Next up in Week 6 was Team 1’s trip to Bathgate to take on the thus far undefeated West Lothian 1. Greig McDonell returned from his holiday to join Colin Green and Brian Hunter as they faced the Polish pairing of Dariusz and Alicja who were joined by Steve Collins. When Greig and Colin won the opening two matches against Alicja and Dariusz respectively, a surprise looked on the cards. Brian was probably favourite against Steve, but he couldn’t quite get the better of his opponent's steady play and when Greig lost to Dariusz in four ends the scores were level at 2-2. The next two matches saw Brian take on Alicja whilst Colin faced Steve. Brian played some terrific stuff as he won an epic attacker v defender battle against Alicja and despite dropping a set, Colin was too good for Steve. 4-2 and a real opportunity presented itself for the visitors. After a win v Murrayfield 1 in the doubles whilst Greig was on holiday, Colin and Brian took to the table again and when they won the first end the decision to play together looked like the right one. But Dariusz and Alicja battled hard and took the next two ends 11-7. They were in control in the fourth end as well until 9-3 up when suddenly the Penicuik duo heaped the pressure on coming back to deuce. But that hard work counted for nothing as the West Lothian pair held their nerve for a 12-10 win. 4-3 as Greig took on Steve and Brian took on Dariusz. Greig’s game which had looked great against Alicja and in patches good against Dariusz suddenly deserted him (nerves he claims) and he was extremely disappointed to lose in five ends. Brian meanwhile put up a good fight but lost in four to Dariusz. Suddenly from 4-2 up the visitors were in danger of losing 6-4 – and that looked likely when Alicja took a 2-0 lead against Colin in the last match of the night. Well after 10pm but despite Greig’s best efforts to get the WL caretaker to switch off the lights play continued – Colin fought back and it went the distance – an 11-9 win in the fifth gave Penicuik a deserved point – but oh how it should have been two!
Thursday night at Ladywood saw our remaining three teams in action. Team 2 took on Murrayfield 6 without Team Captain Mr Scrabble Man. Sonny Taylor, Gary McDougal and Abby Wighton were looking to get on the right side of the result this week after two 6-4 losses in their previous two matches. Sonny got the side off to a good start before a mammoth encounter between Gary and Masoud Nowbaveh. There’s a bit of history between this pair and it came down to the wire – an 11-9 fifth end win for the Murrayfield player was to turn out to be crucial. Wins for Gary and Sonny again meant that going into the doubles the scores were tied at 3-3 and when that pair won the doubles comfortably the home side led 4-3 with the final three singles to play. Surely one of them would go the way of the hosts? Gary was never in his match, before Abby battled into a fifth end v Lynn Somerville - she couldn’t win the fifth though and so it was left to Sonny to try and salvage a point. He, like Gary, fell in straight sets as Team 2 lost another tight one 6-4.
Team 4 have found life in Division 3 tough so far and it wasn’t to get any easier for Rachel Petrie, Jim Jack and Bob Porteous as they faced Corstorphine 3. When Bob won the first match of the night, however, there was some hope that they might surprise their opponents. That hope was short lived as the away side won the next two singles comfortably and when Rachel lost match 4 in five ends the writing was on the wall for the hosts. It wasn’t until the last match of the night that the home side won another end, Bob losing a close one 3-2, but by that time the match had well and truly got away from the Penicuik trio. A difficult night for Team 4 as they lost out 9-1.
