In Division 1 it was time for Team Captain Greig McDonell to have a rest - he was replaced by Colin Green who joined David Melrose & Iain Johnstone as they travelled to take on Edinburgh University 2. The reverse fixture at Ladywood had been a very hostile affair and the visitors were therefore somewhat wary of making the journey to the weirdly named St Leonard’s Land! In the end, there was a much better atmosphere and the scoreline from the first half of the season was repeated. Colin was undefeated and combined with David to win the doubles whilst Iain and David both won 2 as Team 1 recorded a good 8-2 win to remain at the top of the Division1 table.
At the opposite end of the Division, there was a crucial match for Team 2 as they hosted Murrayfield 5 at Ladywood. The Edinburgh outfit on paper look like a decent side and it’s been surprising to see them struggling towards the foot of the table. Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, Gary McDougal and Charlie Brindley had all been at Coach Greig’s Saturday Training session in preparation for this vital encounter (a first for the season) – and they found themselves one position and one point ahead of Murrayfield at the beginning of Week 21. A victory would boost their chances of avoiding relegation substantially. Having trained like a donkey (not sure that’s the correct expression – maybe it loses something in translation from Polish), Team Captain Krzysztof didn’t even make it to Ladywood on match night, instead having to look after baby at home! Really??? Sonny Taylor played up from Division 3 (Our Division 2 team were playing away from home). Although Sonny wasn’t far away, he was unable to get on the scoreboard. All was not lost though. Arguably Murrayfield’s best player, ex-Penicuik youngster, Luke Hennessey was defeated by both Gary and Charlie. And even better news was that in the first half of the season, both Gary and Charlie had defeated the other two Murrayfield players, Simon and Stella Hughes. Nothing’s ever that straightforward – Somehow, Charlie managed to lose to Simon and Gary lost to Stella. A draw wouldn’t be the worst result in the world – a straightforward doubles loss put an end to that! A hugely disappointing 6-4 loss for Team 2 and they’re now right back in the relegation quagmire. Young Adam was happy though – he had Daddy all to himself!
In Division 2, Team 3 of James Wighton, Chris Markey & Abby Wighton travelled to take on promotion certainties, Edinburgh International 3. Probably the less said about the 10-0 whitewash defeat the better! In fairness, James commented that the team had probably played better than they had the previous week v Granton and that just shows how strong EI are. Babu Valaguruvan is the star of the EI team – 39 games played, and 39 games won. He’s also played up 4 times in Division 1 and has won 10 out of 12, on two occasions being the player of the match for promotion challenging EI2. Why on earth he is registered in Division 2 is beyond us! Good tactics though by EI to try and ensure a strong 3rd team!
With Team 4 having a free week our attention turns to the tense battle raging in Division 4. As we have mentioned previously, this looks like the tightest of all the divisions with any of the top 6 capable of winning promotion.
The week started with Team 7’s trip to league leaders West Lothian 7. George Wilson, Hannah McDonell and Kristian Skotzen had dented Haddington’s promotion hopes last week but no one really anticipated that they were capable of putting a spanner in the works for the league leaders. George got the match off to a great start with a victory over Ros Beck before a cracking match between the youngsters, Hannah and David McRae – in a tight match filled with some great attacking play, Hannah kept her cool to pull through 11-8 in the fifth. Even better was to come as Kristian then pushed Bob Lander to five ends – at 5-1 down at the change of ends, Kristian suddenly found his form again and came back to win the match 11-8 in the fifth. 3-0 became 4-0 as George defeated David in 4 ends before Ros kept the match alive with a win v Kristian. But when Hannah again played some terrific stuff to beat Bob in 4 ends a point was secured. A doubles loss was followed by a great win for Kristian v David to secure the win and in the battle of the two number 1s, George came out on top. Ros spoiled Hannah’s night in Match 10 by playing with “some sort of funny rubber” according to a frustrated 12-year-old who couldn’t work out what to do (ah she’s like her father in so many ways!!). In the end a 7-3 victory for Team 7 and the chasing pack in the Division 4 title race were most grateful.
Then on Wednesday night at Ladywood, Team 6 faced another of the title contenders, West Lothian 8. Although only a place above our Team 5 and 5 points adrift of top spot, WL 8 had a couple of games in hand on the teams above them at the start of the night. Louis McLeod, Craig Linton and Rachel Petrie were to add to West Lothian’s woes and do yet another favour for Team 5. When Craig lost the first match of the night, it didn’t look good for the home side but wins for Louis and Rachel then gave the hosts a 2-1 lead. Match 4 between the sides’ top two players, Louis and Tommy Hamill, was to be pivotal – at 2-0 down Louis recovered to draw level at 2-2. The fifth end was mammoth – in typical Louis fashion (he can’t win in a straightforward manner) he squeezed home 18-16 in the deciding end and with that it appeared that the West Lothian resolve was broken. The only other win on the night for the visitors was Tommy’s win in Match 9 as Team 6 recorded an excellent 8-2 victory.
