Team 2 went into Week 21 in the knowledge that their season has taken a marked turn for the worse over the last few weeks. As we reported last week, great runs for Corstorphine and Murrayfield 6 has resulted in Team 2 falling to the foot of the Division 1 table. Ever the optimists, it was pointed out that Team 2 still have games in hand over the teams immediately above them. While that is true, their Week 21 fixture v Murrayfield 5 (who themselves had been dragged down into potential relegation difficulties) was a “must win” or at least a “must not lose” fixture. Julian Taylor, Gary McDougal and Sonny Taylor took to the table at Ladywood against Daniel Najdrowski, John Yau and Haydn Jackson. Sonny got the hosts off to a great start with a 3-1 victory over Dan. Dad, Julian, then faced John and after winning the fourth end to square the game at 2-2 by a thumping 11-4 scoreline, he looked to have all the momentum on his side - John dug in though and won the decider by the same score, 11-4! Gary then faced Haydn, hoping that his awkward rubbers would be too much for his young opponent – if only!! A 3-0 win for Haydn put Murrayfield ahead for the first time on the night. When Julian then lost match 4 and Sonny fell to Haydn, the home side were in big trouble, 4-1 down. Gary steadied the ship with a straightforward win against John and a tight five end win in the doubles for Sonny and Gary brought the home side back to within striking distance at 3-4 going into the final set of singles. The home side knew that they needed at least two of those singles to go their way and perhaps the pressure played its part in matches 8 and 9 – both games went to five ends – Julian has had a poor run of five end defeats and this was another as he narrowly lost out to Haydn, 11-8 in the fifth. Gary v Dan was a mammoth encounter – 2-2 and the decider swung one way and then the other – both players had chances to win it and with six deuces, it was by far the longest game of the night. On such small margins, matches are lost – 17-15 to Dan gave the visitors the 2 points and a win for Sonny in the last match of the night did nothing to improve the mood of Team 2 – a win would have brought them level with the two teams above them and only a point behind Murrayfield 5 – a loss however sees them stay bottom of the division and whilst they still have games in hand, their four matches left include games against the top 2 in the Division! Without wanting to be pessimistic, – we won’t finish that sentence. The large lady hasn’t started singing yet….
Team 3 travelled to take on Haddington 2 in Division 2 – James Wighton, Hannah McDonell and Abby Wighton (recovering from a drinking weekend away) took on Graeme McKinnie, Russell Swan and Rolandas Skultinas – a strong looking side who should be higher in the Division than they are. First up was Hannah v Graeme – perhaps a little cold, Hannah never quite got to grips with Graeme’s controlled topspin as she fell to an 11-7, 11-6, 11-9 defeat. At the same time (the match was played on two tables throughout) Abby found herself in trouble against Rolandas – after a good first end for Abby she lost the next three 11-9, 11-3, 11-3. James then faced Russell and his pimpled bat (the first two ends were easy for James (11-6, 11-4) – apparently he then realised Russell had some dodgy rubbers – pity he didn’t remain oblivious as he then lost the next two ends 11-4, 11-8. The decider could have gone either way but James held his nerve with an 11-9 fifth end win to get the visitors on the board. That was followed by a terrific performance from Hannah as she defeated Roland in 3 straight ends to bring the overall match score to 2-2. The next two matches were shared – Abby couldn’t work out Russell’s bat as she fell in four ends but James kept the score level, getting his moneys worth again with a 5 end victory over Graeme. We always say the doubles is crucial and this one was no different – at 1-1 Hannah & James had chances to take a 2-1 lead in a game that brought back memories of the old days when we played up to 21! It wasn’t to be as they fell to a 19-17 loss and it was no surprise when they lost the fourth end. 4-3 to Haddington with three singles left. The doubles pairing of Hannah and James then faced Russell and Rolandas respectively – they needed one of those matches to keep them in the hunt for at least a draw. As Hannah lost the first two ends in very quick time, 11-2, 11-5 it looked like James had worked out Rolandas as he won his second end to level at 1-1. Hannah then suddenly realised that if she slowed things down a bit she could actually play against Russell’s dodgy rubber – two fantastic ends followed as she levelled the scores with 11-9, 11-7 winning ends. James, meanwhile, was finding Rolandas in all out aggressive mode – there were some great rallies but James couldn’t pull off the victory as he fell in 4 ends. That left Hannah needing a fifth end win to keep the match alive – perhaps as a result of knowing that, she couldn’t repeat the play of the previous two ends as she fell to a five end defeat. Match over as a contest and this was fortunate for Haddington – as the time approached 10pm, Graeme was 2-1 up on Abby, but time was called resulting in a concession from Haddington – a 6-4 win for the hosts and oh what might have been for the visitors.
