With David Melrose still out after the calf muscle injury he picked up in Week 3, Iain Johnstone teamed up with Carsten Giebeler and Colin Green to face Edinburgh Sports Club 1 at Ladywood. 3 matches played and 3 defeats for the first team is not the start they had hoped for. They desperately needed to get their Premier League campaign up and running and coming off undefeated weekends in the Scottish National League, Colin and Carsten looked to be in good form. Iain started the night off against Faye Leggatt and lost an amazing first end 18-16 before losing the second 11-9. He came back though winning the next two 11-9. The decider, you guessed it, went the distance, with Faye scraping home 11-9. Colin and Carsten then got the home side on the board with good 3-0 wins over Scott McKenzie & Martin McKay respectively. Match 4 saw Colin take on Faye for the second time in a week, having defeated her in 5 at the National League last weekend. A similar story unfolded here, and another five-end win was then followed by a terrific 4 end victory for Iain v Martin and another win for Carsten – 5-1 up and Team 1’s first point of the season was secured. It got better for the home side as Carsten and Colin combined for a good doubles performance and that was followed by all three players picking up 4 end victories in their last matches of the night. Final score 9-1 (perhaps a little flattering) - a great win for the hosts. The question is will David get back in the team even when he regains fitness!
Team 2 made a trip to Napier University to take on Corstorphine in Division 1, retaining the same team who had drawn their opening match of the season with Murrayfield. Julian Taylor got the visitors off to the best possible start with a 4-end victory over the experienced Dave Hall. Player of the night from the previous match, Gary McDougal, then took on Jonas Falter. Gary found it tough going losing in a very one sided 3 straight sets. Match 3 was a classic – Sonny Taylor v Geoff Clark – Sonny fought back from losing the first and third sets to take it into a decider but couldn’t quite get over the line losing 11-9 in the fifth. Julian then levelled the scores again with a four-set victory over Jonas before Sonny was involved in yet another 5-end marathon. This time he let a 2-1 lead slip to lose in five and when Gary lost match 6, the visitors were in trouble at 4-2 down. The crucial doubles also went the distance, Julian and Gary unfortunately losing out 11-8 in the decider. Could Team 2 come back for a draw? The answer was no as Sonny lost in 4 and an out of sorts Gary lost in 3. The only positive on the night was Julian’s form – his first season in Division 1 and an excellent night for him personally ended with his third win in Team 2’s 7-3 loss. The difference on the night was the close matches – three five setters and all three went the way of the hosts.
In Division 3, Team 4 also faced Corstorphine opposition, a little wounded from their 8-2 home loss to Murrayfield 8 the previous week. The same trio had the chance to put that match behind them as Jay Tracey, Rachel Petrie and Jim Jack made the trip to Napier. Rachel was first up and on another night she could quite easily have won this match, or at least picked up a couple of ends. Chris McCathie (he’s been round for an eternity hasn’t he?) showed his experience by playing the “big points” better in a 14-12, 11-9, 11-7 victory. When Jay and Jim then lost their matches in four ends, the visitors were in big trouble. Rachel then played her best TT of the night but was just lacking that ability to “put the match to bed” as she lost a -2-0 lead, losing the final three ends 12-10, 11-8, 11-8. Jim eventually got the team on the board with a win in match 5 but when Jay lost match 6 they trailed 5-1. The doubles should have been won but again the visitors lost out from a winning position – 2-0 up, Jim and Jay then lost the final three ends 11-9. 6-1 quickly became 7-1 and the match was well and truly over. As we pointed out in last week’s report, however, it was getting better for Team 4 – a 9-1 defeat in Week 1 and an 8-2 loss in their second match. To keep the pattern going Jay and Jim needed to win their final matches of the night and with WhatsApp updates being provided lo and behold they both did! A 7-3 loss and another move in the right direction. 10th November v Fife, if the pattern continues, will see a 6-4 victory! Hopefully, however, the pattern is broken in the team’s next match v ESC!