Before we go on to our own promotion candidates, Team 5, a match not involving Penicuik is worthy of note (that’s a first in these reports). In what turned out to be a miserable week for West Lothian in Division 4, their 9th Team who sat in 2nd place in the Division were turned over by the youngsters of North Merchiston 6. As WL 9 Captain, Tommy Toner indicated, the youngsters played out of their skins. Our roving reporter managed to see some of the matches and witnessed some brilliant attacking play from both Aiden Davis and Alex Mackay, both undefeated, as they secured an 8-2 win.
The importance of those three results was not lost on Team 5 – their promotion challenge seemed to be in tatters after 3 consecutive defeats to other promotion candidates, but in this crazy week they knew that a win v bottom of the table Edinburgh University would put them into 4th place but still with a game in hand over 1st and 2nd and two games in hand over 3rd place. Their season maybe wasn’t over after all!! With some strong words from El Presidente still ringing in their ears, John Bald, Craig Johnson and Stuart Bennett were never troubled, dropping only 6 ends on the night as they recorded a 10-0 victory. Three points behind second with a game in hand for Team 5 and their hopes of promotion remain alive.
There were a number of good performances this week from our players. Colin was undefeated for Team 1 whilst George and Louis again showed their importance to their teams with undefeated nights in singles play. All of Team 5 were also undefeated but they are ruled out of contention as they were playing the team bottom of the division. George, according to Hannah, was rubbish in the doubles – sorry George you’re out the running! That leaves a straight fight between Colin & Louis. Hang on hang on – we’ve had a complaint from Team 5 – in a week where there were lots of surprises in Division 4, they argue that just because Uni were at the foot of the table, that should not detract from their 10-0 performance to get them back on track in the Division 4 title race. Fair point we think – this week’s winner lost only 45 points in singles play and his performance in the doubles was seemingly brilliant given that he had to play with Craig – his undefeated night also puts him into equal third in the individual averages – Well done to John Bald, proving that 80 years of TT counts for a lot against youngsters!
And finally, our controversy of the Week. What can we say about Team 2’s match v Murrayfield? Season on the line (almost); a relegation battle; a win for Team 2 and the pressure would ease; all 3 players had trained hard at the weekend in anticipation of this vital match; we hear from Murrayfield that this was the first game since Xmas that they had managed to field their full team. And what do we do? Play with only two regulars!! Oh my goodness, or words to that effect. Would Murrayfield have granted our request for a postponement late in the day? We’ll never know as we never tried to get one. Had we tried and they refused that would at least have given us something to write about! There was nothing we could have done seemingly – a last minute family matter and Krys had to babysit. Hold on a minute, what’s more important a young baby or TT?? He would have been fine on his own wouldn’t he - he’s over a year old now – or if you didn’t want to take a chance on that, Gary was seemingly happy to look after him while Daddy played his matches! Of course, we don’t blame Daddy or Adam – players spouses just don’t seem to understand the importance of table tennis….
In the same match there was seemingly some rather loud screams and some rather angry behaviour from one of our opponents. According to some at the Club, perhaps caused by frustration at not winning, the yelps of disgust got a little out of hand. Whilst this type of behaviour can be dealt with by the opposing player (most of the time) and it’s often a sign to an opponent that they’re on top, what players often forget about is that, particularly in a venue such as ours, there are other matches going on which have to try and shut themselves off to such conduct – it’s often more difficult for those players not to be effected than it is for those involved in the match itself. We’ve all been there. Can anything be done about it? Some may have had words with the individual concerned? Some may just take it as part of the game. Perhaps a little consideration and respect for others though wouldn’t go amiss.
To end on a positive, however, we would like to pay tribute to one youngster who visited Ladywood on Wednesday night. So impressed by the behaviour of West Lothian’s Aidan Kerr, Team 6 took the time to make us aware of what they termed his “excellent manners, great humour and good sportsmanship throughout the night”. He even took the time during the warm-up with Rachel to ask how her day and week thus far had been – probably something that we don’t even do between ourselves! So, to our friends at West Lothian, forget about your shocking week in Division 4 and concentrate on what a credit young Aidan was to your Club. It’s not the winning that matters anyway, it’s the taking part…………