Monday night saw Team 1 travel to Bathgate to face West Lothian 2 in the Premier Division. After an opening 6-4 win for Colin Green, Greig McDonell and Peter Aird, they knew they were in for another tough test against the West Lothian youngsters. The average age of the West Lothian trio of Ben Hart, Jamie Toner and Noah Fletcher was 16. That has to be the youngest average in the Premier Division (and the youngest for a long time at the top level we would think). Team 1’s average comes out at, well a lot more than 16! Looking around the Premier League we think Team 1 probably have the “oldest” average age in the topflight? We can’t think of any other teams to give them a run for their money! So, the young v the “not so young” started out with Ben Hart defeating Greig in fairly comfortable fashion. Colin meanwhile was embroiled in a lengthy match with Jamie Toner. 2-0 down, Colin battled back to force a deciding fifth end and at 8-8 in the fifth, this could have gone either way, but it was the experience of Colin which got him over the line. Peter then defeated Noah in four ends to give the visitors the advantage. In the next three singles, Greig was too strong for Jamie and Colin defeated Noah – Ben showed his class with another comfortable win against Peter. 4-2 going into the doubles. Greig and Colin v Ben and Jamie looked completely one sided as the veterans strolled into a 2-0 lead – they were in complete control – oops, in the blink of an eye it was 2-2 and the youngsters held an 8-4 lead in the decider. Somehow the visitors managed to turn the match around for an 11-9 win. That match was crucial as it gave Team 1 a 3-game cushion going into the last set of singles. Ben finished his excellent night with a good win v Colin but both Peter and Greig triumphed in four ends against their opponents as Team 1 secured an excellent 7-3 victory.
Wednesday night then saw Team 3 travel to Edinburgh to take on Murrayfield 8 in Division 2. The visitors were looking to bounce back from their disappointing loss to West Lothian in their last outing. Team captain Krzysztof was joined by Charlie Brindley and Gary McDougal as they took on Anna Letchford, the very awkward Graham Muir and up and coming youngster Max Well. Krzysztof’s opening win v Anna was cancelled out by young Max showing his promise with a five-end defeat of Gary. Match 3 on paper looked like being a tough struggle for both Graham and Charlie, both using dodgy rubbers and trying to outdo each other in the awkwardness of their play – as probably anticipated this was a mammoth battle – Graham took a 2-0 lead, but Charlie showed his experience in taking the game into a decider. An 11-8 win for Charlie gave the visitors the momentum. Krzysztof defeated Max and then Charlie’s dodgy rubber bamboozled Anna as the Penicuik side opened up a 4-1 lead. Graham pulled one back before the doubles but when Krys and Charlie won that a point was secured. That point was turned into 2 with further wins for Krys and Charlie as Penicuik secured a 7-3 victory.
Team 1 were then back in action on Friday night catching up on another postponement with their trip to Edinburgh University 1. Could the oldies manage two matches in a week? Matches 1 and 2 both went to five ends – Greig from 2-0 up had a match point in the fourth and when he lost that the advantage went the way of Yuanjie Hao who stormed through the decider. Colin meanwhile was 2-1 down but his fourth and fifth ends were both won 11-3. Match 3 was to prove crucial – Peter looked completely out of it with his opponent having no difficulty with his pimples, 2-0 up and Peter looked dead and buried in the third – somehow, however, he won the third from a losing position, did exactly the same in the fourth, with the help of a lovely net and edge at 9-9 and then remarkably came back to also win the fifth 11-9. That really seemed to knock the stuffing out of the students – their only other win on the night came in the doubles as Team 1 continued their good start to the season with an 8-2 win.
And so, to the Handicap Cup – Thursday evening saw three matches at Ladywood. James Wighton, Rachel Petrie and Roscoe Cairney looked like a strong Handicap Team as they took on Edinburgh International – perhaps, however, Rachel’s recent run of good form did her no good for this competition. Used to playing off +6 or +7 (and player of the Handicap Cup last season) she was cut to +4 for this match – that affected her as she won only 1 of her three matches. Roscoe was playing off +7 and he had a good win against Mike Eggar who defeated him in the league only a couple of weeks ago (only a 1 shot advantage for this match). His match against a +2 opponent is one that maybe got away – 5 of a start to 11 he fell in five ends. His one win on the night meant that James had to win all three of his. He won against the two lower handicapped players but his match against +6 Mike was to effectively be the decider – 0-5 to 11 and somehow this went to five ends – the Penicuik side were super confident when James caught his opponent in the decider at 6-6 – look away now James! It’s actually easily done – you catch an opponent and then relax thinking the work has been done – an 11-8 defeat left the Penicuik trio extremely disappointed.
The second match saw Krys, Ian Miller and John Bald take on Corstorphine 3. Our press officer was taken aback when a message came through at 8.10pm to tell of this match’s outcome! A 6.45 start but by the time the tables were set up and match started it was after 7pm – an hour and it was over! After Krys won match 1 it was looking positive but only one other match went beyond three ends, John unluckily losing out in 5 to Tommy Sutherland. 5 quick fire losses and Corstorphine progressed.
