Team 1’s composition for their Division 1 campaign was still up in the air in early September with Iain Johnstone the only name definitely on the team sheet! When he was eventually joined by Greig McDonell, David Melrose and Colin Green, on paper Team 1 looked like a difficult team to beat. When Week 2 saw Haddington secure a 5-5 draw, things were looking a bit dodgy! But other than that draw, Team 1 have not dropped another point. The first two weeks in November were crucial as first Murrayfield 4 (then top of the Division) visited Ladywood followed by a trip to title contenders Edinburgh International. When Team 1 came out of those matches with 4 points they had secured top spot in the Division. With neither Greig nor Colin available to play every week, there has been pressure on Iain and David to perform well – they have combined for 46 wins out of 60 matches played. When that is added to Greig and Colin’s combined total of 34 wins out of 39, the Team’s combined singles win rate is an excellent 80%. Doubles are always important to a team’s success, especially in close matches, and Team 1 have been undefeated in all of their 11 doubles thus far, including two crucial victories against Haddington which secured a draw and v Ed Int which gave them a 6-4 victory. So, a 3-point gap to Edinburgh International going into the 2ndhalf of the season. Team 1 know however that there are some really tough matches ahead. Edinburgh International will still fancy their chances of overturning that deficit and Murrayfield, Haddington and North Merchiston are all still in the hunt. It’s going to be a tough 2ndhalf.
Team 2 are facing a battle at the wrong end of the Division 1 table. Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, Gary McDougal and Charlie Brindley knew it was going to be tough to survive, Team 2 having only just avoided relegation last season. From 4-2 up in Week 2 v Murrayfield 5 they had to rely on a last match win to secure a 5-5 draw. From that point on, the team went on a horrendous run of 5 consecutive defeats. The last 4 weeks before the Xmas break, however, have been very positive for the Penicuik trio. When you’re struggling for points, matches against those teams around you are vitally important – they came out of their three games against Corstorphine 1, Fife 2 and Corstorphine 2 undefeated with two draws and a win. Those 4 points have moved them off the foot of the table and out of the relegation zone, but with 5 sides separated by only 2 points, it looks like this relegation battle is going to go down to the wire. Individually, there is definitely more to come from this trio, none of whom will be happy with their first half averages. Charlie leads the way but both he and Krzysztof are about 15% worse off than they were last season. As for Gary, if he plays like he did against Team 1’s prima donnas surely his average of just under 40% will also improve.
Team 3’s Division 2 campaign has been somewhat up and down in the first half of the season. James Wighton, Ian Hislop (when he’s not sunning himself abroad), Chris Markey (when he’s not gallivanting all over the country) and Abby Wighton look like a strong team on paper. Their problem this season is that there are two standout sides in Division 2. Edinburgh International 3 and Murrayfield 6 have been in superb form thus far. A 2-8 defeat to Ed Int and a 3-7 loss to Murrayfield leaves Team 3 4 points off top spot at Xmas. More annoying than those two defeats for Team Captain James, however, are two draws, one against a two-person University side, when Louis had to play up from Div 4 and the other, a night to forget v ESC. Had those draws been converted to wins, Team 3 would be very much in the hunt with the “big two”. As it is, it looks like they will have to reverse those two losses in the second half of the season, a difficult task against teams who have the two best players in the division as their number 1s, made all the more difficult by the fact that Ian, 3rdin the individual averages, will miss most of the second half. He has had a fantastic return in his 7 matches played, 19 wins out of 21 for 90%. Abby has shown that her season in the Premier has made her sharper, 23 wins out of 30 for 76%. James had a poor start to the season, but his end of year form should give him encouragement for the second half – he sits on 66%. Chris has hardly played, and his lack of match practice probably accounts for his 40% average. The second half will be tough, but Team 3 are still in with a shout of a promotion place.
Team 4 welcomed back to the Club, Tony Brentnall and Gavin Hunter and they joined forces with father and son duo, Julian and Sonny Taylor in Division 3. The youngsters of Murrayfield 9 look like certainties for the title but it’s then a bit of a dog fight for the second promotion spot, currently held by Haddington 3. Although Team 4 have lost 4 matches in the first half, each of those losses was by the narrowest of margins – four 6-4 defeats. The team’s capabilities can be seen by looking at their game difference totals – although fourth in the table, they have the second-best game difference (+38) - 74 wins v 36 losses. That’s a whopping 30 games better than the team above them in 3rdplace. Despite some dodgy results (we’ll try not to spend too much time on the match they agreed to rearrange which they then lost because they played without a regular third player) Team 4 are only 3 points behind second place and if they can convert some of those losses into draws or wins, they must still stand a great chance of promotion. After a slow start (he hadn’t played for over two years), Tony is starting to look like the player he was and has finished the first half with 75%. Julian has been leading the team by example, although will be irritated by a couple of bad losses – 77% for him. Meanwhile Sonny continues to show good promise – he seems to play better against better players – he will be hoping to push on from his 66% in the second half.
