Team 1 faced a crucial match against North Merchiston 1 in the Premier Division without regular David Melrose who was enjoying some early Christmas work festivities (before Nicola made those things difficult). They did, however, have their new secret weapon ready to step in to join Colin Green – no not El Presidente, Greig, but our newest Club member David Simpson. Greig was also due to play but after Abby pulled out of Team 3’s match injured some rearranging was needed and Iain Johnstone came in to complete the trio. For those who don’t know David, he is an excellent player who mixes terrific defence with great attack - he loves going back from the table and chopping with those pesky pimples – he must have been wondering what he’d let himself in for with three games on at Ladywood resulting in the length and width of the courts being significantly reduced – not ideal for his game nor for his first opponent, defender Geoff Hunter! Honestly, David, our normal playing conditions are much better! At the same time as David was slogging his way to a five end win, Iain was involved in a five end marathon against the ever improving Amelia Norbury. An 11-6 fifth end win for Amelia levelled the scores. Match 3 saw Colin take on Neil Innes. At 2-1 down and match points down, Colin looked dead and buried in the fourth – those watching on still can’t believe how he came back from the brink to win that end 13-11. Also down in the fifth, he somehow recovered to win that one 11-9! 3 matches played, 3 five enders. The next three were a little bit more straightforward – 3 end wins for David and Colin and a four end loss for Iain. 4-2 going into the doubles which turned into another marathon. Neil and Geoff recovered from a 2-0 deficit against Colin and David to force a decider which went all the way – a 12-10 win for the Penicuik duo saw them secure at least a point. David couldn’t complete the perfect debut, losing 11-9 in the fifth to Neil but wins for Colin and Iain saw the home side over the line with a 7-3 victory. Definitely one of those matches where a couple of points the other way could have made a huge difference to the outcome.
In Division 2, Team Captain, James Wighton, had to make a late selection change after daughter Abby pulled out with a foot injury! Hannah McDonell was therefore joined by dad Greig, making his Division 2 debut at long last as they hosted North Merchiston 3. James and Hannah played their first matches simultaneously and both recorded 3-1 victories against Aidan Davis and Nick Adams respectively. Greig then defeated Anders Lundberg before Aidan played some lovely attacking TT to defeat Hannah. Wins for James and Greig against Anders and Nick then gave the home side a 5-1 advantage. The North Merchiston side stayed alive with a four end victory in the doubles against James and Hannah, but their hopes of an unlikely comeback were quashed by a terrific finish for the Penicuik trio who all won their final singles matches, the highlight being a cracking 5 ender between Hannah and Anders as Team 3 recorded an excellent 8-2 victory.
Finally, on a busy (and cramped) night, Team 2 hosted Edinburgh Sports Club 2 in Division 1 and this turned out to be the game of the night. Julian Taylor, Gary McDougal and Sonny Taylor took on Chris Shaw, Richard Tallaron and Alexander Asyunkin. The first three singles saw only one win for the home side, Sonny defeating Richard. There was a 4 end loss for Gary v Chris and a five end loss for Julian against Alex. Game 4 was massive – after losing 16-14 to Richard in the fourth end, Julian dug deep to secure a fifth end victory by an 11-7 margin. Sonny then beat Chris to give the home side their first lead of the night but that was wiped out by a 4 end victory for Alex over Gary. 3-3 going into the doubles. How many times have we said how crucial the doubles are! This was another five ender which went the way of the home side, 5-11, 11-4,11-4, 14-16, 11-7.
Julian then somehow managed to lose from a winning position against Chris, another 5 ender, 11-13 in the fifth. 4-4 and the match was in the balance. This match didn’t finish until after 10pm but fortunately we didn’t get thrown out “at the bell”. No wonder they were last to finish – Gary squeezed home against Richard 8-11, 15-13, 10-12, 17-15, 13-11. The scene was set for Sonny to secure the win v Alex in the last match of the night. Dad Julian and Greig started packing away tables as Sonny looked in complete control in the first end at 7-2 up – by the time they’d put a couple of tables away the game was back to deuce. Chance after chance was missed by both players before eventually Alex was victorious 19-17! Sonny remained calm and confident at the changeover (you’ve got this encouraged club president and coach Greig - I know came the response!) A 12-10 win in the second was followed by a 15-13 win in the third before the fourth also went to deuce. Chances came and went but to his credit Sonny remained focussed to take another 15-13 win and with it he won the match for Team 2 by 6 games to 4. That victory rounded off a terrific night at the club with 3 wins out of 3.
And so, to our player of the week award. Let’s not beat around the bush! There were four players with undefeated nights in singles play - Colin, James and Greig were three of them - whilst they could have lost a match and their team would still have won, there was no such luxury for the fourth undefeated player. He also won a doubles match giving him 4 wins in a 6-4 victory – a huge well done for a cracking night’s play goes to Sonny.
And finally, our controversy of the week section. In our Week 11 Report we had a go at Edinburgh International’s premises and how little space there was – fast forward a week and oh dear!! 6 match tables in half of the hall at Ladywood and we were just as cramped (maybe even more so)! For players like David and Geoff it was a nightmare. Add to that a constant stream of lets as balls came in from another court and we can understand why there may have been a sense of irritation in some of our opponents. Unlike Edinburgh International however this isn’t our normal setup. Team 2, who seem to consistently be appearing in this section, had rearranged a match (without really thinking of the consequences) for a night when we already had two home fixtures! Now in fairness the atmosphere at the club was electric, players from all three teams in action encouraging each other. Team 2s game was by far the loudest – yelps of delight and despair and everyone left in the centre at 10pm was adding to the atmosphere by cheering on Sonny. Alex coped well with that (or did he – maybe he lost focus a little with all the additional support). We know certain of our players who would hate that if it was happening to them - it’s bad enough when two teammates are clapping and encouraging – add to that others joining in and the atmosphere can quickly turn a little toxic – now to be clear we don’t say that was the case in this match but you could see that it could become that way. One thing that ESC did not pick up on or complain about was encouragement both spoken and by gestures (for example clapping) from the umpire’s chair! Isn’t the umpire meant to be neutral. Yes he’s a teammate but in his role as umpire he/she should not be announcing the score in one breath and then in the next shouting out “Come on Mr X” etc. No one complained though – had they done so, a word would have been had! Maybe we’re overreacting and there’s nothing wrong with that conduct??
Whatever the problems though with three teams playing we had three wins out of three and our players loved Week 12 - what a great atmosphere we had in the hall - unless you were an away player probably! But then that’s what home advantage should be about shouldn’t it??
One week to go before the Xmas break – 2 rearranged fixtures and three handicap cup matches to fit in to next week’s report!