Could our third team in action of Aidan Craig, Jim Jack and Chamika Diyunugalge avoid a whitewash of losses for the Club? They faced Corstorphine 4. Chamika playing off +5 took on Thomas Grant (-6) in Match 1 – and what a match this was – 11 of a start to 17 this went to the wire. After losing the fourth 16-18 Chamika did brilliantly to hold his nerve for a 17-15 win in the decider. Aidan then played well in a 0-1 match to 11 to win in 4 ends before a 0-0 game saw Jim comfortably win in three. 3-0 up and it was looking good. Aidan then faced Thomas – 8-0 to 17. A 15-17 loss in the first seemed to affect Aidan’s confidence a little and although he won the third end, he fell in four as the visitors cut the deficit to 2. Chamika and Jim, however, then played some great stuff to both win their next matches as the hosts secured an excellent 5-1 win.
Finally on Friday night, Phil Daly, Craig Linton and Mat Dyluk travelled to the Gyle to take on Murrayfield. Keith Dingwall had the lowest handicap in all our matches at -11 and when he came back from 0-14 down to defeat Phil in four ends there was trouble brewing for the visitors. Mat then got a five-point start against young Max Well – but such is the youngster’s improvement (just ask Gary) that five points was never going to be enough. Craig gave the visitors hope with a four-end win to reduce the deficit to 2-1 but Max was too strong for Phil and Keith showed his class with an excellent and tight four end victory over Craig. Mat had to win to keep the match alive against a +5 player, but he couldn’t do it as the visitors fell to a 5-1 defeat.
And so, to our player of the week award. There are a number of candidates this week – Peter, Colin, Krys and Charlie all had undefeated nights in the league as did Jim and Chamika in the Handicap Cup. Peter has to get special mention for somehow turning around his important first match which seemed to have a big impact on the confidence of Team 1’s opponents. But this week’s winner gets the nod because his win was also vital and came at a point which swung the momentum in his team’s favour – a cracking three wins and a doubles victory for Charlie – his deuce in the fifth comeback win v Graham Muir changed the flow of the match – well done to him.
And finally, our controversy of the week section. We mentioned yellow and red cards arrived at Ladywood last week – we could have used them this week! In Team 1’s match v WL, there were a couple of occasions where the youngsters lost control a little, probably finding it hard to believe that the oldies were beating them. In Greig’s last match, his opponent’s frustration caused him to hammer his bat onto the table – he can’t do that said Greig to the umpire! In fairness, the umpire (from WL), had a word with his clubmate and told him he couldn’t do that. There had been screams of frustration, bad language, bad sportsmanship and challenging behaviour all night from a couple of the WL side and it was pointed out to the player in question that his behaviour would merit a yellow card – youngsters these days have no respect – pity we don’t have any at the club, he says! Greig had to get the last word of course by commenting that Penicuik had brought some with them – did he want Greig to go and get them! We might have a code of conduct this year but who is actually ever going to use it? Has swearing almost become part of the game such that it is overlooked now. So what if someone uses the F word? So what if a player kicks a barrier in frustration? So what if we have a code of conduct!
The same player seemed to wind Colin up. While umpiring, he was silent and didn’t announce the score – at one point a staring contest ensued, Colin in the ready position to serve waiting on the umpire to say the score whilst the umpire was just staring back at him waiting for him to serve! The umpire won the battle of wills by saying nothing before Colin eventually broke the stare and told the umpire what he thought about his umpiring efforts (is that a yellow card?). What followed was a couple of the most sarcastic score announcements ever heard! You can imagine Colin’s reaction to that! We don’t think the code of conduct covers complaints against the standard of umpiring however!
As for the handicap cup, that always throws up a couple of contentious issues. Prior to ratings central, setting the handicaps was more difficult and involved trying to assess each player from personal knowledge of that player and looking at how they were performing in the division they were playing – a very difficult task. At least however it was flexible. Since we have used ratings central, flexibility in dealing with such matters no longer exists. Ian pointed out that his +7 handicap, based on a rating score of under 300, did him no favours against other “higher rated” +7 players. The bands upon which the handicaps are based effectively result in a point being dropped for every 36 points difference between players. So, for example, Hannah (1169) v Bob (1133) would give Bob a 1-0 start. That works until you get to 700 ratings points. Below that there only is the one band. 0-700 are all plus 7 players. So, Ian, current rating 290, would have to start at 0-0 against someone who could be rated more than 400 points above him. Surely that can’t be right? There has to be a higher starting point than plus 7. We appreciate that we don’t want to make it impossible for lower handicappers to win but a +8 or even a +9 could surely be used to break up that bottom band. The problem really arises where two plus players have to play. Ian, for example, would only get 3 of a start against his Dunbar opponent from Week 4 to whom he lost 11-2, 11-1, 11-2 in the league – an opponent who’s rating of 893 is more than three times higher than Ian and yet only a three-point start would be given. A 600-point rating difference at the other end of the scale is radically different. A 1300 rated player (-3) against a 1900 rating would get a 17 point start. Such discrepancies can’t be right.
The other problem about just using ratings central is where players haven’t played for a considerable period. Take Phil as an example – he’s registered in division 5 but has a rating of 958, based on the fact that he’s not played for ages. That meant he played against young Max Well, playing 3 divisions above him in the league, and was only getting a one-point start - a player who just took out a Div 1 standard player in Gary McDougal. The old system would try and give a handicap based on what division Phil was playing in and would take into account representations about health problems etc. Whilst that system could be very hit or miss, at least it had some flexibility available. Oh well - it's just sour grapes as three of our four teams go crashing out of the Cup at the first round stage! Our pool of ten or so reserves to come in for future rounds aren't going to be needed!!
Week 6 is already well under way – maybe a bit quieter this week for the Club!