In Division 1, Team 2 travelled to face bottom of the table Corstorphine 2 in a match which some had suggested was a “must win”. Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, Gary McDougal and Charlie Brindley feel that they could have got something out of all of their last three matches but despite that, a win v Corstorphine would have given them a two-point buffer over 2ndbottom Fife 2. This match really does sum up Team 2’s season so far. At 4-1 down, the omens were not good for the Penicuik trio, but they fought hard and won the next 3 matches to level the scores at 4-4 going into Matches 9 and 10 on the night. But just as things were starting to look good for the visitors, two fairly straightforward wins for Corstorphine inflicted a disappointing 6-4 defeat on the visitors. The manner of the 4 wins for the Penicuik side says it all – a doubles victory was added to by each player winning 1 singles match – but they all beat different opponents – that’s crazy! This may not have mathematically been a “must-win match” but Team 2 now know that they have it all to do to avoid relegation. Not only has their loss given Fife a real chance of avoiding relegation, it has brought bottom of the table Corstorphine back into contention, only a point behind both Penicuik and Fife and given that Fife and Corstorphine have still to play each other, Team 2 need points from somewhere in their last half a dozen matches!
Team 3 of James Wighton, Chris Markey & Abby Wighton were looking to build on their 9-1 defeat of Corstorphine in Week 22 as they faced North Merchiston 4 at Ladywood in Division 2. With their opponents bottom of the table and looking odds-on certainties for the drop, this should have been a fairly straightforward win for the hosts and at 5-0 up that’s exactly what looked like happening. But credit is due to the North Merchiston trio who fought hard at the back end of the night to pick up 3 wins out of the last 5 matches. James was once again the Player of the Match for the hosts with an undefeated night in singles and contributing in the doubles with Chris who added two singles wins. An out of sorts Abby had only squeezed through in her first match against Slav and that seems to have affected her subsequent matches as she fell to defeats v David Hale and Nick Thomas. In the end a comfortable 7-3 win for Team 3 although the question which was being asked at the end of the night was how NM find themselves languishing at the foot of the table – they look a much better side than the table suggests.
In Division 3, Team 4 fell foul of the difficulty in arranging postponements. With only Tony Brentnall available from a team of four players, there was a late emergency call out to the Club for a couple of replacements. The problem which faces Club’s like ours is that we don’t have many “spare players” to pick from. Teams 5 and 6 were both playing on Wednesday night and there was no one else available to play – a concession resulted.
Division 4 has been a cracker of a division all season. It remains probably the most exciting division if all in terms of promotion battles with probably 5 teams still in the hunt for a top 2 place. Team 5 had a stinker of a start to 2019 – 3 consecutive losses to promotion rivals seemed to have put paid to their chances of getting out of the Division. But as favours were done by other teams, a 10-0 victory v Edinburgh Uni made things interesting again. This week they faced Haddington 5 and without, arguably their number 1, Martin Hayman, this was going to be a straightforward win for John Bald, Craig Johnson and Millie Bennett. But no – this is Division 4 where it seems as if any team on their day can beat any other team! Knowing that anything other than a perfect end to their season will probably not be enough imagine the horror as John Bald took to the table in the last match of the night at only 5-4 up and proceeded to lose the first end against young Tom Wilson! If Craig had upgraded his 1998 Nokia 5110 mobile he could have streamed the excitement live on our FB page – instead we had to make do with pigeon post speed updates as John fought his way back to secure a 4 end win much to the relief of his teammates. Although his phone is ancient and his movement round the table is from the 50’s, well done to Craig who proved to be the difference on the night as he won all three of his singles matches. Millie contributed 1 win and with John’s last gasp victory he provided 2 wins in the overall 6-4 victory for Team 5. The Division 4 table makes interesting reading. The top 6 are only split by 5 points. Although in 5th place in the Division, Team 5 have a game in hand on all around them and if they convert that to a win, they will leapfrog into 3rd place and only a point behind 2nd. But as everyone is finding out, any result seems possible as the season moves into its last quarter for the Division 4 sides.
As an example of how anything is possible, we just have to look at Team 6. They travelled to take on North Merchiston 6 and faced the same trio of young guns who a couple of weeks ago had despatched then 2ndplace WL 9 by an 8-2 scoreline. This would be a tough match for Team 6. Louis McLeod, Craig Linton and Adam Woodhouse had other ideas – 3 wins for Louis, two wins each for Adam and Craig and a doubles victory later and the Penicuik trio were leaving Watson Crescent with a huge smile on their faces after an impressive 8-2 victory. And it’s not as if it was even close - only the doubles went to five ends! Unbelievably, Team 6 secured their 13thpoint out of a possible 16 over the course of their last 8 matches with this victory! That run has only been bettered by top of the table WL 7 who have gained 14 points over the same period. If the season had started on 7th December 2018, Team 6 would be promotion favourites!! As we said last week though, it’s a pity that the Team went missing for the first 3 months of the season!!
