Anyway, first up in Week 3 was not a Midlothian v East Lothian contest as Team 3 travelled to North Merchiston in Division 2. James Wighton, Ian Hislop and Hannah McDonell had started the season well with wins over Heriot Watt and Edinburgh University and were looking to maintain their 100% record. They got off to a terrific start with all three players winning their opening singles in straight sets. When James and Ian won their second singles of the night a point was secured, and that point was converted to 2 as Hannah & James combined for an excellent doubles win. All three players then won their final singles, Ian being pushed to an 11-9 fifth end decider, giving Team 3 their biggest win of the season – a 9-1 victory over their Edinburgh based opponents.
Thursday night at the Club saw Team 2 take on Haddington 2 in Division 1. James and Abby Wighton had to play up from Division 2 as they joined Team Captain Krzysztof Laszkiewicz. He will look back on this match as one that got away – he lost the first match of the night 11-5 in the fifth but made up for that in the final match of the night against Rolandas Skultinas with a 12-10 fifth end victory – in between he had also picked up a win in the second round of singles matches. James kept his good form going from the Monday night as he too won two matches, one of those also a deuce in the fifth win against the unfortunate Rolandas – not unfortunate as far as James was concerned though – there’s some history between that pair from last season! So, four wins on the board and a fifth win looked possible when Abby took on Haddington’s best player on the night, Craig Stenton - a topsy turvy affair also went down to the wire, Abby losing out 11-9 in the fifth. Could the doubles provide the home side with a point? Krzysztof and Abby were never really in it and with that loss, the Haddington side secured a 6-4 victory.
Team 4 meanwhile faced Haddington 5 in Division 3. Another match where we had to call on a player from a lower division to play up and with Team 5 also in action, that wasn’t easy – Roscoe Cairney answered the distress call to join Bob Porteous and Rachel Petrie. Sometimes you might decide just to play with two players, but Club President Greig pointed out that it was always better having three players as you never know - your opponents might turn up short handed. As if he was a fortune teller, lo and behold the East Lothian outfit turned up with just two players – what a great chance for the hosts to record their first victory – 3-0 up before the match started. That got even better as Bob won a terrific tussle against Liam Govan in match 1 of the night, a close 14-12 fifth end victory gave the hosts a 4-0 advantage. A point looked to be within the team’s grasp as Rachel took a 2-1 lead in the second match of the night, but this time the hosts came out on the wrong end of a deuce in the fifth match - 4-1 but nothing to panic about. When Roscoe, Rachel, the doubles and then Roscoe again lost, however, the team were suddenly 5-4 down. Bob had a chance to secure a point in the final match of the night but perhaps tension played a part as he fell to a four end defeat, Team 4 disappointingly losing out by a 6-4 margin.
The East Lothian v Midlothian week wasn’t over as Team 1 visited Haddington 1. Played on two tables, Greig McDonell started out against Pete Lugton, whilst Brian Hunter simultaneously played Carsten Giebler. Greig and Pete commented that they probably last played each other in about 1989. One of the players has let themselves go a bit whilst the other looks just as fit now as he did 30 years ago – and his left handed forehand topspin is still as difficult to return now as it was 30 years ago! The good news was that the match was over so quickly it gave Greig a chance to cheer on Brian who was involved in a real tussle with Carsten. When Brian fell 2-1 behind with an 11-2 third end loss the match looked over, but Brian is a fighter and he came back from the dead in both the fourth and fifth ends for a terrific 11-9 fifth end win. The musical Matt Munro (only those old enough to remember will get that one) then took on Colin Green and Colin managed to win the big points in a couple of close games to give the visitors a 2-1 advantage after the first round of singles. The next two matches saw Pete continue his good form with a 3-0 victory over Colin whilst Greig blew a couple of great chances as he fell in four ends to Carsten. Brian then won his second match of the night to level the match at 3-3. The doubles was crucial and when Greig and Colin won the first end 11-6 they were looking good. At 10-4 down in the second things looked a bit worse – but hold on 6 points in a row brought them level at 10-10 only for them to lose the game 12-10 – they never really recovered from that, losing out 3-1. There was still a chance of at least a draw though – Greig v Matt and Colin v Carsten played simultaneously – Greig got the fourth victory of the night, but Colin couldn’t pull off the win v Carsten. That left Brian needing an unlikely win against Pete in the last match of the night and unlikely it proved – another 6-4 defeat for Penicuik.
