First up were Team 4 with a visit to Haddington in Division 3 on Tuesday 5th December. After Richard Miller was struck by the train strikes, a late SOS call was answered by last week’s player of the Week, Kristian Skotzen, as he joined Aidan Craig and Team Captain Craig Linton. After a good win in Week 11, Team 4 went into their penultimate match of the first half in confident mood. That confidence was dealt two early blows as first Aidan fell to the very experienced Roger Thomas and then Kristian lost an epic which went the distance against Craig Morrison – 2-1 up he lost the fourth end 11-9 before losing the fifth 13-11. 2-0 down and Team 4 were in trouble. Craig got the visitors on the board with a comfortable win in match 3 and when Aidan defeated Kristian’s conqueror the match was tied at 2-2. With further wins for Craig and Kristian to follow, suddenly Team 4 had turned the match around and were 4-2 up going into the doubles. In a change to the “normal” selection, Kristian teamed up with Aidan – and that turned out to be a good decision as they secured a straightforward 3-0 win and with that a point was secured. The final set of singles matches all went the way of the visitors as they turned around a 2-0 deficit to win the match 8-2. One match left before Xmas for Team 4 who currently enjoy third place in the Division 3 table.
The week was then rounded off at Ladywood on Thursday 7th December with Teams 1, 3 and 5 all in action. Team 1 had required to call upon two reserves the previous week against Murrayfield 1 and there was no difference in Week 12 with Greig McDonell still out with a knee injury and Peter Aird out of the country. It would be fine though – it was only North Merchiston 1 visiting Ladywood! Colin Green was joined by James Wighton and Steve Collins from Team 2. The best that can be said about this match was how happy the Ladywood staff were – no hanging about after 10 pm waiting on Team 1 finishing up – match over with about an hour to spare! Colin, as expected, was the only home player to cause any trouble to his opponents – he took an end of both Gavin Yuan and Willie Mabon in his first two matches and came back from 2-1 down in his final match to win the only match of the night for the home side with a victory against Graeme Sutherland. A 9-1 defeat for the home side. We’ll ignore the doubles match – apparently one side won about 17 points in a row! And it wasn’t us! NM took great delight in mentioning that in their Facebook post!
It was an all “Penicuik v Merchiston” night at Ladywood. Team 3 faced NM 5 in Division 2 and after their dropped point in Week 11 they were looking to get back to winning ways as they concluded their first half fixtures. Bob Porteous was first up for the hosts, and he cruised to a 3-0 victory in match 1. The scores were quickly levelled, however, when Gary McDougal lost in 3 to NM’s Matthew Jarvis. Krzysztof Laszkiewicz restored the lead against Slawomir Bess, who was playing up for NM. When the next three matches all went the way of the hosts, they held a 5-1 lead going into the doubles. Gary and Krzysztof went to five, but a deciding end win was good enough to secure another win for Team 3. The last set of singles matches saw Matthew defeat Bob but with the other two home players winning, Team 3 ran out comfortable 8-2 victors. It has probably been a tougher first half of the season for Team 3 than they were expecting. The absence of Charlie Brindley has certainly played a big part in that. Hopefully he will be back and available in the second half of the season. Team Captain Krzysztof, however, has shown his strength with an excellent 31 wins out of 33 games played - and a good finish to 2023 (9 points out of a possible 10 in their last five matches) has seen the team jump into 2nd place on game difference. It looks, however, like this promotion race is likely to go down to the wire in 2024 with a number of teams in contention.
Finally at home on Thursday night were Team 5 who hosted NM 7. Following a number of difficult results, Team 5 found themselves struggling at the wrong end of the Division 4 table. As we reported last week, this match was a “must win” against the side who sat bottom of the table. Jim Jack, Rachel Petrie and Chamika Diyunugalge faced the youngsters from NM and they got off to the perfect start with the first round of singles all going comfortably to the hosts by 3-0 scorelines. That took some pressure off the Penicuik trio and by the end of the next set of singles matches, the win was secured. A 3-1 win in the doubles for Rachel and Chamika made the overall score 7-0 and the youngsters had no answer as the final three matches were also picked up by the hosts. A must win match and win they certainly did. The 10-0 victory saw Team 5 leap up three places in the Division, but they are still not out of the woods yet. They are three points clear of the second relegation spot and know that they will need to at least repeat their first half set of results in 2024 to stay out of trouble.
