In the Premier Division, Team 1 had little to play for as they faced an away fixture against North Merchiston 2. They sat, somewhat remarkably given how infrequently they have fielded a full team, in 5th place as they began week 24 although their opponents are embroiled in a relegation dogfight, one of four clubs who could drop out of the top flight. Once again Team 1 were understrength and rather than going for a quick night and playing with two, Team Captain Greig called up Iain Johnstone to deputise for Stuart Gow. That turned out to be a crucial decision after North Merchiston's number three failed to show up! That's definitely not what you need when points are at a premium. Greig and Colin were undefeated on the night in the resultant 7-3 win.
In Division 1 Team 2 started the night level on points with their opponents, Edinburgh International with both teams only 3 points clear of the relegation zone. As Iain Johnstone had said whilst playing top for Team 1 this was a must win match for Team 2. With the scores tied at 1-1, Brian Bailey secured a vital 5 end victory against Ken Benjamin to ease some nerves on the Ladywood side. Form that point on neither Clive Liddiard nor Iain lost as Team 2 secured their Division 1 status for next season with an excellent 7-3 win. Iain won all 3 singles played, Clive Liddiard won two and Brian Bailey added one. Clive and Iain also combined for a doubles victory.
Looking to join Penicuik 2 in Division 1 next season, Team 3 required to call on the services of Team 4's Krzysztof Laszkiewicz as he joined regulars, James and Abby Wighton in their away fixture against West Lothian 5. The visitors started the night in the knowledge that 3 points from their last 4 matches would secure them promotion to Division 1. On another excellent night only Abby tasted defeat in their 9-1 victory. Mathematically Fife can still catch the Ladywood side, however that would be on the basis that they win all their remaining 4 matches and Team 3 lose their remaining 3. Not wanting to tempt fate but surely that turnaround would be as wild a bet as Leicester winning the Premier League....
Meanwhile fighting against relegation from Division 2, Krzysztof who had played so well for Team 3 earlier in the week had to once again rely on two players playing up from Division 4 as Team 4 faced Edinburgh Sports Club at Ladywood. Marcin Mroz and Craig Johnson joined Krzysztof and both of them picked up one singles victory. Unfortunately, Krzysztof couldn't repeat what he had done for Team 3 as he picked up two wins in a desperately unlucky 6-4 defeat. It's looking edgy for Team 4, only above the relegation drop zone on game difference - they know, however, that 2nd bottom West Lothian 5 need to pick up a victory from one of their last two matches to overtake them - that fight looks like it's going down to the wire...
Fighting against relegation from Division 3, Team 5 of John Bald, Vikas Singla and Rudolph Andrade picked up a crucial point in their week 23 match and that gave them a glimmer of hope of survival as they travelled to East Lothian to take on 3rd placed Haddington 2. At 3-2 down it was looking bleak for the visitors but from that point the Penicuik side ran off 5 consecutive victories to record a terrific 7-3 win. In singles play, Vikas won 3, Rudolph 2 and John 1 whilst Vikas and Rudolph added a doubles win. Having been 5 points from safety a couple of weeks ago 3 points from the last 4 have brought Team 5 to within 2 points of 3rd bottom Edinburgh Sports Club who only have 1 game left to play - and guess who that game is against?? Yip - Penicuik 5 on the 27th of March!!!
Finally in Week 24, Penicuik 7 who sat at the foot of the Division 4 table travelled to take on League leaders Edinburgh University who sat a massive 21 points clear of the Penicuik side. Going into the doubles fixture at 4-2 down it looked as though George Wilson, Lewis Baldock and Louis McLeod were going to fall to another defeat. George and Louis kept the visitors in the match with an excellent doubles victory and when that was followed by a 5 set win for Lewis suddenly the scores were tied at 4-4. George then held his nerve to record an excellent 4 set win leaving the undefeated on the night Louis McLeod to try and finish off a remarkably unexpected comeback victory. Louis duly delivered as Team 7 recorded a fantastic 6-4 victory. In addition to the Team 7 players being over the moon, the victory renewed Team 6's hopes of promotion from Division 4. With two matches of the season left Team 6 sit in third place but now only a point behind the two teams ahead of them, Edinburgh Uni and North Merchiston - and they have to meet in the last match of the season!!! Another battle which will be decided in the final week of action.
And so to our player of the week award for Week 24. In probably what was the single best week of results for the Club, there were a number of players undefeated in singles play. Greig and Colin for Team 1; Iain for Team 2; Krzysztof and James for Team 3, Vikas for Team 5 and Louis for Team 7. Well done to all of them but really the decision this week was an easy one - the standout performance came from young Louis - it doesn't get much better than being undefeated and contributing to the doubles victory against the top of the table side in a comeback from the dead victory!! Well done Louis.
Away from the League, the National Vets Table Tennis Championships took place at Bathgate today. Colin somehow managed to keep coming back from the dead with a run of 5 end victories to reach the final of the Over 70's Event - sorry I mean over 60's - what he's not 60 yet?? Over 50's seemingly - he lost out in the final to Alan Whitton but the real achievement is not his runners-up medal but over the 5 assessment tournaments for the season he came out on top in the points calculation - well done Colin. Our Club President, part-time coach and mentor to Colin tells us he takes a lot of credit for Colin's improvement over the last couple of seasons - so well done to him as well!!
And finally our controversy of the week. We had our own internal bust-up this week after a breakdown in communication between two senior members at the club - but lets put that behind us - all is forgiven now and the two involved have made up and are going away for a weekend together seemingly to rebuild their close and loving bond....
Player rankings come under scrutiny this week after it came to light that Edinburgh International had registered a player in Division 3 who seems to be anything but Division 3 standard. This had a direct effect on our Team 5 as he played his first league match against John's team winning all 3 singles and combining for a doubles victory in EI's 6-4 win!! After playing a number of other matches in Division 3 without being troubled, it appears EI realised he was a bit better than Division 3 standard so they gave him a go in Division1 - he was undefeated there as well - lets try him in the Premier Division then... - he's played two matches there and has 4 wins out of 6 - the real story, however, may be turning out for EI 2 (deep in relegation trouble) against EI 1 - two wins in a "surprise" 7-3 victory for EI 2 which brings them within a point of both North Merchiston 2 and Edin Uni - another relegation dogfight that seems to be going the distance! His 3 wins and doubles victory for EI 3 also pulled that side 3 points clear of the relegation zone in Division 1. He's either improved remarkably since joining EI or the initial assessment of his standard was, how can we put this...... woefully off the mark! Is there anything wrong with EI's actions in terms of the rules?? Probably not - maybe it was a genuine underestimation of a players ability - as was pointed out to our Club President today by EI's Ian Hislop, if Greig went along, unknown to a new club, and someone saw him practising he'd probably be put into Division 4!!
Only two weeks left and so much still to be decided - don't you just love it??!!