Craig Linton, Rachel Petrie and Jim Jack made the trip west to Bathgate to take on West Lothian 3 – a fixture identified as a must win, the Penicuik side being 3 points adrift of their opponents in this “basement battle” in Division 3.
First up was Martin Rumsey v Rachel and after a heavy first set defeat, Rachel recovered well to level the contest at 1-1. She then fell just short in ends 3 and 4 losing out 11-8, 11-7. When Bob Lander then defeated Craig 3-0 the visitors were already under pressure. Jim got the Penicuik trio on the board with a good win in Match 3 before Bob then comfortably disposed of Rachel to give the hosts a 3-1 advantage. Jim was in good form and when he won his second match of the night the visitors had hope. The next two matches were to prove crucial. Craig took on Tommy in Match 6 and after falling 2-1 behind he won the fourth set comfortably before an almighty scrap in the decider – it went the distance (and then some) but Tommy held his nerve for a 15-13 win. The doubles then became a must win for the visitors – Jim & Craig who had played well together the previous week combined again and they too came back from 2-1 down to level at 2-2 before this match was also decided by the finest of margins – a 12-10 win in the fifth for the West Lothian pairing made the match score 5-2. And with that Penicuik’s chances were gone. Craig won the last match of the night (in five) but that was the only win in the final round of singles as Penicuik fell to a 7-3 defeat. Oh, what could have been, had those 2 fifth end deuce matches gone the other way!
Now with no other league matches last week, we turn our attention to the second round of fixtures in the Scottish National League held at Perth on Saturday 27th November. Penicuik have entered a team for the first time this year and were placed in Division 5 for the 2020-21 season. With a record 48 teams competing across 6 divisions there was a great atmosphere at Bells Sports Centre with over 150 players competing on 24 tables. All teams faced 3 matches during the day, starting at 9.30am - An early start for Greig McDonell, Gary McDougal, James Wighton & Hannah McDonell! After the first two matches in October, Penicuik had one solitary point to their name following a draw with North Ayrshire and a loss against Knightswood from Glasgow. They knew they needed to pick up at least a couple of good results to lift themselves from the bottom half of the table. Having travelled all the way to Perth, they were to face 3 Edinburgh League Clubs!
First up was North Merchiston. When a rusty Gary lost the first match of the day there were worried faces on the side-lines – Greig pulled the scores level before James lost out to give the Merchiston trio a 2-1 advantage with 3 matches left to play. Greig levelled again with his second win of the match before Gary secured a point against Merchiston’s Number 3. The scene was then set for James to bring home an unlikely victory and he duly did so with an excellent 3-1 win – Final result Penicuik 4 North Merchiston 2.
Gary was then unceremoniously dropped for the team’s second match of the day against League Leaders Edinburgh University! James was first up this time and lost to the University Number 1 in straight sets – Greig levelled again before Hannah lost out in Match 3. 2-1 down and it was the battle of the number 1’s as Greig took on long pimpled Haonan Ji – Hannah made him watch a You-Tube video about how to play against that funny rubber and it seemed to have worked as he was in control at 2-0 up – then fatigue seemed to set in! Not known for his fitness, he struggled to put the match away and the Uni player rallied to level at 2-2. The fifth end was tight all the way, but Greig just managed to squeeze home to level the overall score at 2-2. Hannah then played her best TT of the day but wasn’t quite consistent enough as she lost out to the Uni’s number 2 – it was left to James again to play the final match, this time against Uni’s number 3 – could he win this match for a draw? The match swung one way then the other before James squeezed home in the fifth – a terrific 3-3 draw for Penicuik.
The final match of the day saw us take on Haddington – despite two excellent performances, James was dropped this time – the chances of a third win, according to Gary, were very remote! This time Greig was first up and won comfortably in 3 before Gary repeated that feat. The first round of singles was then completed with an excellent 3-0 win for Hannah – a point secured and hardly a bead of sweat between the trio. Greig then secured the win with another 3-0 victory and this match had 6-0 written all over it. Oops – something then happened as Hannah seemed all at sea in her last match before Gary then lost to the player Hannah had comfortably beaten – table tennis is a funny old game! Never mind, the hard work had already been done as the team finished the day with a good 4-2 victory – 5 points out of a possible 6 was an excellent return for the Penicuik side which lifts them into third place in the table.
And so, to our player of the week award. Jim Jack deserves a mention for his two singles wins for Team 4 – if we hadn’t have played National League this week, Jim, you would have had your first ever player of the week award! Bad luck! Surely Greig wins this week’s award then – 6 wins out of 6 over the course of Saturday’s 3 matches and some brilliant tactical captaincy decisions about team selection (even if he does say so himself). He’s a certainty. But hold on a minute – there is a late contender in the mix – he organised the biscuits, he made some camomile tea for the team, he spent loads of time at the Tees Sport stand getting Gary a new sheet of rubber for the first time since 1957 and he bought Hannah a gift (all in an effort to get over last week’s nastiest player of the week award) – that in itself puts him in the running. Although a 50% record from Saturday doesn’t sound terrific (two wins out four matches played) both of those wins came in vital last matches – one to give us the win against North Merchiston and the other to secure a draw against the League leaders – brilliant play under pressure – well done to James!
And finally, our controversy of the week section. We’re in a good mood this week. After all our efforts trying to get the League to look again at their decision not to allow Greig to play up for Team 1, common sense has prevailed – at various points this season the 100 point rule has not applied as both Iain Johnstone and David Melrose have been within that “mysterious” 100 point margin which seems to be the guide used by the League for making decisions of this nature. Perhaps the fact that Greig hasn’t played a match in Division 2 played a part, not to mention that we are now a player down in Team 1 after Carsten’s departure from the Club – hmm – how did that happen again?? Let’s not go there! A check on the current ratings shows Iain still comfortably within 100 points of Greig, whilst after a bad week in the League as opposed to Greig not playing, David fell 106 points behind. What the rating’s do not show yet (and in fairness to the League they made the decision prior to this) is that Greig took on David at the Scottish Vets Tournament at Bathgate on 21st November – Greig was supremely confident having not lost to David since about 1989! Guess what – David strolled to a 3-0 win and when that result hits the ratings Central scoring site goodness knows what the difference between them will be – and even if it doesn’t impact significantly it proves the point about using ratings central scores to decide matters like this – the fact that Ratings Central says Greig is 106 points better than David means absolutely nowt!
Anyway, thanks to the League - one controversy happily resolved well in advance of Xmas! Only a couple of games left for some of our teams before that Christmas break – where has the time gone!