The Team 4 trio of Craig Linton, Richard Miller and Aidan Craig were first in action on Tuesday 21st November as they made the trip to Corstorphine in Division 3. They needed to bounce back from a couple of poor results over their last few matches. With second place only a few points ahead in the division and with games in hand the Penicuik trio knew they were still in with a chance of being in the hunt by the end of the first half of the season. The first three matches all went the way of the visitors, Craig being pushed all the way in match 3 to a fifth end decider. He found himself 2-0 down and in the tightest of matches won the next three ends 11-9, 13-11, 12-10 – now that’s what you call squeaky bum time! In match 4 Richard came back from 2-0 down to level at 2-2 before a mammoth decider went the way of the home player 15-13. Wins for Aidan and Craig gave the visitors a 5-1 lead and when that pair combined for a victory in the doubles the win was secured. The last three matches were all won 3-0 by the Penicuik players as they recorded a 9-1 victory.
Wednesday night saw Team 6 make the trip to the Oriam to face Heriot Watt in Division 5. Team 6 Captain Roscoe Cairney called on the services of Phil Daly to replace Ian Millar and they were joined by Mat Dyluk. Phil, playing his first league match of the season recorded a win in match 3 but that was the only win in the first five matches of the night. Roscoe seems to be involved regularly in long matches and he was at it again in match 6, holding his nerve for a good win in the decider. 4-2 going into the doubles and Team 6 were still in with a chance. Maybe Phil should have played but the regular pairing of Roscoe and Mat took to the table and when they won the second set comfortably 11-3, they were in with a real chance. Unfortunately, the next two were lost and it was 5-2 to the students. Phil kept the match alive in Game 8 with a five end win and when Mat was 1-1 in match 9 a miracle recovery was on the cards. 5 ends in a row from there however went to the students who recorded a 7-3 win.
With David Melrose on holiday, James Wighton recalled Hannah McDonell to the starting line up having recovered from illness and they were joined by Steve Collins as Team 2 paid a visit to Murrayfield 6 in Division 1. Awaiting them were a strong looking team of Colin Clark, Ian Moran and Wei Gu. Colin lost the first end of the night to James but that was the only end he lost all night! Match 2 saw Steve defeat Ian in straight sets and when Hannah won 3-0 in her match v Wei Gu, the visitors felt positive at 2-1 up. If only the match had stopped there! The only other end won by the visitors was in the doubles where Steve and Hannah combined in a 3-1 loss to Gu and Clark. An 8-2 defeat was perhaps a bit harsh on Team 2 on the night, who according to Team Captain James didn’t want to have too late a night at the church hall so decided to lose quickly!
Peter Aird was away on his travels again - some might say deliberately picking the next couple of weeks to be away to preserve his average as Murrayfield 1 and 2 come calling! Team 1 have had a terrific start in their 2023 Premier League campaign – undefeated going into Week 10 is the best start they’ve ever had! Could Greig McDonell and Colin Green keep the run going with an understrength team against one of the big boys in the Premier Division? Steve Collins played his second match in two nights as he was called up and there was some promise when Murrayfield 2 also turned up with a player playing up, young William Wang from Division 1. Greig v Keith Dingwall and Colin v William were first up. William showed his promise taking an end of Colin but falling in four. Greig and Keith have played against each other more times than we can remember and when Keith took the first two ends 11-5, 11-9, it looked good for the visitor, but matches between this pair are never straightforward! Greig won the next two 13-11, 11-4 and it was destined that the decider was going to go the distance. Keith summed it up at 9-9 in the fifth when he said it was like playing mirror images of each other – a missed forehand and a push in the net gave the win to Greig. Zihao Li was full of confidence after his recent excellent form. Both Steve and Greig took an end from him, but his attacking game was too strong for them. The Keith v Colin and Steve v William matches were to prove crucial. Both went the distance. Steve held a 9-6 lead in the decider v William but couldn’t get over the line as he fell 11-9. Meanwhile Colin and Keith were involved in a cracker. Keith led 10-6 in the decider, but Colin never knows when he’s beaten – with the help of two of the best backhand winners you’re likely to see at Ladywood this season he got back to 10-10. He’d done the hard work and maybe thought he’d done enough - two forehand misses and Keith triumphed 12-10. So instead of a potential 4-2 lead going into the doubles it was a 4-2 deficit. Zihao and Keith played some great doubles to secure at least a point. The match was kept alive by Colin’s impressive five end win v Zihao but when Keith defeated Steve the points were secured. Greig wishes he’d listened to Keith about giving up after a knee injury sustained in the doubles – no real need to play the last match after Keith’s victory but he played on and just to make him even more miserable, from 2-1 up he lost deuce in the fifth! A 7-3 defeat ended Team 1s terrific start to the season – not to worry though, undefeated defending champions Murrayfield 1 in Week 11 should be easy!
Team 3 were looking to build on their 10-0 victory from Week 9 as they faced Herriot Watt in Division 2. Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, Gary McDougal and Bob Porteous had their easiest night of the season as they sat at home with their feet up after a concession from the students – a 10-0 win helps boost their game difference!