And finally in Division 4, Team 7 travelled to take on University 6. The Students got some coverage in last week’s report when we commented that despite their pool of 11 or 12 players, a third of their matches had been played understrength. Lo and behold, they increased that ratio on Friday night as George Wilson, Kristian Skotzen and Hannah McDonell faced a two-player opposition of Agnieszka Wojciga and Islam Mostafa. The match was played in good spirits throughout and Team Captain George nearly spoiled a perfect night for his side as he squeezed home 11-8 in the fifth against an unlucky Agnieszka in Match 10 of the night. Perhaps feeling that his form was not quite there or maybe as a result of some scathing and harsh criticism of his doubles performances from 12-year-old Hannah, George dropped himself for the doubles and that decision worked as Kristian and Hanna combined well for a straightforward victory with the loss of only 16 points. A 10-0 victory for the visitors and if Phil had managed to stay healthy (he’s been out since Christmas), who knows where Team 7 might have ended up this season – only 3 wins behind second place is a great return at this stage of the season.
And so, to our Player of the Week Award for Week 23. Before we discuss undefeated players, a special mention this week to Adam from Team 6. He recorded two singles wins against players rated miles higher than him according to Ratings Central. He was giving away almost 250 and 150 points respectively to Alex McKay and Kai Hely and as a result of these wins his rating has jumped by 56 points – it also marks the first occasion on which Adam has won a double so well done to him. In terms of undefeated players this week, James was undefeated for Team 3, Craig won his 3 for Team 5, Louis was undefeated for Team 6 and all of Team 7 had undefeated nights. Team 7 played against only two players so they’re out the running. James and Louis both played in and won the doubles whilst Craig was allegedly dragged down to John’s level in his doubles loss – ordinarily that would put Craig out of the running – but hold on – there was only one match where an undefeated singles night was vital to the overall result – add to that the importance in their push for promotion and there can only be one winner – Well done to Mr Treasurer, Craig for a hugely important 3 wins.
And finally, our controversy of the Week section. The Handicap Cup has reached its quarter final stage and this season, for the first time in our recollection, there is no dedicated week in the calendar for playing these fixtures. Now in fairness there are only 4 matches to play so the feeling of the League was that it wouldn’t be too difficult to have these matches arranged. The fact that we have three teams through to the quarter final stage doesn’t help, but actually that’s not the problem. The Committee appear to have suggested that the built in “free weeks” in the schedule will make it easier to arrange these fixtures – what a load of nonsense. What are the chances of both teams in any match having the same free week – probably remote. Add in to that the fact that the way we play the Handicap Cup is by mixing teams up with players from different divisions and the chances of all of us having the same free week is virtually negligible – we’d have more chance of winning the lottery than that happening. Add to that the fact that for Clubs like ours we only have one night a week where we can play matches (a Wednesday) and it becomes impossible to arrange a fixture to avoid a scheduled League match! The League want the matches played before 5th April. That effectively gives us four possible Wednesdays to arrange a home match – unbelievably, every Wednesday between now and 5th April sees at least 4 of our teams in action, all of whom include players who are playing in the Quarter finals. It’s a good job we only have one home match to arrange out of the three – the other two matches we will have to rely on the opposing teams being able to offer us dates which fit – that’s just crazy – when there was a dedicated week, rearranged games could be fitted in but for those still involved in the Handicap Cup there was a free week to fit in the matches – rather than helping the situation, this change has just made organisation of these matches much, much more difficult. Let’s hope that our opponents are understanding, not to mention that they don’t face the same difficulties as us!
Secondly, this week, postponements again come to the fore. Our Team 4 required to concede a match this week – the second time a Team from Penicuik have had to do so this season – that’s probably a pretty good outcome for a Club with seven teams in the League at this stage of the season. The impact of postponements can be significant though – although Team 4’s concession doesn’t necessarily have much of an impact on them (they’re probably going to finish in third or fourth place), it does have an impact at the bottom end of the table – we doubt whether ESC will want to do us any favours – they started the week just two points behind their fellow strugglers Corstorphine but a loss for them and a 10-0 walkover for Corstorphine puts them really up against it to avoid relegation. And isn’t it interesting that Team 4 have been involved in 2 conceded matches this season – in the first half, for whatever reason, guess which team had to concede to Team 4 – yip, you guessed it – Corstorphine 4! What goes around comes around…..
With most teams now only having 5 or 6 matches of their season left, we move into the final quarter of the season with much still to play for. Bring it on in Week 24.