Although early in the season, Team 2 faced two crucial matches in Division 1. Tipped at the beginning of the season for relegation (not by us but by that big bad Match Secretary Ken Ben), they knew that their results in a home match v Corstorphine and an away visit to West Lothian would have a significant bearing on their season. Wednesday night at Ladywood saw Charlie Brindley, Gary McDougal and Ian Hislop take on Corstorphine. Ian gave the hosts the perfect start before Charlie lost match two. When matches 3 and 4 both went the way of the home side it looked good at 3-1 up. Match 5 saw Ian take on Dave Hall – this match swung one way then the other before Dave came out on top 11-8 in the fifth. When Dave Grant took out Gary in the next match and the two Dave’s combined for a win in the doubles, Penicuik suddenly found themselves 4-3 down. Charlie levelled the scores before an off night for Gary was concluded with his second loss. 5-4 down and the pressure was on Ian to salvage a point – in a tight final match he was victorious 11-8 in the decider as the points were shared.
Even more pressure the next night as Team 2 travelled to Bathgate. This was one of those matches which could have genuinely gone either way – of the 10 matches played, 7 went the distance, two went to four ends and only one match was won three straight. Ian who had been on good form the previous night lost his first two matches in tight fifth end deciders. Charlie lost match 2 12-10 in the fifth whilst Gary, who had been off form the previous night was the player of the match for the visitors – he won match 5 11-9 in the fifth. Going into the doubles the scores were tied at 3-3. When Charlie and Gary won that doubles match (12-10 in the 5th) Penicuik were on the verge of a good win. Match 8 saw Gary lose his first of the night – you guessed it - 12-10 in the fifth! Ian then lost match 9 – what was the score? 12-10 in the fifth. With WL worrying about the clock ticking (in the same way as we do at home), Charlie looked to salvage a point for the visitors in Match 10. 2-1 down in ends, about 10.20pm and a mammoth fourth end saw chances for both players. At 16 all, two consecutive points were eventually won but unfortunately for the visitors, they went the way of WL, and with that Team 2 had managed to grasp a 6-4 defeat from the jaws of victory.
Meanwhile in Division 2, Team 3 tried to keep pace with Fife as they paid a visit to Haddington 3 on Halloween night. This turned out to be a scary experience for the Midlothian outfit. With both Iain and Krzysztof unavailable, James and Abby Wighton were joined by Sonny Taylor, playing up from Team 4. Abby tried out her new glasses for this match – here’s a tip Abby – have a practice with them first! She had a night to forget, double vision, seeing shadows and ghouls out the corner of her eye, seemingly frightened by scary noises in the Hall – even worse than her scream last week at Ladywood when she managed to bring 3 matches to a halt when she saw a spider! Despite her teammates trying to convince her that the scary sounding ghoul was perhaps an opponent (no names mentioned!) she was having none of it. 3 losses for Abby and Team 3 were under pressure. After his great match earlier in the week, fortunately Sonny was on form again – a terrific unbeaten night and a win with James in the doubles provided 4 wins for Team 3. James was left to bring home the victory – he managed two wins and with that the visitors escaped with a crucial 6-4 win – still undefeated – but only just!
Team 5 were also up against top of the table opposition as they travelled to Bathgate to take on West Lothian in Division 3. Kristian Skotzen, George Wilson and Craig Linton had their backs to the wall after they all lost to young Jamie Toner. Perhaps the visiting trio may have fared better had they realised a little earlier that Jamie has a new combination bat this season. George lost out first, a little perplexed as to why his loops seemed not to be working. Kristian was flummoxed as to why he couldn’t seem to hit the ball. By the time of the last match, someone had worked out that Jamie has “Anti-Loop” on his backhand! With those 3 games gone, Penicuik’s uphill battle became almost impossible with the loss of matches two and three on the night. The team battled well, however, and 2 wins for George, one for Craig and a confidence boosting doubles win put the visitors in with a chance of a draw. Kristian’s match against Jim Stewart proved pivotal and there was nothing between the players – Jim took a 2-0 lead 11-9, 14-12, before Kristian levelled the match 14-16 and 10-12. The final end also went the distance but agonisingly for Kristian it went against him 12-10 and with that WL secured a 6-4 victory.
There’s really no point in wasting time this week in our search for Player of the Week Candidates! 6 singles matches played and six wins, including one against the player who was top of the individual averages and who has Premier division experience. Although his own team lost, it was due to his excellent night when playing up that Team 3’s undefeated season continued - what a week for Sonny – well done to him for the second time this season!
And finally, to our Controversy of the Week section.
Umpiring! Those difficult to get along with Team 5 players (even without Rachel in their ranks this week) were centre of another controversy! Kristian v Jamie with WL’s Jim umpiring. Point 3 of the match and Umpire pulls Kristian up for not having a flat hand when serving (of course the Rule refers to having an “open palm”). Really thought Kristian?? Not something any of us at the Club have ever noticed and not something that he has ever been spoken to about in the past – he went on to make a conscious effort to ensure the hand was flat. Change of serve - Jamie serves with, according to Team 5, a cupped hand in which he could have held his morning cereal. Kristian just caught the ball and looked at the Umpire – nothing wrong with that one as far as Umpire could see but he’d keep an eye on it – and so it continued……….. serve after serve out of a cupped hand and no action taken – concentrate Kristian, concentrate! Now no one is saying that had Jamie been pulled up it would have had any effect on the overall match score – as we have already explained Kristian was somewhat lost against the anti-loop, but there is no doubt this had got into his mind and had, even if only to a small degree, impacted upon his concentration. The point of course is that if an Umpire is going to get involved in services (as they should) it needs to be consistent. Team 5 were left feeling that this had been a bit “tactical”. There was also a comment about why a slightly cupped hand was being commented upon at all – this was a Division 3 match in the Edinburgh League! But hey, we play under the same rules as the Internationalists so it should be enforced the same shouldn’t it? The difference of course is that at higher levels the players will have qualified umpires enforcing the Rules. And that is the issue for any of us who get “pulled up” by teammates or opponents. Qualified Umpires for every match? That's never going to happen....