And so, to our player of the week award. Five players this week had undefeated nights in singles play – all of Team 5, Craig from Team 4 and Krzysztof from Team 3. This week's award is given, not only for the three wins, but for his organisational ability in keeping Team 5 happy with rotation of his team of four - well done to Jim - anyone who manages to get a seal of approval from Rachel is doing something right...
And finally, our controversy of the week section.
In Team 5’s match, serving was again a topic of discussion. In one of Rachel’s matches, she pointed out that her opponent was not serving legally. We think there is absolutely no doubt that the serves were not legal – the player was effectively holding the ball wedged between thumb and fingers and nowhere near resting on the palm of their hand. When this was pointed out to the Umpire, it was suggested, in not these exact words, “pot kettle black”. Apparently Rachel can occasionally not throw the ball up. Nobody was warned about the serves and the match carried on. Now in fairness the NM opponents are all youngsters, and it seems to us they are playing in a division too high for them. They’ve only won 5 “individual / doubles matches” out of a possible 90 played. Rachel was well in control of the match. Warning someone about their serves was never really going to change the way this match was progressing. But maybe that’s not the point. The rules apply to everyone and whether you serve illegally in the Premier Division or Division 4 shouldn’t matter. Rachel still remembers one of her matches in the then bottom division away at Haddington when one of our opponents this week, Roger Thomas (official umpire and all that), just called a fault against her for an illegal serve. The rules are the rules was the position taken despite the fact that on that occasion, Rachel was being soundly beaten and the “illegal serve” wasn’t affecting the outcome. In this match, if the umpire felt Rachel’s serves were also questionable, the right thing to have done, according to the rules, would have been to call both players up. But we can see the umpire’s reasoning – why bother causing unnecessary difficulties! Let’s hope the umpire in question doesn’t go on one of Mr Thomas’ Umpiring courses! Or maybe we should hope he does!
Team 1, as they had been against Murrayfield 1 last week, were again understrength against second top NM1. We reported last week on the fact that Murrayfield didn’t give their player of the match award to Colin. Now in fairness it had been a 10-0 defeat for Penicuik, and nobody therefore won any matches, although statistically Colin had clearly been the only player to win any ends of TT. Fast forward to this week and NM were at it as well! Colin won a match and took ends off the other two players he played. Not enough for the POTM award! That went to James - winner of our “nicest PTTC player” award for four years in a row – although that crown has been lost in recent years! On this occasion James scored even less points than Ian Hislop had last week to win the award - an average of 4 an end! Now we’ve covered this before – these awards are NOT based on who is necessarily the best player. It’s worth more coverage in this section though as it certainly provides us with a good laugh at the end of matches. You can imagine the fun a certain member of the team has had with his “mate” pointing out that in two weeks where he’s battled away valiantly against the top two teams in the Premier League, winning ends in almost all the matches played, he’s lost out to Ian Hislop and James Wighton in the popularity contest that this award seems to have become! His response when asked what he’d done to “rub his opponents up the wrong way”? Apparently it’s through association! It’s because he’s our Club President’s pal! Ah the fun we have!
As if we’ve not covered this subject enough, Rachel also pointed out that she should have had the POTM award for Team 5 during the week. Whilst everyone won 3, she never dropped an end in singles play whereas her teammates did! Ah but you’re playing with Chamika, Rachel and he’s taken over the "nicest player" crown from James over the last couple of seasons!
So, Teams 3, 5 and 6 are all finished for the first half of the season – Week 13 is Handicap Cup Week but also sees Teams 1 and 2 in action at Ladywood, Team 2 bringing forward a match from the New Year so their opponents, ESC can have a full team! OMG – James is trying to get that award back from you Chamika – watch out!