The Club’s fifth team were also in action on Thursday night as they hosted North Merchiston 6 in Division 4. Aidan Craig and Patrick Shanks took to the table again for their third match in a row and were joined by Sian McDonald, making her competitive debut. Surely this one couldn’t also finish 6-4, could it? Aidan and Patrick got the hosts off to a great start with victories before Sian’s first match pitted her against the Edinburgh side’s number 1. No doubt a little nervous, she fell in straight sets as the hosts held a 2-1 lead after the first round of singles. Patrick won his second match of the night before Aidan then lost out to Sian’s conqueror in three close ends. Match 6 on the night was to prove crucial. Sian found herself 2-1 down and 10-6 down in the fourth – facing four match points she dug in and recovered for a 14-12 victory and followed that up with an 11-8 fifth end win – 4-2 rather than 3-3 and the home side were close to securing at least a point. Aidan & Patrick lost out in the doubles to bring the match close again and when Patrick also lost to the Merchiston side’s undefeated player, the result was on a knife edge at 4-4. Four matches played on Thursday night involving the club and would you believe it every single one of them ended 6-4 – but unlike the other three this time Aidan and Sian won their final matches to give Penicuik the 6-4 win – a terrific result, Team 5’s second win of the season.
Away from the Edinburgh League, we must mention the Club’s exploits at the 2022/23 Scottish National League which got underway at Perth on Saturday 8th October. The standard last year in Division 5 was terrific and the Club were over the moon to finish 2nd and get promoted to Division 4. When Team Captain Greig looked at some of the teams in Division 4 on Friday night he started to wish the side had maybe stayed in Division 5! He was joined by James and Hannah for the trip to Perth to play the first two fixtures of this year’s event, matches against Nomads (Glasgow area) and Murrayfield. There really is a great atmosphere at the National League – 48 teams across six divisions all competing in the massive main Hall at the Bells Sports Centre – 24 tables in action and a real buzz in the hall. First up was Nomads. Matches are between teams of three with each player playing two singles – after the first three matches only Greig had managed a win – when he won his second singles the match was tied at 2-2. James then played well against the Nomads number 3 to secure a point and it was left to Hannah to play the opponent’s number 2 player, the very experienced Maureen Moran. Hannah held her nerve brilliantly to give Penicuik a 4-2 win. The afternoon match pitted us against a Murrayfield side made up of an Edinburgh Premier League player and two division 1 players. Greig got the side off to a good start before James fell to the Murrayfield number 1. Hannah then faced Ian Moran (no relation to Maureen!) – there is more than 200 points difference in their ratings, and it looked that way as Ian comfortably took the first set against Hannah 11-4. Then something seemed to click as Hannah began to return serve better putting Ian under pressure – a fantastic turnaround saw her win in four ends to give Penicuik an unexpected 2-1 advantage. Greig came out on top in the battle of the number 1s before Hannah lost out in her second match. That left James to try and convert 1 point to 2 in the final match of the day – both players looked tense and nervous but James made fewer errors as Penicuik recorded their second victory of the day – Wow what an amazing start to the Competition. Things will get tougher with the next three fixtures next month – we’ve got David, Abby and Gary in the squad to call upon but given the first day’s performances, they might struggle to get selected!
