The week started off with Team 4s trip on Monday 20th February to Bathgate in Division 3 to take on West Lothian. Team 4 have been dicing with the Division 3 trapdoor for a significant part of the season. And despite having picked up some excellent results they’re still in danger. West Lothian 4 sat in a comfortable mid table position going into the match which saw Bob Porteous, Richard Millar and Jim Jack make the trip to Bathgate. After the first three matches the visitors held a 2-1 lead with wins for Bob and Richard. When Richard held his nerve in Match 4 to win 14-12 in the fourth end and Bob then won match 5, a 4-1 lead had the Penicuik side in control. West Lothian pulled one back before the doubles, which, as always. Was to prove crucial. Bob and Richard took to the table and after a tight first end ran away with the next two to give the side a 5-1 lead and a point at least was guaranteed. That was converted into two points as both Richard and Bob won their final matches of the night for a 7-3 victory. Team 4’s fight to maintain their Division 3 status continues.
Two nights later, Teams 1 and 3 both travelled to Edinburgh International. Let’s get the very bad result out of the way first – Greig McDonell and Colin Green called on the services of Mr Scrabble man from Division 1 to help them out in their crucial Premier League encounter. The first half of the season had seen both Colin and Greig win 2 and a doubles victory for the pair had secured a draw. On this occasion Greig never recovered from a straight sets defeat in match 1 and despite pushing Brian Wright to deuce in the fifth he came away winless. Colin managed to defeat Brian (the Edinburgh side’s number 1) in five sets but he lost out to Marek Domegala in the last match of the night. Krys acquitted himself well without getting on the scoreboard in what was an extremely disappointing 8-2 defeat for Team 1.
In the other half of the hall, Team 3 were trying to maintain their push for promotion from Division 2. Julian Taylor, James Wighton and Hannah McDonell had recorded a 6-4 victory in the first half of the season at Ladywood but when George Oliver defeated James in match 1 on the night, the Penicuik trio knew they were in for a tough fight. The excellent Shashibhushan Girish was the difference on the night as he won all of his singles matches to put Team 3 under real pressure. 4-2 down going into the doubles as Julian and Hannah sought to continue their recent run of excellent performances – this was tight but after winning the first 12-10 and the second 14-12, the Penicuik duo secured the important win with an 11-7 third end victory. Hannah then defeated Ken Benjamin to bring the scores level at 4-4 but James was no match for Shashibhushan as a point slipped away from the visitors – Julian won his final match of the night as the sides drew 5-5. Let’s hope this dropped point doesn’t prove crucial at the end of the season.
It was then the turn of Teams 2 and 5 at Ladywood on Thursday 23rd February to bring the week to a close, the Club looking to add to the win from Team 4 at the beginning of the week. A win wasn’t to come from Team 2 - Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, Gary McDougal and Abby Wighton were always going to be up against it as they faced League Leaders Corstorphine 1. Krys was involved in two very close 5 end losses but even had they gone the home side’s way the Edinburgh outfit were always in control. Well done to Abby though who picked up an excellent win in Match 8 to ensure the team avoided a whitewash – a 9-1 defeat and Team 2 are in real relegation strife.
Meanwhile Team 5 of Phil Daly, Patrick Shanks and Chamika Diyunugalge took on Gullane in Division 4 – in the first half of the season Team 5 had recorded a whitewash 10-0 victory – things were different this time around – only one of the Gullane players remained from the first half fixture and they brought in to their team Ian Ladbroke, a man with a rating of more than 1000. To put that into perspective if you add up Patrick’s and Chamika’s ratings they still don’t match Ian’s. Our highest rated player, Phil, was some 400 points lower rated. There was probably no surprise then when the Gullane number 1 secured all three of his singles. The match which perhaps cost the home side the most was an agonisingly tight affair between Patrick and his opposite number – an 11-9 first end win for Patrick was then reversed by a 14-12 loss in end 2 and an 11-6 loss in end 3. Patrick seemed to get the momentum back with an 11-6 win in the fourth before the nervy fifth end went the distance, Patrick just losing out 11-9. Effectively the team were 5-2 down going into the doubles (assuming that Chamika was not going to pull out an amazing win against the 1000 rated man). Patrick and Phil found themselves 2-1 down but battled back with a 14-12 win in the fourth end and on this occasion they triumphed in the fifth to keep the match alive. With Patrick winning his last singles the pressure was on Phil to secure the draw in the last match of the night against Patrick’s conqueror. Whilst he dropped the third end 11-9 his teammates had every confidence in him, and he won the vital match in 4 ends to give the home side a 5-5 draw.
And so, to our player of the week award. Hmmm – only one winning side this week and two undefeated nights for Bob and Richard in the singles and they combined for the doubles victory. How do we split them - impossible so neither of them are winning this week's award. Of the other matches played there were two players who had 2 wins each and a vital contribution in the doubles so this week's award sees a two way fight between Phil and Julian – credit to both for holding their nerve to secure a point for their teams in the final match of the night – the award could have gone to either of them (or really to Bob or Richard) but given this man’s lack of game time (this was only his sixth match of the season) well done to Phil. Maybe the award should be in our next section - controversial!!
And finally, our controversy of the week section. Nothing really of any substance this week so we’re just going to have to have a go at Edinburgh International! We criticised ourselves earlier in the season for our premises being like a freezer – talk about polar opposites - Ed Int’s premises were unbelievably hot for Teams 1 and 3 – now as we know our Club President isn’t the best of movers (do his feet actually ever move) and so when he comes off the table with sweat pouring from him you know there’s something strange going on – as James pointed out, it was like playing in a sauna. We think this was a tactic from Marek, however. Stick the heating up as high as it goes and get that Greig guy sweating – he’ll not be able to cope – and he was right!
During Team 1’s match, the only real controversial moments came in the doubles. Colin twice served close to the middle line and on both occasions the opposing receiver called a fault and caught the ball. The umpire then called a fault and gave the point on both occasions to the home side. Now we’re not in the slightest suggesting that the umpire was biased – but let’s face it from a seated position it’s virtually impossible to make a call when it’s so close. Ultimately we have to trust that the receiving player probably had the best view of the middle line and if he saw it as a fault it probably was – the way to have a better chance of umpiring such close calls though is to stand up while umpiring doubles – we still can’t believe the amount of times that’s not done in our league.
We’re getting towards the nitty gritty part of the season – on we go to Week 21.