In Division 2, James & Abby Wighton were joined by Chris Markey as they hosted Granton at Ladywood. After dropping a point to an understrength West Lothian side last week, the home team knew that any more slip ups would, avoiding miracles, end any chance of a second-place finish. With a 7-3 victory in the first half, the trio went into the match with some confidence but after six fixtures they quickly found themselves 4-2 down, the two wins both coming from Chris. Abby combined with Chris for a victory in the doubles to cut the deficit and James then squared the match score at 4-4. However, on a night to forget for Abby, she lost match 9 and it was left to Chris to try and salvage a point. Although he dug deep to win the first end, he lost the next 3 as Granton recorded a surprise 6-4 win. 9 points behind second place and only 1 point out of a possible 5 since Xmas – Disappointingly, Team 2’s target will now probably be to try and catch University for 3rd.
At the beginning of the season there were also high hopes for Team 4 of Julian Taylor, Tony Brentnall and Sonny Taylor in Division 3. They faced a must win match against Haddington 3 on Thursday night knowing that a win would bring them within a point of their East Lothian hosts. In the reverse fixture at Ladywood, Haddington won 6-4 but the Penicuik side were without Tony. On this occasion after the first round of singles fixtures, wins for Tony and Julian gave the visitors a 2-1 lead. With match 5 going the way of Haddington’s best player, Will Coley, games 4 and 6 on this night were to prove crucial. With Sonny losing in 5 ends to Tommy Crooks in match 4, it was vital for Julian to try and defeat Bruce Murie in game 6 – Julian stormed into a 2-0 lead including an 11-0 granny in end two and it looked like plain sailing. Spurred on by that granny it seems, or was it a lack of concentration from Julian, back came Bruce to remarkably win the next 3 ends 11-7, 12-10, 12-10. At 4-2 down father and son Taylor reduced the deficit to 4-3 before Tony pulled the scores level at 4-4. Bruce showed his guile against a dejected Sonny to guarantee a point and not for the first time this season, Julian was left with the task of trying to rescue a point. Alas it was not to be as he suffered another five-end defeat. This 6-4 loss has probably finished off any chances of promotion for Team 4, five points behind second place and they’ve played a match more.
Team 5’s start to the second half of the season in Division 4 has been a dreadful one. With Craig Johnson unavailable, John Bald was joined by father and daughter duo, Stuart and Millie Bennett. After An 8-2 loss to promotion chasing Fife was followed by a 6-4 defeat at the hands of Haddington 4, Wednesday’s match v top of the table WL 7 was vitally important. With David McRae playing up from Team 9, the hosts were in confident mood – a sign of things to come however was probably shown in match 1 as Team 5’s number 1, John only just squeezed over the line with an 11-9 win in the 5th v David. The next 5 matches were over in a flash as WL stormed into a 5-1 lead. A doubles victory for the hosts kept the match alive, but only briefly as Millie and Stuart both had nights to forget. John won match 10 to give some respectability to the scoreline but a 7-3 win for WL really didn’t flatter them on the night. These are worrying times for Team 5 – top of the table at Xmas, three defeats in a row leave them languishing in 6th place although they do have a match in hand on most of those above them and two games in hand against second placed WL 9. 6 points behind top spot though means they need help from others and realistically second place would now appear to be their target.
After a run of dreadful results for the Club’s promotion challenging teams, it was with some relief that Team 1 kept their undefeated season going as they hosted relegation threatened Fife at Ladywood. In a rather one-sided affair, Greig McDonell, David Melrose & Iain Johnstone only dropped one end in singles play (Steve McKay taking the first end of Match 4 v David). The whitewash was avoided, however, as Team Captain Greig threw David & Iain together for their first doubles match of the season so he could go and support daughter Hannah playing for Team 7. When he returned David pointed out that he was never playing doubles with Iain again just as Iain then pointed out that David had been absolute, eh, we don’t think we can publish that word actually! A 9-1 win for Team 1 sees them retain top spot in the Division 1 title race and there was further good news for the Penicuik side as one of their closest challengers, Murrayfield 4 could only record a 5-5 draw with NM 3 on the same night.
Team 6 of Louis McLeod, Adam Woodhouse and Craig Linton travelled to take on WL 9 at Bathgate, hoping to continue their excellent run of form against one of the “top 6”. At 3-1 down Craig had a chance to reduce the deficit in Match 5 and was 10-7 up in the fifth. Desperate for the win he perhaps tried too hard to finish the match there and then as he foul served and before he knew it the fifth end was lost 12-10. 4-1 became 5-1 and the match was then over as Louis and Craig lost the doubles. There were good 5 end wins for Louis and Craig in the last round of singles matches but the hosts were too good on the night and recorded a 7-3 victory.