The final match of the week saw Team 4 in action against Fife 2 in Division 3. We reported last week that mathematically Team 4 were still in with a chance of surviving – unfortunately, West Lothian picked up a win against fellow strugglers Corstorphine resulting in both of those teams moving 8 points clear of Penicuik. 4 matches to play – 4 wins needed! It’s got to start somewhere and when Fife turned up with two players at Ladywood, the chance was there for Craig Linton, Paul Tracey and Rachel Petrie to win their first match of the season. Effectively 3-0 up but when Craig and Paul lost the first two matches played the pressure was on. Match 6 saw Rachel take on Davy Duffy – a player she had beaten in the first half of the season. This one went the distance but it was the visitor who pulled through 11-8 in the fifth to level the scores at 3-3. The doubles saw Rachel and Craig combine brilliantly for a 4 end win but with Paul losing the two matches he played the score was tied at 4-4 going into the last two matches of the night – Rachel v Marc (who had defeated Craig) and Craig v Davy (who had defeated Rachel) – it’s all about styles as they say – two epic close matches both going to five ends and both won by the home side to give Team 4 their first win of the season – well done to them. 6 points behind again with 3 matches left – what a pity they’ve still got 2nd place Haddington to play next – still in it though – just a bit of a miracle needed next week.
And so, to our player of the week award. Four players recorded two wins this week – Sonny, James, Rachel and Craig, although in fairness, the latter two both recorded their second win against a guy called Walkover! Sonny contributed a doubles win – but his side lost 6-4. Rachel and Craig combined for a crucial doubles win without which Team 4 would have drawn rather than won – for the nature of their last ditch fifth end wins, both under pressure, we can’t split them – a joint award this week to Rachel and Craig – well done to them.
And finally, our controversy of the week section. Team 3’s match had some controversial moments and nothing to do with our Club President Greig! Obviously time constraints became an issue for Haddington, having to concede the last match of the night – no messing around from the Sports Centre staff – 9.55pm in they came and effectively told the players time was up – end of story! Fortunately for Haddington this didn’t affect the result but one can see how it might have if Hannah or James had managed to win one of their last matches. The match was played on two tables from the outset – there were a number of five enders though and it goes to show that if matches go long it’s a real struggle to get finished on time – we have the same issues at Ladywood even with a 6.45 start time. We remember West Lothian making an issue about start times being before 7pm and how that made it very difficult for their players to get to matches etc. But three hours does seem tight if matches drag on – do away with the doubles? A quicker finish for all concerned?
In James’ final match against Rolandas, tempers flared a little – Umpire Abby called a let just a millisecond before Rolandas struck the ball and missed the table. It was at a fairly crucial stage in the game. James felt that the point was over – even if the call had come slightly before the shot, the sporting thing to do would have been not to take the let and recognise that there was no way the opponent was going to have won the point. The Haddington player was having none of it. We’ve never really seen James get annoyed at an opponent but on this occasion he almost had to be held back! Words were exchanged and Rolandas took full advantage of it as James lost his concentration as he lost the end. He was still seething at the change of ends and we’re not sure if he really ever recovered – part of the reason for the upset was probably also due to the behaviour of the Haddington player throughout the game – a missed shot was greeted with yelps of despair and anger – at various points the player used foul language – all in the presence of two young female opponents and a club night going on at Haddington – unacceptable on any view of it. At higher levels and in a match which would have been umpired by a “qualified” umpire this would have resulted in a yellow card no doubt. Do we have that capability in the ELTTL? The ITTF Regulations have a huge section on behaviour and conduct, for example:
“Players and coaches or other advisers shall refrain from behaviour that may unfairly affect an opponent, offend spectators or bring the sport into disrepute, such as abusive language, deliberately breaking the ball or hitting it out of the playing area, kicking the table or surrounds and disrespect of match officials. If at any time a player, a coach or another adviser commits a serious offence the umpire shall suspend play and report immediately to the referee; for less serious offences the umpire may, on the first occasion, hold up a yellow card and warn the offender that any further offence is liable to incur penalties” (Martin at ESC would never win another game!!). Whilst we can all get frustrated on the table, it really is unacceptable to behave in such an abusive way.
Finally, on a slightly lighter note, but nonetheless controversial, our joint players of the week combined for the doubles win and each won a crucial singles game to give Team 4 their first win of the season – how would Fife be able to split them for the Player of the Match Award – eh – they gave it to Paul for his win against Mr Walkover! Paul of course is a really nice guy - but really Fife????