Team 1 started the week off with their visit to struggling North Merchiston 2. Colin Green and David Melrose were without Carsten Giebeler (who had been in terrific form the previous week). They called on the services of Gary McDougal but knew that without Carsten this was going to be a tough match. The first match of the night was to set the tone as David took on Eddie Scott. David recovered from the loss of the first end to lead 2-1 but back came Eddie in the fourth to force a decider. Unfortunately for the visitors it was Eddie who triumphed 11-8 in the fifth to get the hosts off to the best possible start. Colin levelled the scores before Gary lost Match 3. The next round of singles also went the way of NM, Colin again being the only winner as the visitors fell to a 4-2 deficit. The doubles match was to be crucial as David and Colin took on Eddie and Neil Innes. The match went to a decider and at 4-1 up the Penicuik duo looked in control. From that point, however, they lost 10 of the next 11 points as the match lead increased to 5-2. With Gary unable to pick up a win in his last match, the game was over – Colin and David both won their final matches, but it was too little too late as Team 1 fell to a 6-4 defeat.
After picking up a good point against mid table Murrayfield 5, thanks in no small part to the play of Team 3’s Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, it was no surprise that his services were called upon again as Edinburgh International 3 visited Team 2 on Wednesday night. Edinburgh International started the night below their hosts who knew that anything other than a win would significantly dent their Division 1 survival hopes. First up was Charlie Brindley v Alastair Hill – at 2-1 up after an 11-4 third end win, Charlie looked in control, but Alastair fought back to win the fourth and it went the distance in the decider, Charlie just holding his nerve for an 11-9 win. Super-sub Krzysztof then took on Chandrasekaran Kaliaperumal and this was to prove another mammoth encounter which went to a deciding fifth end, Krys fighting back from 2-0 down to win the final three ends 11-6, 11-8, 11-8. Gary McDougal then faced a new EI player, Than Htay Aung. Gary went down in 5 astonishingly close ends – 11-13, 10-12, 15-13, 13-11, 12-14!! When the next two matches were shared, Gary’s 2nd match was crucial, and he fought his way, in yet another five setter, to a cracking win. 4-2 going into the doubles which Charlie and Gary won to secure a point. 2 of the last 3 matches also went the way of the hosts to give Penicuik a much needed 7-3 victory, all three players picking up two, all losing to the new EI player who’s first taste of the ELTTL brought him an undefeated night.
Teams 3 visited North Merchiston, looking to steady the ship after a difficult few weeks in Division 2. They were back to full strength as Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, Iain Johnstone and James Wighton made the journey to Edinburgh. When Krys lost a tight five ender in Match 1 and Iain then lost the first end of match 2, Team 3’s troubles looked like they may have continued! Fortunately, Iain regained his composure to win in 4 before what looked like an easy match on paper saw James take on Stephen Porter playing up from Division 3. Hold on a minute – the nerves started again after Stephen secured a 3-1 win to give the hosts a 2-1 advantage after the first round of singles matches. Perhaps the shock to the system had the desired effect as from that point on, Team 3 showed why they remain favourites for promotion this season – they dropped only 4 further ends on their way to an 8-2 victory. This was a much-needed win for the side – although it looks like the title has gone, they extended their gap over 3rd place Clubmates Team 4 to 7 points and, more importantly, to 9 points over Murrayfield 7, who at the turn of the year looked like they may have been promotion candidates – 3 losses in a row for them, however, seems to have scuppered their chances. Could Team 4 challenge for second spot???
Julian and Sonny Taylor were joined by Tony Brentnall as they sought to eat into Team 2’s advantage over them at the top end of the Division 2 table – Haddington 2 were the visitors to Ladywood. The same trio had, in the first half of the season, come away from East Lothian with an 8-2 win so confidence was high that they could repeat that win. Although Sonny lost the first match of the night, the home trio took the next four matches to lead 4-1 and they looked to be on their way to a comfortable win. When Tony lost match 6 and Julian & Sonny then lost the doubles, the match was again in the balance – a five end win for Julian in Match 8, however, secured at least a draw for the home side. Two chances to win it for Penicuik, but first Tony fell to a straight sets defeat before Sonny couldn’t get the team over the line, falling agonisingly short as he lost ends 4 and 5 of his match by 9-11 score-lines As Team Captain Julian put it - “We somehow managed to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory!” A disappointing dropped point but a point that brings them within 6 of second spot in the division.
Team 5 travelled to take on ESC 3 in Division 3. Team 5 have 6 (yes SIX) players registered and yet they struggled to get a team together for a match against a team only 1 point behind them in the table. Team Captain Kristian Skotzen was seemingly not allowed out by Mrs S; Rachel Petrie can’t do Monday nights; Hannah McDonell had some ridiculous Guiding thing on (Priorities young Hannah!!); George Wilson was maybe available, maybe not, maybe available, maybe not. The only confirmed player was Craig Linton – with just one player confirmed McDonell Senior said he would play to avoid a concession having to be given! Organisational chaos! As it was, George eventually was able to make it and the resulting 7-3 win was closer than the result suggests. Craig had a bit of an off night given his recent good form, picking up just one win. Match 4 between George and Euan Rae was to prove pivotal. 2-0 up and coasting, George somehow managed to lose the next two ends 9-11, 11-13. The final end went all the way and George just about held his nerve for a 12-10 victory. He certainly likes getting his money's worth - Including the doubles, George played 18 ends of table tennis. A good win for Team 5 sees them leap to their best league position of the season, a good mid table 6th place – it would be exactly the midway point of the table had a certain team not been promoted mid-season leaving only 11 in the division – but we’re not allowed to mention that topic anymore!
This week saw Colin, Iain and Julian undefeated in singles play (We're ignoring McDonell Snr for obvious reasons)! But for a second week in a row, Krzysztof is due a big pat on the back (but not the award) for two more vital wins for Team 2. Both Colin and Julian were in losing doubles partnerships which proved to be costly for their overall results and so this week, the award goes to Iain – Team 3 really needed to steady the ship after a tumultuous few weeks and his undefeated night gave them the platform to do so – well done to him.
And so, to our Controversy of the Week. After a committee discussion, it has been decided that we are to put in a formal complaint in relation to the use of illegal equipment, as referred to in our piece last week. Sour grapes from us?? Not really – it won’t affect the result but we will be interested to see what the League Committee do!
Separately, the registration of new players halfway through the season is a topic which we haven’t really covered much in the past – it was brought to our attention as a result of Team 2’s match v Edinburgh International. Than Htay Aung, presumably just registered before the 31st January deadline, seems to have been completely unknown to Ratings Central but after his evening at Ladywood has a rating which puts him higher than 5 of the 7 registered players for EI in their first two teams who play in the Premier Division and only 20 points or so below the sixth of those seven players. Now, no one is saying it is easy to “guesstimate” the playing strength of a new player and therefore fairly assess where they should be placed in a Club’s team structure – but EI have, dare we say it, a bit of a history for this type of thing – does anyone remember Jean Pierre?? Not to mention another couple of questionable player strength estimates over the last couple of seasons. In fairness, we won’t quite know how good he is until he’s played another few matches and given that the Penicuik trio all gave him a good game, maybe his rating will come tumbling down. A point worth noting, however, is that for players who are registered below their playing strength, for example Iain Johnstone, he is not allowed to play the doubles matches for his team because he is 100 points higher than clubmates in the team above. Ignoring the “starting rating” given in this case (he was more than 100 points above a Team 2 member), surely until the League can properly assess a player’s strength, that player should also not be allowed to play in the doubles?? That would seem to follow the rationale behind the rule – Rules?? Who cares about them!
Week 21 here we come…..