Team 5’s season has been a good one so far in Division 4. Craig Johnson, Stuart Bennett and Millie Bennett were bolstered this year by the inclusion of our second oldest player in the Club, 105-year-old John Bald. John’s experience has shown with only 3 defeats from 21 matches played. At the other end of the age range, 17-year-old Millie has also had an excellent season so far – only 5 defeats from 21 matches and with Craig winning 75% of his games, this trio have had a terrific first half. Whilst Stuart may be disappointed with his individual average, his contributions have been vital to the Team sitting top of the Division 4 table – in 3 matches won by a 6-4 scoreline, Stuart has picked up the vital 6thwin. That’s at least 3 points added to what may otherwise have been their points total at Xmas. Team 5 know they are in for a tough time in 2019 in what looks like being one of the most exciting divisions in the League. 2 points clear at the top, 3 points ahead of third place, but the top 8 are only split by 6 points! It seems like any one of 5 or 6 teams are capable of gaining promotion and that should result in this promotion race going down to the wire.
Team 6’s Division 4 season got off to the worst of starts with injuries to both Rachel Petrie and our oldest Club Member, Brian Bailey (is he really older than John Bald??). A team of 5 also included Louis McLeod, Adam Woodhouse and newbie, Craig Linton. Of their first four matches, two were played with only 2 players, one was conceded and the other resulted in a 7-3 defeat! They rightly claimed the title of the Club’s most shambolic team in the early part of the season. Perhaps buoyed by that criticism, Team 6 have done well since then to compete against everyone. Four 6-4 defeats were unlucky in the extreme, with their other four matches resulting in 2 wins and 2 draws. That must give Team 6 great confidence going into the New Year. Louis has led the way for Team 6 with 27 wins from 33 matches played (81.8%). Had Brian remained injury free, surely this side would have been challenging at the top of the Division. Craig, Rachel and Adam will be looking to turn some narrow losses into victories in the 2ndhalf of the season.
And finally, in Division 4, Team 7. This is our only unchanged team from season 2017/18. George Wilson, Phil Daly, Kristian Skotzen and Hannah McDonell have had some great nights in the first half of the season. They take much of the credit for Team 5 being top of the Division 4 table – the two sides who defeated Team 5 (WL 7 & WL 8) both came unstuck against Team 7! Had Kristian’s romance not got in the way early in the season, a 6-4 defeat with only two players at Fife could probably have been turned into a win. The early season form certainly let some vital points slip and yet by Xmas, they are one of the teams who genuinely seem to have a chance of challenging for a top 4 place (who knows maybe even for promotion – 4 points behind 2ndplace). Team Captain George sits 3rdin the individual averages with only 4 defeats from 27 games played. Whilst Phil had a great start to the season, he will be disappointed by his slight fall off in level in the run up to the Xmas break which sees him fall out of the top 10 with a 70%-win rate. Both Kristian and Hannah have improved hugely on their first season in the League. Last year Kristian finished with 20% - thus far he has more than doubled that to 43% whilst Hannah’s 2017/18 average of 6% has been multiplied more than 8 times as she sits with 51%. Good signs for Team 7 who have their sights set on a good run in the New Year.
Our Player of the First Half??? That’s a difficult one to judge. In terms of best percentage return, Ian Hislop leads the way with 90%. But hey, he’s arguably playing in a Division lower than he’s used to. Our Weekly Awards have seen three players receive the award on two occasions – well done to Millie, Abby and Hannah. Our most improved player?? According to Ratings Central that’s Hannah. But our choice of player of the first half is based on the importance of their wins not only to their own team’s position in the League but to the Club as a whole. This player has played up twice and won 6 out of 6 – add that to 23 out of 27 wins for their own team together with 6 out of 6 in two matches in the Handicap Cup gives this player a terrific record of 35 singles wins out of 39 played. In the Handicap Cup the two undefeated nights came in narrow 5-4 victories. When playing up, his undefeated night v Fife secured the win and his two undefeated nights against the teams 2ndand 3rd in the Division 4 table has resulted in Team 5 leading the way in Division 4. He has also increased his average by more than 30% from last season and according to Ratings Central is our most improved Senior player - well done to George for a fantastic first half.
And finally, our controversial moment of the first half – No – we’re not doing that – a new year is upon us – everything is going to run smoothly in 2019 and this piece is going to be redundant!
Happy New Year to all our Members and TT Friends from around the League and beyond. Whilst we hope that only Penicuik players will play well in the New Year, we hope 2019 will be a good one for all away from the table!!