The week started with Team 4’s visit to Fife on Wednesday 22nd March. The previous night had seen two other teams in relegation trouble take part in a vital Division 3 encounter as Haddington 6 hosted University 5. A win for the East Lothian side meant that they secured safety and Team 4 would join them if they could pick up a win against Fife. Bob Porteous, Richard Millar and Rachel Petrie made the trip to Inverkeithing and when Bob and Richard won the first two singles matches of the night hopes were high that the visitors would secure the points needed for survival. Rachel has had some agonisingly narrow defeats recently and her match against Neil Hoggan went the distance – could she come out on the right side this time? She came so close but fell to an 11-9 defeat in the fifth. Match 4 also went the distance as Bob struggled against Davy Duffy – the fifth end turned out to be rather one-sided with Bob running away with it 11-3 to give the visitors a crucial 3-1 lead. Steve Saunders then defeated Rachel and that was followed by another five end tussle involving Neil, this time against Richard. Neil again triumphed and suddenly the match was back in the balance at 3-3. How often do we say that the doubles is critical – no more so than on this night – Bob and Richard are a formidable pairing and they secured their fourth win out of five doubles matches played this season with a 3-0 victory over Steve and Neil. Rachel then took to the table in Match 8 and was over the moon to defeat Davy in three straight ends – a point was secured. Player of the match, Bob, then secured the win against Neil before Richard made the score look more comfortable than it was with a win in the last match of the night. A terrific 7-3 victory for the visitors and with that, their Division 3 status was secured – well done Team 4. One match to go and a win in that would leave the team in a very positive mood for next season.
The following night at Ladywood saw Teams 1 and 3 both in action. Team 3’s Division 2 campaign has seen them sit in the top two for most of the season but a run of cancellations and a slip up against Edinburgh International left them coming into this match in third place, three points behind 2nd place albeit with 3 games in hand. James Wighton, Hannah McDonell and Ian Hislop hosted Edinburgh University 3B, hoping to close the gap on second place. Ian was first up and won his match in four ends before a win from James in 3 was followed by a straight sets victory for Hannah in Match 3. 3-0 up and it was looking good for the hosts. The next three singles were all won in straight sets and the victory was secured. James and Hannah then combined in the doubles, which proved to be the closest match of the night, the hosts just coming through in five ends. The match was concluded in the same way it had begun with another round of singles all going the way of the hosts as they recorded an excellent 10-0 win – they now sit 1 point behind second place with two games in hand.
Team 1 have had a torrid time since Brian Hunter was injured and declared out for the season in Week 6. They faced Murrayfield 3 in Week 24 and called upon Craig Linton from Division 3 to make his premier league debut – Craig acquitted himself well but didn’t manage to get on the scoreboard – so it was up to Greig McDonell and Colin Green to try and somehow find 5 or 6 wins between them. When Colin lost to Zihao Li the hopes of a win took a big knock. Greig reversed his result from the first half against Tomasz Bracha to keep the hosts in with a chance and when Colin defeated Haydn Jackson in four ends the score was 3-2 going into match 6. Greig took on Zihao. Greig sneaked the first end 12-10 but then lost the next two and the writing was on the wall – a fourth end 11-7 victory sent the match into the fifth and lo and behold Greig held 3 match points at 10-7 in the decider – he probably needed to finish it on his own serve, but he didn’t and a 12-10 defeat left him extremely frustrated at what might have been. Greig and Colin have a good doubles record and another victory for them brought them within 2 games of a draw – Colin v Tomasz and Greig v Haydn. Colin did what he needed to do in four ends. Greig had played Haydn three times this season before this match, twice in the League and once in the Scottish National League – he had never lost – you know what’s coming – pressure and nerves probably played a part as Greig fell to a deuce in the fifth loss and with it a 6-4 defeat for Team 1. Oh dear – still not safe from relegation – three matches to go – they need to pick up a point or preferably two to avoid the drop.
And so, to our player of the week award. Bob has been brilliant throughout the season for Team 4. 57 games played and 42 games won – he’s made the difference, especially in the latter part of the season when points have been picked up to avoid relegation. He had another sterling performance in Week 24 with 3 wins and a doubles victory in the sides 7-3 win. All of Team 3 were also undefeated this week. Of all our Teams in the League, Team 3 have been the most successful (whether they win promotion or not). On the night James won player of the match (how did that happen) and Hannah played the most entertaining and pleasing to the eye table tennis, but this week’s award goes to the most senior player of the trio – goodness knows what age he really is but Greig remembers playing him in the mid-80s and thinking he was near to retirement age back then!! That old green bat of his may be gone, but he still gives 100% and still causes difficulties to all of his opponents. He may not have played as many matches as his teammates (because he’s always on holiday!) but his contribution this season has been vital to the team – well done to Ian Hislop – a well deserved and long overdue (he says) weekly award.
And finally, our controversy of the week section. In Team 4’s match in Fife there was an incident involving Rachel during her first match. In the first end of that match the “home team umpire” appears to have had an issue with Rachel’s serves. According to the team, this was influenced by someone watching from the side-lines and did not apparently come direct from the umpire. The issue was that Rachel was not throwing the ball up high enough. The most controversial element of this, however, was that the Umpire didn’t raise this direct with Rachel but instead the Umpire rose from his chair and marched into the adjoining court where Bob was playing to tell Bob that Rachel wasn’t throwing the ball up properly! What? How bizarre! We assume this was done because Bob was Team captain?? Who knows why it was done but completely unnecessary and at a time when Bob was involved in playing an important match of his own. Rachel pointed out to the Umpire that he should be speaking to her and not Bob – it had nothing to do with Bob. Apparently, the umpire then rather aggressively said to Rachel “I’m watching you now, you’ve been warned” – Yikes! Whilst Rachel is not claiming that this caused her to lose the match, it definitely affected her. There are ways to bring up matters such as this and this was definitely not the way to do it!
As the end of the season approaches, the issue of concessions rears it’s head. In Division 3, there was a tight battle at the foot of the table to avoid relegation. Haddington 6 secured their Division 3 status with a victory over Edinburgh University. They would have been a target for Team 4 had that result not gone their way – imagine the effect therefore of a 10-0 concession being given by Fife to Haddington last week – apparently Fife couldn’t muster a team to make the trip to East Lothian. A 10-0 victory that, even had they not defeated Uni last week, would then have made them safe to the detriment of some other team of course. Maybe if Fife had still been in danger of the drop they would not have conceded but it’s the impact on others which needs to be borne in mind. Or is it just luck of the draw and something we have to put up with? It does seem entirely unfair that relegation (and indeed promotion) could be influenced and affected as a result of such concessions – perhaps the “punishment” for conceding needs to be harsher to avoid teams doing so? Mind you we don’t want that rule introduced yet given that as we reported last week, we have a concession on our record that we didn’t even know about!! We have now appealed against that!
Virtually all over for another year – a busy couple of weeks coming up to bring the season to a close.