And so, to our player of the week award for Week 3. Only Ian from Team 3 was undefeated in singles play this week (given that James lost a match when playing up) but as we know this award is not just about not losing games – and Ian is now sunning himself in Portugal for a few weeks so there’s no chance he’s getting the award – sorry Ian. First shout out is to Brian – not long back from a serious injury and he did his part on Thursday night winning two of his three singles, one of those wins being against the much higher rated Carsten. James and Hannah also need credit this week – not only did James play up again and win 2 in Division 1, he and Hannah won crucial matches at Perth on Saturday to give Penicuik a great start to the season in the National League – they both won two out of their four matches played. A well done also to Greig who was undefeated in the National League with four wins out of four, but he blew it against Carsten in the Edinburgh League so he’s out of the running. But this week, like last, we turn to our newest squad of players in Division 4. All three players performed well with Aidan, Patrick and Sian all contributing two wins in the Club’s only win out of four matches played on Thursday night. Aidan probably should have won a joint award last week with Patrick for his undefeated night against university, but we were feeling cruel and gave it to Patrick because he won 9 ends, lost none as opposed to Aidan’s 9 ends won and 1 lost! Cruel indeed! If we used the same criteria this week, Aidan won 6, lost 3 ends, Patrick won 6, lost 4 ends and Sian won 6, lost 5 ends. Even crueller this week – we’ve changed our criteria. The nature of a win and the importance of that win is what matters this week – your time will definitely come Aidan – keep up the good work – 9 competitive matches played, and 6 wins is a phenomenal return in his first season of League play. But this week the award goes to the player who played her first ever competitive table tennis match, came back from the dead to save four match points and who effectively secured the overall match win because of that comeback – well done to Sian.
Finally, what about our controversy of the week section. Jings this report has gone on a bit – is anyone still reading? Pete Lugton begged to be in this section this week, so here goes – one of the dodgiest calls ever was made as Colin held a 10-7 advantage over Pete in the first end of their League match on Thursday night. The home umpire was going to give Colin the point and the win after he didn’t see Pete’s shot apparently hit the table – was it a side or an edge – after an argument from Pete a let was played – and yes you guessed it he came back to win that end and the match. OK, so we have used a bit of journalistic license here – the players actually agreed to play a let but that doesn’t make the story controversial at all! In fairness, if Colin agreed to play a let then surely it was actually an edge! Pete’s far too nice a guy to be involved in controversial moments. Oh hold on, at a crucial point in the doubles official umpire Roger Thomas faulted Colin because he said the ball bounced on the wrong side of the table on Colin’s side – Pete had the best view of that as he was waiting to receive serve - he went sheepishly quiet – it was never a fault (or maybe it was)! Despite how hard we try we can’t seem to find anything horrible to say about Mr Lugton – unlike a number of the players he’s responsible for – if only all of Haddington’s players were as lovely as he is! Carsten was way out of order after defeat to Brian - instead of congratulating his opponent all we could hear him say was how unbelievably bad he’d been – that might be the case but save that for a discussion with your teammates not as your shaking the opponent’s hand and walking away from the table – oh hold on, Greig had to have a go at Colin for doing exactly the same after he lost to Carsten! Bad sportsmanship? Or as Colin put it, I’m happy to say he was the better player on the night I’m just commenting that my play was way below my normal standard! Hmm. And what about a certain Haddington player at Penicuik on Thursday night – anyone that can make James swear must be a controversial character! Apparently, the player was clapping and cheering mistakes from his opponent, shouting very loudly (apparently putting Rachel off who was playing in Division 4) and finally after the narrowest of defeats threw his bat across the hall in anger / frustration. That should have been a red card (if we had any) but the match was over anyway. And then add to all of that our most controversial moment of the season so far – Haddington’s Craig Stenton won his three and combined for a doubles win against us in their 6-4 division 1 victory. Craig is a nice guy. He is a great acquisition for Haddington – a new player to the League. Hang on a minute, we remember him coming along to a Saturday training session at the Club – it looked like he might join us. We were making all the right noises, all being friendly towards him, and we could see great potential. Rachel was particularly friendly to him – she pointed out some other clubs that he might like to try out! Oh, Haddington is a really nice club as well, she said! That’s probably closer to where you stay! We never saw him again!! Until Thursday! We’re not bitter!!
Week 4 upon us – thank goodness we don’t have to see that Lugton chap again for a while.