Penicuik 1 (greig McDonell, David Melrose & Iain Johnstone) started the season with a 9-1 victory over North Merchiston 3, however, the Edinburgh outfit had been tipped as outsiders for promotion by the time the second half of the season had started, mainly due to the addition of Blair Fowler to their squad. Countering that, however, was the commitment up of Eddie Scott who was now plying his trade in the Premier Division. With no disrespect to Slawomir Bess, Team 1 were relieved when there was no Blair in action for NM3. Regulars Amelia Norbury and Graham Booth joined Slawomir (playing up from Div 2) in what turned out to be a fairly one sided affair. Matches 2 and 3 on the night were to prove pivotal. In Match 2 David “Good Boy” Melrose looked in complete control when he took the first end v Amelia 11-3 but when he lost the next 2 (11-8, 11-9) suddenly a tied match was on the cards. To his credit, David then seemed to relax a little more in ends 4 and 5 as he produced some terrific controlled attacking play to run out an 11-5 winner in the fifth. Next up saw Greig v Graham with Greig totally relaxed in a match that he seems to have felt he couldn’t lose. Oops - after losing the first end 11-5, there was no panic, 11-7 and 11-5 wins in ends 2 and 3 showed he was in control. When Graham won the 4th 11-9 and took a lead in the 5th suddenly the atmosphere changed - panic was apparent, if not from Greig, certainly from his teammates! Somehow Greig roused from his comatose state to win the decider 11-6. And with those two matches it appeared that North Merchiston’s chances had gone. At 7-0 up, Iain reminded Greig just before his match with Amelia that she had been victorious in their encounter at Ladywood in September - Greig thanked Iain for the reminder with what looked like some sort of friendly hand gesture! In the end, other than a close doubles match, the home side fell to fairly straightforward losses as Team 1 recorded a sound 10-0 victory.
Penicuik 4 were the only side in action at Ladywood last week as they hosted Fife 3 in Division 3. With slender hopes still at play for promotion, Julian Taylor, Tony Brentnall and Sonny Taylor knew that any slip ups along the way will end those slim promotion chances. Sonny got the team off to a great start in Match 1 before Tony fell in five ends to Susan Adamson. Wins for Julian and then Tony gave the hosts a 3-1 lead before Sonny let a 2-0 advantage slip to lose out 13-11 in the fifth. Julian restored a two game gap as he won match 6 and when he combined with Sonny in the doubles for a victory the home side held an unassailable 5-2 advantage. Tony (perhaps a bit rusty after the Xmas period with too much turkey) lost Match 8 but wins for Julian and Sonny saw the home side record a 7-3 victory, the same scoreline as when these teams met in Fife earlier in the season. 4 points behind 2nd place but with a game in hand 0 they can still do it!
In Division 4, Team 5 also faced Fife opposition as they travelled to Inverkeithing to take on Fife 4. Team 5 had recorded a 6-4 victory against Fife in their first match of the season but they knew this was going to be a tough match. Without John Bald (top 3 in the individual averages) in their ranks, Stuart Bennett, Craig Johnson and Millie Bennett faced Division 4’s top ranked player, Neil Hoggan and when he defeated Millie 3-1 in the first match of the night the task for Team 5 became even harder. That win was followed by losses for Stuart and Craig in straight sets and the visitors were in big trouble. A 2nd defeat for Millie made it 4-0 before Craig gave the Midlothian side some hope by defeating Neil - that hope was short lived, however, as a further defeat for Stuart and a loss in the doubles saw Team 5 fall 6-1 behind and the match was over as a contest. There was a further win for Craig but on a disappointing night, Team 5 left Fife with an 8-2 loss and by the end of the week their lead at the top of the Division was gone - a win for West Lothian 7 saw them join Team 5 as joint leaders on 20 points with a host of others right on the top pair’s tails.
Although playing down their chances, one of the teams still in the hunt is Penicuik 7. Despite half a dozen teams above them in the division, a 7-3 victory last Wednesday for George Wilson, Kristian Skotzen and Hannah McDonell saw the Club’s bottom side keep the pressure on those teams above them. George was again the star player for the side with an undefeated night whilst Kristian and Hannah added two each. 13 games played and they sit on 16 points in 7th place in the Division. The gap to top spot now, however, is only 4 points. Haddington 4 could join the top two on Monday night if they can defeat WL 7, WL 8 are only a point behind the leading two as are WL 9, although they have played a game more. Add into the mix, Fife whose defeat of Team 5 has brought them within three points of top spot and this really is a title and promotion race which looks like going dow to the wire. On the down side for Team 7, Phil Daly is unfortunately out for a few weeks after emergency eye surgery - we wish him well for a speedy recovery. Speaking of injuries, we would also like to send our best wishes to Team 6’s Brian Bailey who is recovering from hip surgery and looks to be out for the rest of the season.
And so to our first player of the Week award for the second half of the season. Undefeated this week were all of Team 1, Julian from Team 4 and George from Team 7. Whilst both North Merchiston sides (teams 3 and 6) failed to play their full and regular sides against Teams 1 and 7, Fife managed to turn up against our Team 4 at full strength and for that reason this week’s deserved winner is Julian - not only did he play a captains part in leading from the front with an undefeated night in singles but he also combined for the doubles victory as his team recorded a 7-3 victory - Well done Julian.
Controversy of the Week this week? Team 1’s victory was a fairly straightforward one but led to some comments being made after the match regarding the verbal side of matchplay. In David’s game against Amelia, David fell 2 games to 1 behind and needed to “get himself motivated”. He duly did that with the assistance of a number of “good boy” chants and small screeches of delight after winning points. It’s difficult to tell whether this had any effect on Amelia’s play - she always seems completely in control of her emotions - according to NM Coach, Tom, however, this definitely made Amelia lose focus and put her off - it was something she wasn’t used to and needs to learn to cope with better. Certainly in the girls game this seems very rare - if she were a young boy on the other hand, David’s verbals would have been insignificant. Having attended the Scotland Under 21 International earlier this month, the difference between the Ladies and Mens Events was clear for everyone to see. As the Ladies just got on with it, every good shot played by certain of their male counterparts were treated to the “Cho” victory shout at varying decibels. It’s unsurprising that the our young juniors, cadets and even minors also act in this manner - they see it from our experienced players. Whilst it was not suggested that there was anything wrong with David’s behaviour during his match, it does beg the question of whether there is anything in the rules to prevent such conduct going too far. We’ve all been there - there’s nothing worse than somebody on the other side of the table giving out a big screech of delight as you hit a ball into the net or push a ball long!!
Oh well a quiet (ish) start to the New Year - unlike Week 18 which is scheduled to see all of our 7 teams in action. Good luck to all.