Finally in Week 6, Team 5 hosted Corstorphine 5 in Division 4. Phil Daly, Brian Bailey and Chamika Diyunugalge turned out for the home side – Brian making his first appearance in a league match since 2018 and Chamika playing his first ever Edinburgh league match. Phil got the hosts off to a good start but defeats for Brian and Chamika gave Corstorphine the early advantage. The next three matches all saw Corstorphine wins by 3 games to 1 and the hosts were in big trouble at 5-1 down. Could Phil and Brian roll back the years with a win in the doubles to keep the match alive? Eh, No! Positively in the last three matches, however, there were 2 wins – a second on the night for Phil and Chamika’s first ever league win as the hosts fell to a 7-3 defeat. Whilst it is fair to say that team Secretary Brian was very frustrated and disappointed by his play he did send our President one of the funniest text messages he has apparently ever received – “What was I thinking anyway. 4 years since I last competed and even then, very badly in Division 3. Since then, a hip replacement, half blind and I’m 102 years of age according to my Clubmates! I should have known better!” Greig’s response was that taking all of that into account he should be proud of himself for picking up his bat and playing when his team needed him. So what if he didn’t win any – just to be playing is an achievement – and he’s always worth a couple of good controversies!
And so, to our player of the week award for Week 6. The best match of the week was Brian v Alicja – Brian almost back to his best with some amazing defending and some lengthy and fantastic attack v defence rallies. Colin was the only undefeated player this week and his three secured a great point for Team 1 – but he dropped Greig from the doubles and that was a mistake – so he’s out the running. Special mention to Chamika – a victory in his league debut is a great achievement. The only winning team this week though was Team 3 and it’s there we look for our player of the week. Julian played some good stuff after a long absence due to injury, but his two wins compare to 2.5 wins for his teammates who played the doubles! So, it’s between James and Hannah. They both won 7 ends and lost 4 so there seems to be no splitting them? We'll let Corstorphine decide! Their player of the match was awarded to Hannah – probably because James is so difficult to get along with these days! Well done to Hannah – her general matchplay this season has stepped up a level without doubt.
Finally, what about our controversy of the week section. So, Brian Bailey plays his first match in a number of years and no surprise that he’s made it into this section. He started by having a go at the Ladywood staff because badminton was booked in the hall until 6.30pm – he couldn’t get the tables ready etc. until after that. He wasn’t happy when he phoned our President to complain that we were now going to look as bad as University who we complained about earlier in the season for exactly this type of thing! Ah if only we had our own premises! When the match eventually got started, he brought out a brand new box of match balls – his opponent complained! Apparently, they weren’t the same make as the ones being used in the League by most teams. Do we have to use a certain make of ball? Surely not? The biggest surprise was that Brian’s new box of balls weren’t 35mm in size. When he then disputed that he should have five serves in a row and the game should be to 21 his opponent thought he’d gone too far!
On a slightly more serious note, although we couldn’t get set up as quickly as we would have wanted, we were still on track to finish in advance of 10pm. At Bathgate, they have a 7.15 start time and even though they played all night on two tables, it was 10.30ish before the match was finished. All it seems to take is two or three long five end battles and a bunch of 4 enders and time becomes an issue. Fortunately, the West Lothian side didn’t have to concede any matches but that was only due to the understanding of the caretaker on duty that night. At Ladywood, it turns out that our Team 4 tried to just play on one table. Whilst Teams 2 and 5 were finished in time, Team 4’s match, despite having seven 3-0 matches, ran over – and it probably was always going to run over. For some reason it just seems impossible these days to play 10 matches in under 3 hours on one table! Fortunately, the Ladywood staff were also very accommodating – but we cannot make a habit of this. Although we think playing on two tables detracts from the “team element” of the match, it’s clearly what we have to do to get the match finished in time – unfortunate but that’s what we’re stuck with it seems – unless and until the league format changes. National League format is 3 players playing two singles each – we could do that and add in a doubles? Many might argue though that if they’re going to travel to the wilds of Penicuik on a cold, dreary October night they want to be turning up for more than two singles matches? The “Team Game” is far better though on just one table. We can’t remember any club who 10 to 15 years ago played on anything other than 1 table. Now it’s swung completely in the other direction – West Lothian, Penicuik, Edinburgh International, Haddington, Gullane, Edinburgh University, Corstorphine, Fife, Heriot Watt and even Murrayfield (when they play away from the Church Hall) all play on two tables. And we can still struggle to get finished by 10 pm! Change needed?? Maybe that central venue has more appeal after all?
Oh well, on we go to week 7.