Now our Press Officer has come in for some further unfair criticism over the course of the last couple of weeks for not spending enough time on our Division 4 teams – it was suggested to him that by the time he gets towards the end of his report he has lost some motivation, the result being that Teams 6 & 7 (really only Team 7) don’t get enough column space. Our Press Officer is nothing if not a good listener, so this week we’re going to start the round-up with Team 7 and work up to the Premier League.
Phil Daly, Kristian Skotzen and George Wilson (Team 7) won 9-1 last week against Edinburgh International. Well done to them.
Meanwhile, Team 6 of Julian Taylor, Rachel Petrie and Sonny Taylor faced Haddington 5 at Ladywood in Division 4. The 9-1 result in favour of Team 6 lifts them into 5th place in the table with ten wins and 2 draws under their belt this season. On the night Sonny & Julian were undefeated while Rachel picked up 2 wins. A terrific first season for the Team and playing regularly certainly seems to have been to Rachel’s advantage – her teammates both commenting upon her improvement throughout the season – a possible candidate for our end of season most improved player??
The story is not quite so rosy in Division 3 for Team 5. Last week saw Stuart Bennett, Sean Lennon and Millie Bennett take on Murrayfield 8. Our 2016/17 Division 4 Champions look like they might be returning to Division 4 for next season following a 7-3 loss to their Edinburgh opponents. Whilst Team 5 felt hard done by having to play against Alexander Asyunkin (he played up against Team 1 in the Premier and won 2!), young Aaron Barclay also won his 3 and it was those wins which put paid to Team 5’s hopes. Millie and Stuart both won 1 and combined for a win in the doubles. Six points behind third bottom ESC and with a worse game difference, Team 5 effectively need 4 wins from their last 5 matches to avoid relegation – the fat lady hasn’t sung yet, but she appears to be warming up her vocal chords.
After Team 4’s terrific start to their Division 3 campaign, the wheels have completely come off for Brian Bailey, John Bald and Louis McLeod. We all feel for Team Captain John – he’s struggling to hold the team together. Having turned up alone last week to face Corstorphine, he thought he had a full side for the trip away to West Lothian only to discover he was again a man short and relied on Sonny from Div 4 to make up a two! No surprise then when Team 4 fell to a 10-0 defeat, their 8th loss out of their last 11 matches. They’re still likely, however, to finish mid-table.
In Division 1, the result of the week probably came from Team 3 of Krzysztof Laszkiewicz, Gary McDougal and Ian Hislop as they travelled to Bathgate to take on West Lothian 3. At 5-4 up after two wins for Ian and Krzysztof and one for Gary, the last match of the night pitted the two undefeated players of the night against each other as Ian faced Andy Honeyman. Ian started repaying part of his massive transfer fee by winning in 3 straight sets to secure an excellent 6-4 victory and keeping the Team’s Division 1 survival hopes alive. Whilst the race for the Division 1 title is an absolute cracker, the relegation dogfight is equally as exciting and could see any one from five joining Edinburgh International 3 in Division 2 next season.
Unfortunately, Team 2 of Clive Liddiard, James Wighton and Charlie Brindley also find themselves in that relegation dogfight. With both Clive and Charlie unavailable James called upon Gary and Krzysztof to help them out against promotion hopefuls Murrayfield 3. Now we’re not in any way going to suggest that Gary and Krzysztof didn’t try but what was in it for them if two points went the way of one of their relegation rivals – as if that would ever have come into it!! From 2-0 down, the Murrayfield trio suddenly got a huge fright as Gary, then James then Krzysztof all won to take a 3-2 advantage at the halfway point of the night – a shock was on the cards. But alas, from that point on Murrayfield were undefeated as they secured a 7-3 win. 12 points for Team 2 with 4 matches left to play – a MASSIVE match next week against Corstorphine 2 with whom they are dead equal in the table – a win there would probably secure their Division 1 safety and at the same time help out Team 3.
And finally we reach the Premier Division where Team 1 faced a trip to Bathgate to take on West Lothian 1. Greig McDonell, David Melrose and Abby Wighton were consistent throughout the night – consistently poor - as they were steamrollered 10-0. Talking point of the night has to be the form of West Lothian’s Lukasz Kaska (defeating Greig was surely up there with his victory over the then 100%-man, University’s Johannes Laute) – he was at times unplayable – fast, sharp, aggressive, mobile and his shots were loaded with speed and spin! And a nice guy to boot. Time is running out for Team 1!
Ok, Ok, Ok, – a little bit more about Team 7!! On a serious note, Phil Daly, Kristian Skotzen and George Wilson are due a great deal of credit for their form over the last few weeks. They’ve won four of their last five matches played and their only loss in that period was when they played with two players against Fife. In that run George has won 12 of his 15 matches played while Phil has won 12 out of 12. The difference against Edinburgh International last week, however, was the improvement of Kristian – in the first half of the season he lost 3-0 to Alan Gracie and 3-1 to John Bradshaw. Fast forward 3 months and he turned those defeats into wins – and that’s what a first season of competitive table tennis is all about. Jings far too much time spent on these guys – let’s move on…
And so to our Player of the Week Award for Week 22. Sonny, Julian, Phil & George were all undefeated this week and are in the running. But for the importance of his undefeated night this week’s award goes to Ian Hislop for his terrific performance in securing the win for Team 3, a win which may yet prove to be a huge turning point for the Team – let’s hope so anyway! Well done Ian.
And finally, to our Controversy of the Week Section. We’ve not done anything on serves and umpiring for a while. To give Team 7 yet more column inches we turn our attention to their match against Edinburgh International. In one of Phil’s matches, having just won the first end 11-2, he raised the issue of his opponent’s serves – this had nothing to do with sour grapes on Phil’s part – he was clearly the better player. Phil had noticed that his opponent’s serves were, in his words, “wildly illegal”. He requested the umpire to remind both players to throw the ball up from a flat palm. The umpire did so and the match was played out. The opponent was, however, also obscuring the ball with his body when serving, something which Phil didn’t raise during the match but after the game when his opponent asked for some feedback on his serve, a discussion took place regarding the rules on service.
It was clear to Team 7 that there was no attempt to gain an advantage by the EI player – he simply did not know the rules about service. Is it the player’s duty to know the legalities? Surely it must be – you need to know what the rules are to be able to abide by them (mind you maybe not given the Committee’s various rulings this year). But surely how to serve should be one of the fundamentals that we all know, shouldn’t it? Team 7’s view was that this was a fault of the Club not the player. What responsibility do Clubs have to make sure their players all know the Rules of the game and indeed of the League? In our Club do we actually spend any time with players discussing such matters? Surely we don’t need to, do we? As anyone who reads this section knows, umpiring is one of our favourite topics! Other than a very occasional exception to the norm, the vast majority of us are never going to call a foul serve on one of our own teammates. We commented near the start of the season about an umpire in one of our matches in Division 4 who just straight out called a foul serve on one of our players for not throwing the ball up high enough. And maybe that’s what needs to happen more often. If we all started getting points awarded to our opponents, we’re pretty sure the standard of serving would improve greatly. But hey how many umpires are really going to do that? Can you imagine how many players would suddenly have fallouts with their own teammates let alone their opponents! Never mind that though – just how busy would this section be if that started happening regularly!
Finally we were reminded last week that the League will expect all outstanding matches, including the snowed off games to be played by the last week of the regular season - Really? That may prove somewhat problematic for Clubs like ours with limited hall availability. Particularly so when we get fantastic news from Ladywood that despite our block booking we can't get our premises on 14th March because there's a double booking - thanks for the fortnights notice! Oh to have our own premises.....