And finally in Week 10, Team 5 hosted Gullane in Division 4. Jim Jack, Patrick Shanks and Rachel Petrie took to the table for the hosts. After Rachel lost match 1, wins for Jim and Patrick gave the hosts a 2-1 advantage. The next three singles went 2-1 in favour of the visitors, Rachel being the only winner for the Penicuik side, so 3-3 with the doubles to play. Rachel and Jim were selected and after a tight 11-9 loss in the first end, they were right in this match. Nothing could show clearer what a difference playing order in doubles makes – the second end was an 11-0 whitewash win for the Gullane duo – come on guys where was the throw away point. The third end, back to the playing order of the first, 11-9! At 4-3 down, Patrick brought the match level again before the undefeated Ian Ladbrooke gave the East Lothian outfit a 5-4 advantage. Could Rachel pull out a win in match 10 to secure a point? She had her chances – an 11-6 win in the first end got her teammates excited but a narrow 11-9 loss in the second was followed by an 11-6 loss in the third. She was still in it however in the fourth and was unlucky not to force a decider as she agonisingly lost out 17-15! A disappointing 6-4 loss for Team 5. Three defeats on the bounce has seen them fall into the bottom half of the Division.
And so, to our player of the week award. Special mentions are due to Phil – good to see him back playing competitively; to Hannah – according to her teammates she was unplayable in her first match at Murrayfield against Wei Gu. Pity she then had to play “oldies with funny rubbers”! And to Colin for, as we described, two unbelievably good backhands under the utmost pressure at match points down – ignore the fact that he lost the match ultimately. Despite that loss he then took out Zihao Li, the only player this season to have defeated North Merchiston’s Gavin Yuan who everyone had said was going to go through the season with 100%! But for the second week in a row, we turn to Team 4 for this week’s award. Both Craig and Aidan had undefeated nights (and combined for a doubles win). Including the doubles Craig won 12 ends and lost 4 whilst Aidan won 12 ends for the loss of only three. Well done to Aidan.
And finally, our controversy of the week section. It’s been a quiet one this week. When we’re struggling for controversies, however, we can always rely on Greig and Colin to have their occasional tiff! Team 1s match was generally played in very good spirit, other than a couple of flash points. One relates to that question of when does supporting your teammates cross the line into being disrespectful. This is a James favourite! We think he picked up his menacing stares from Greig who aimed a long glare at Zhiao Li after he applauded him missing an easy forehand! Greig of course always has to have the last word so asked him why he didn’t applaud the next point when he pushed one off the table! Of course, maybe the advice from Colin should have been followed - just concentrate on the game! The worst example of this dates back a good number of seasons to Edinburgh University’s visit to Ladywood when the “manic” applauding by the supporters happened after every single point in a match in which David Melrose was involved. That led to Tom Mackenzie getting involved and having a word with the Uni’s Team Captain – hopefully the Uni Team Captain has grown up a bit since then after he invited Tom to “take the matter outside”!! Is there actually anything in the rules about this? Unsportsmanlike behaviour? Our code of Conduct contains the following:
“Spectators who heckle or show disrespect towards any player may be required to leave the vicinity”.
Disrespect?? A difficult concept to establish probably. Speaking about being disrespectful there was a “terrific argument” online involving some “English veterans players” after one of the players posted about an easy match he’d been involved in in his local league. He referred to the opponents as “the whipping boys” of the league and so he decided to play all his matches left handed (he’s a right handed player). He pointed out that he won 6 ends easily, 3 ends were close, and he lost two ends! This led to a lot of negative feedback from other players about him being disrespectful. Comments that he then removed! He pointed out that he was not going to apologise for playing left handed – it made an otherwise easy match more challenging and there were top players who swapped hands regularly who were not called disrespectful. We think the difference might be that those top players may switch hands for a point or two during a match – they don’t decide to play a whole match left handed. A great talent to have, however. Maybe the boasting about it online was the disrespectful element? We’re hoping that Murrayfield 1 can take a page out of his book though and all play opposite hands against Team 1 this week!
The other incident from Team 1s match related to serving and umpiring – Greig was convinced that young William’s backhand serve was regularly illegal as he struck the ball over the table and not behind the white line. The “fully qualified” umpire, Colin, disagreed. In fairness the umpire would have a better view sitting at the side. The issue isn’t really the serve it was the potential bust up between these two mates (they’ve got history for this on the table). The umpire is always right apparently – maybe he should have brought out a yellow card to the player for questioning the umpire’s eyesight and abilities!! They were pals again by the weekend!
The biggest controversy of the Week, however, comes from Team 2’s match at Murrayfield with new boy Steve Collins. Steve joined the Club just a few weeks ago and arrived with a reputation of being, eh how can we put this……. Eh, a bit difficult to deal with? A bit moody? A bit volatile? Imagine the surprise therefore when Hannah couldn’t stop talking about what a great guy he is – he’s so supportive, he’s so nice, he’s so encouraging, he’s good at giving advice, he’s really friendly, he’s lovely, he’s a real team player, he’s so easy to talk to, he’s funny etc. etc. etc. Even James, who finds it difficult to get on with anyone, spoke fondly of him! We never believed those rumours about you, Steve and always knew you were a big softy at heart.
Week 11 is upon us – only a couple of regular League weeks left before we break for Xmas!!