In Division 2, following Team 3’s first League match of the season against Herriot Watt, they were again on their travels to take on students, as they rounded the week off on Friday evening with a visit to Edinburgh University 3. James Wighton, Hannah McDonell & Abby Wighton arrived in good spirits and left in good spirits – it was just the table tennis bit in the middle that got in the way of a really good night out. Things looked a little suspect at the beginning of the night. Having had a big night out the previous evening (Bongo Bingo whatever on earth that is!) Abby’s reply to the tactical pre match advice was “I think I maybe shouldn’t have had those pint glasses of cocktails last night, or maybe that kebab on the way back to the hostel! OMG says Greig (or words to that effect) – are you ok to play – we’ll see - I’m sometimes seeing two balls coming towards me – that must give me a better chance of hitting one of them! To her credit she somehow managed to win 2 on the night (maybe seeing double was a good thing after all). The crucial match on the night turned out to be Match 6, Hannah v Edward Leong. Hannah battled back from 1-0 and 2-1 down to force a decider. In that decider she got off to a shocking start - 5-1 down at the change of ends then became 7-2. Somehow she then managed to hit some cracking forehand winners and the match watch was tied at 9-9 in the fifth. Momentum with her, two errors and her hard work fell just short – ouch! With a doubles loss the team were up against it and with time rapidly running out, Matthew Ashton won the last match of the night in 4 ends to pick up a 6-4 victory for the University. The good news for this team is the cracking team spirit – Hannah summed matters up on the journey home – “we might not be the best team, but I think we have the most fun” – and in the end that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?
And so, to our player of the week award. For the first time this season we have a real competition for the award. Colin and Carsten were both undefeated in Team 1 and combined for a win in the doubles. Julian had an excellent night in Division 1, undefeated in his singles matches although his team lost 7-3 and he lost in the doubles. The easy option is to give this week’s award to Carsten who was voted player of the night for 12 ends won and only 2 lost (including the doubles). But we like thinking out of the box a little. Iain Johnstone is the “4th member” of our Premier League squad; he played Division 2 in the 2019/20 season. He has only played one season in the Premier Division and that was back in 2014/15; he’s hardly picked up a bat since 2019; he’s still using the same blade and rubbers he had in the 2012 season!!; and yet he should have come away with a full house on Thursday night. As it was, his two victories managed to reduce the pressure on his teammates making their undefeated nights easier. Imagine how good he would be if we could get him to the club to practice!! Well done Iain.
And finally, our controversy of the week section. At the beginning of each season the League provide a list of players who cannot play up based on rating central points. Now a debate could be had about how accurate the ratings are, but putting that to one side, this season the League made specific exceptions for 3 players based on what they termed “youth development”. What was said was that the rules should not apply to inhibit youthful player development – specific examples were Murrayfield’s Charlie McGowan, Corstorphine’s Aidan Clark and North Merchiston’s Amelia Norbury. All three players are playing in higher teams than their rating suggests they should, and because of the moves, others are playing at a lower level than their rating suggests – for example Eddie Scott in the case of Amelia Norbury.
We have no problem with these exceptions – look at young Charlie McGowan – what fantastic strides he has made and scarily he’s already more than holding his own in the top team in the League, Murrayfield 1. Our problem is that in our club a similar argument can be made about our Club President. This year Greig is playing in Div 2 – the reason of course is the exact same reason as given by the League – “youthful player development” – in his case the development of his 14-year-old daughter, Hannah. At age 14, she can’t get to matches in the Edinburgh League from the lovely Scottish Borders on her own! It is unfair, in our view, that Eddie Scott, for example, can play at a lower level than his rating would suggest, to help develop Amelia, but not be punished by still being allowed to play up for NM’s Premier team where he should be registered, while Greig is not. There is no difference in our view. The choice made by Eddie and by Greig would seem to be based on the same consideration, namely, to help develop a young player. So why are we treated differently? Even more bizarre – the 100-point rule doesn’t even apply now in Greig’s case. Greig’s rating (1189) is below two of our Premier team but above the other two members of that team - Iain Johnstone (1153) and David Melrose (1111) – only 46 points above Iain and 78 points above David! Now the League will point out, no doubt, that there was more than a 100-point difference (this being the basis for applying the rule) at the start of the season and that was why Greig was banned from playing up for Team 1 – even at that point in time the biggest difference was just over 100 points. We had the bizarre situation last week of Team 1 playing with two players and Greig unable to step in because of the ruling. A 6-4 defeat followed! And guess what? In NM’s first Premier league match of the season Eddie played up in place of Amelia, and won 2 vital matches in a 5-5 draw!
If we listen to Hannah this might not be a problem for long anyway - he might soon be below all 4 members of the Premier team - just give it a few weeks and if dad ever gets in the team he’ll end up losing and his rating will tumble down in any event! She still remembers the Division 3 match in the 2020 season at Edinburgh University where he struggled over the line twice in deciding ends. Now there’s confidence for you!
Handicap Cup in Week 5 - that will be really straightforward......