Louis and Craig – a 5-2 advantage for Team 6 who were surely now on course for their second consecutive victory. Phil found his first win of the night against Rachel in Match 8 and Hannah kept the match alive with a win against Craig in what was probably the most entertaining match of the night. It was therefore left to Louis to secure the victory against Kristian – but hold on an 11-5 victory in the second end for Kristian and suddenly there were thoughts of an amazing comeback – but when Louis then won the third 11-5 and took 8-2, 9-4 and 10-7 leads in the fourth this match was over – not a bit of it – with some great attacking play, Kristian came back for a 13-11 win in the fourth – he was down in the fifth as well but kept in it and when he brought the scores level at 9-9 in the deciding end the unthinkable became possible – two serves from Louis drifted slightly long and with the same positive attitude that he always shows, Kristian went for both of them with topspin forehand returns and won both points for an amazing comeback victory. A fair 5-5 result in the end? Team 6 didn’t think so – after the start they had they should have won this match at a canter.
And so, to our Player of the Week Award for Week 14. Ian H, James and Abby were the only players to play three singles and win all three this week - all of Team 1 and John and Craig from Team 5 are disqualified because their undefeated nights were against two-player teams! There were some notable 2’s this week – Charlie and Gary’s wins were crucial in securing a draw for Team 2 whilst there has to be mention made of Kristian and Hannah winning two matches each and none more crucial (and astounding) than Kristian’s comeback from the dead to defeat Louis – but you can’t win it two weeks in a row Kristian, and in fairness your team would have won had you defeated Rachel! Our selection criteria is back this week to “who won most comfortably” and in style! Our winner this week played 12 ends of Table Tennis and won them all - Well done to Abby, Week 14’s player of the Week – and in part she wins due to her efforts to manipulate the selection process by passing on to Hannah at the end of the night how brilliantly she’d played and how she had strolled through the match without losing an end! Looks like Phil might have some competition for the “blow your own trumpet award”. Well done Abby.
Anything controversial this week?
Team 5 top the Division 4 table at Christmas but are being hounded by West Lothian’s Teams 7 and 8. Both of those teams have bizarrely inflicted defeats on the league leaders. After Team 5’s loss to WL8, an enquiry was made of the league regarding the “ineligible player rule”. Those who pay particular attention to these things (well done George – but maybe you should get a life) noticed that one of the players who played in that match had played up more than the permissible amount of times from Team 9 but had played one match for WL 4 – the rule is clear that in such a scenario the player becomes committed to the highest team he / she has played for. We should point out that this controversy is not about anything that WL have done – the player in question is clearly a Division 4 player and it would be ludicrous to have committed that player to playing in Division 2. The issue relates to the non-transparency of decisions made by the League to “excuse” the one play up which would ordinarily have resulted in the player being committed to the higher team. Surely in a situation where other Clubs are affected by such a ruling, they should be notified that such a ruling has been made? If that had happened, the issue would not have arisen in the manner it did. There may of course in some situations still be an argument to be had regarding the decision made but in this scenario it was a done deal and other Clubs are completely in the dark about it – that leaves WL, in this case, in a difficult situation – they are then faced with a potential challenge which could have significant effects on their Team when they have done nothing wrong in raising the matter with the league and obtaining their approval to continue in the manner they did! As our friend and former Chairman of WL, John M has repeatedly indicated to the League, transparency is key!
And finally, non-playing coaching roles comes under the microscope!
“Only a fellow member of a player’s team for that fixture or nominated non-playing captain / coach may offer playing advice to a player once a fixture has commenced.”
Team 6 were slightly aggrieved this week by the coaching in certain matches by El Presidente of two Team 7 players! They just about excused his coaching of Hannah – she is his daughter after all – but were heard to complain vociferously regarding the coaching of Kristian in two crucial matches against Craig and Louis! We think Team 6 are perhaps giving too much credit to his coaching ability!! We’re not sure what the rule is for “nominating” a non-playing captain / coach at the beginning of a match but certainly everyone at the Club is aware that for Team 6, Brian fulfils that role when he is available and El Presidente keeps a close eye on Team 7! The fact that Brian wasn’t there to provide some guidance to Team 6 probably highlighted the issue and perhaps the real issue has nothing to do with the League rules and was more about whether our Club President should be a neutral Switzerland type of observer rather than someone who was seen to be “taking sides”. Hmmm – an interesting one?? Our Club President’s response? He was unavailable for comment – seemingly he was too busy out for a pre-Xmas meal with Team 7 celebrating their comeback draw and plotting against Teams 5 and 6 for the second half of the season!
Week 15 sees the return of the Handicap Cup – that will proceed without any difficulty!! Good luck to our 4 teams still in the Competition – let’s see if at least one of them can still be involved post Xmas!!