In the continued absence of Phil Daly, Team 7 of George Wilson, Hannah McDonell and Kristian Skotzen hosted Haddington 4 who had conquered Team 5 the previous week and were looking to put in a good run to give themselves a chance of promotion from Division 4. At 3-1 down, Team Captain George took on Martin Hayman (playing up) and when surprisingly, Martin strolled to a straight sets win the match looked dead and buried as a contest, especially as Kristian then went on to lose match 6. 5-1 down and the visitors looked nailed on for two vital points. George and Hannah played one of their best doubles matches to defeat the East Lothian duo in straight sets to keep the match alive. Hannah then took on Martin who had defeated her in 4 ends the previous week for his own Team 5. This time the result was reversed as Hannah won in 4. That was then followed by a terrific comeback from Kristian from 2-1 down to win match 9 and before the visitors knew it, George took the table for match 10 with a point still in sight. His win was never in doubt as he won in straight sets to produce an unlikely draw for the hosts. Haddington 4 may be ruing their matches against Team 7 come the end of the season – only one point gained from a possible 4 against the Penicuik team.
The player of the week decision this week is a difficult one in a week where good performances were at a premium. Only 3 points out of a possible 12 for the Club with only Team 1 gaining a victory. All three Team 1 players had undefeated singles nights but David and Iain lost the doubles! It’s easy then, Greig must be this week’s winner! But hold on, we’re going to break from tradition this week – as we’ve said before this award is about performing under pressure and for that reason this week the award is shared between all of Team 7! Well done to George, Hannah & Kristian – 5-1 down and 4 terrific wins on the bounce to secure the draw – not only a point gained, but in the tightest of promotion races, they may have done Team 5 a big favour by denting Haddington 4’s points total – at the end of the season that point may turn out to be huge!
And finally, our controversy of the Week. Let’s have a go at ourselves this week. Our Team selection at the beginning of the season was a difficult one. Whilst Team 1 picked itself, the other Teams could quite easily have been chosen with different combinations of players. There was disappointment for some Club members who felt they were playing at a lower level than they should have been. Teams 2, 3 and 4 all posed difficult choices but perhaps the clearest picture of how wrong we perhaps got it is in Division 4. Before last week’s matches 3 Penicuik players were in the top 6 of the individual averages for the division. George Wilson, John Bald and Louis McLeod were all in the hunt for the individual award. The problem with that stat is that they all play in different teams!
With Team 5 in a bit of a mess after their first two matches of the New Year, there was chat about dropping regular players for the match v top of the table WL 7 and pulling in George and Louis to combine with John. Whilst nothing is a certainty, surely that trio would have come out on top?? A need win match - would it have been “unfair” to put out our best three players in the Division for such an important game? Unfair on who? Our opponents? Who cares about them (only in the sporting sense WL)! Unfair on our regular Team 5 players? Maybe? The philosophy of the Club has been that if a team has done well then you stick by those players. Thus when Team 5 gained promotion to Div 3 two seasons ago it was felt they deserved the chance to play together in that Division. The fact that they immediately returned to Division 4 probably showed that that decision was wrong, but it was felt that was the fair thing to do. So what about for the rest of the season? Team 5 cannot afford to drop any more points. Then there’s the question as to what the teams below would think if they were deprived of their best players? Should Club come before team?? This is probably a topic which should have been raised long before now – the horse may already have bolted before we gave the slightest thought to closing the stable door! What would other Clubs do in this scenario? Oh well – maybe a lesson for next season!
And finally, the Rule about nominating one person as “coach” raised its head at Ladywood on Wednesday night. With a certain youngster playing against Haddington, a certain relative made his way over to give some “encouragement” Match 7 by that time and he’d never been seen at all up to that point! In WL’s match, Clive had wandered in to watch a couple of games and got in on the act of giving some advice to Team 5 – not that it did much good – it was about as helpful as when he tried out his physio skills on El Presidente causing him to be unable to walk for about 6 weeks! Whilst only mentioned in jest (maybe) after the event, it does raise the question again about the purpose of the Rule, especially when matches are being played on two tables and youngsters are involved. Of course, the response was that our opponents must not have been listening when these two senior players were nominated as non-playing coaches at the beginning of the matches!
Week 21 will hopefully be more successful for the Club – it can’t be much worse can it??