The week started with Team 1’s visit to relegation rivals, ESC, on Monday 3rd April. This was it for Team 1 – a loss for them here and they would become favourites for the drop - a point and they might still be safe but it could come down to game difference – a win and they were safe. The Team’s search for a third player to play up for Team 1 resulted in Hannah McDonell travelling with dad, Greig and Colin Green. ESC have also had problems lately and an injury to Scott MacKenzie had ruled him out for a number of games – Martin McKay and Graeme Sutherland were joined by Alan Nisbet from Division 1. Greig took on Martin in Match 1 – normally you can expect this to be a five end marathon, but this time Greig won in 3 to give the visitors the perfect start. Graeme’s experience was then too much for Hannah as the scores were levelled before Colin defeated Alan in 3 to restore the lead. Graeme had no problem in putting Greig away and happily pointed out that Dad had only won 1 more point in 3 ends than daughter Hannah had! Colin had trouble with Martin in the next – 1-0 down and game point down in the second he turned it around to win the last three ends 12-10, 11-9, 11-8 – 3-2 to the visitors. Hannah then played some good stuff against Alan and when she took the first end, you could see the pressure building on her opponent. Had Hannah been able to deal with Alan’s serves this could have been a real shock – as it was she lost in four ends and the scores were again tied 3-3 going into the crucial doubles. Greig and Colin took on Graeme and Martin and this pivotal match was to go the distance – the fifth end saw the visitors sneak over the line in a match which was decided by the narrowest of margins – 9-11, 13-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9! A huge victory which made the Penicuik side favourites to at least win a point. Match 8 saw Colin take on Graeme and what a match this was – some terrific play from both with amazing counter looping rallies and both players scrambling brilliantly to stay in the match – this also went the distance – down in the fifth, Colin produced some brilliant points at the end of the fifth to secure an 11-9 victory – a point secured. Match 9 saw Greig take on Alan – had this been for the draw there would probably have been more pressure on Greig, but Colin’s win had eased the tension and Greig put the match away in straight sets to give Team 1 the win. Martin played Hannah in the final match of the night, and he also fell to a first end defeat before coming to terms a bit more with Hannah’s all out attacking play – a good night for Hannah all round and she only just fell at the last hurdle in each of the ends she lost – 9-11, 11-13, 9-11 – a great effort. A terrific win for Team 1 which secured their stay in the Premier for another year and at the same time resulted in relegation for ESC.
Thursday night then saw Team 1 host North Merchiston 1 at Ladywood. Given her performance playing up from Division 2 on the Monday night Hannah again joined Greig and Colin. Hannah took on Willie Mabon in Match 1 and her best end of the week was surely when she won the first end against a player in the top 10 of the Premier’s Individual Averages. She fell in four. Colin defeated Geoff Hunter before Greig went the distance in his win against Quentin Renau. Two wins followed for the visitors. Willie defeated Colin in five ends – at 10-4 up in the fifth, he won 11-9 – never in doubt he said as the players shook hands! Quentin was too strong for Hannah – his lobbing causing the 4ft 1 inch Hannah real problems! Greig then defeated Geoff to bring the scores level again at 3-3 and it was déjà vu from Monday night. This time however the doubles went the way of the visitors and when Wille defeated Greig in straight sets the home side trailed 5-3 – Colin had a great match against Quentin which he won in four ends before Hannah faced Geoff in the last match of the night. Geoff’s style caused problems in the first but after some coaching at the change of ends she was a different player, narrowly losing the second 11-9 before winning the third 11-7. This was a terrific match, Geoff as tenacious as ever and his consistency eventually wore Hannah down after long rally after long rally as the visitors secured a 6-4 win.
So, one outstanding issue resolved, another issue, this time promotion, was on the line as Team 3 hosted Herriot Watt in Division 2. Team 3 couldn’t win promotion this week unless University slipped up, but they could certainly take a big stride towards their goal with a win against the students. With Hannah playing up, Julian Taylor, Ian Hislop and James Wighton took to the table for this crucial match. Ian looked in trouble a couple of times in Match 1 but although tight, he played the big points well as he won 11-9, 12-10, 12-10. James then triumphed in four ends in match 2 before Julian won in 3 straight sets to give the Midlothian trio the perfect start. James was then in real trouble in match 4. At 2-0 down he played some terrific stuff to pull out a five end victory. When Ian and Julian both then won their second matches the contest was over – 6-0 and coasting. The doubles was close but James and Ian came through in four ends before the final 3 singles matches. Julian was the only loser on the night in Match 9 as Team 3 recorded an excellent 9-1 victory. University didn’t slip up in their final match of the season so Team 3 realistically need 1 more point from their last two matches to “probably” gain promotion on game difference – two points and it will be beyond doubt.
Team 5 concluded their season with a visit to East Lothian. Aidan Craig, Roscoe Cairney and Chamika Diyunugalge made the trip to face Haddington 7 in Division 4. Chamika got the team off to a great start with a straight sets win in Match 1 before Aidan secured a four end win in Match 2. At 2-1 up in ends, Roscoe probably should have made it 3-0 but his opponent fought back to win in five ends. Two further good wins for Aidan and Chamika meant that going into the doubles they led 4-2. They combined well to secure at least a point for the team with a 3-0 victory. A good night was concluded in the same way it had started with two wins out of three as Team 5 recorded an excellent 7-3 victory. For virtually all of Team 5, this season has been their first taste of league action and whilst they were probably never going to compete for promotion, they may rue a couple of matches where a loss could have become a draw and a draw probably could have been a win. In the end they finished comfortably in a mid-table bunch separated by just 3 points. A good first season for Team 5 who will benefit from the experience next season.
And so, to our player of the week award. There were some terrific performances this week across the board – 5 out of 6 for Colin and 4 out of 6 for Greig was enough to maintain their Premier League status. There were undefeated nights for Ian and James in Division 2 and perfect nights for Aidan and Chamika in Division 4. Although she didn’t win any this was also a good week for Hannah – we can’t ignore that although the two stalwarts won 9 singles between them guess who won the player of the match awards on both nights – yip you guessed it – Hannah! In fairness stepping up two divisions she showed real promise and competed well in all of her matches and her performances showed how much she’s improved in the past 12 months or so. In terms of best performances, however, the four players mentioned above with undefeated weeks have to be favourites for the award. James and Aidan both dropped ends in their matches (1 for Aidan and 3 for James). Both Ian and Chamika won 9 ends out of 9 played – they both won the doubles as well – although Ian blames James for the end they lost, that’s the difference – what a night for Chamika – 12 ends of table tennis played and 12 won – a well deserved POTW Award for him.
And finally, our controversy of the week section. We don’t have to look far for this one. Our Second Team has struggled for most of the season to get out of the relegation dogfight in Division 1. But with 1 match left to go they needed a point to give them a chance of survival. They sat third bottom of the Division but the problem for them was that the two teams below them had one match left to play and it was against each other. That meant bizarrely that any result in that match, would result in one of the teams below Team 2 leapfrogging them – UNLESS Team 2 could pick up at least a draw in their last match v Murrayfield 5 (a win would have secured safety). No more important match this season then for Team 2. Imagine the disbelief therefore when the news came through of a concession by Team 2 to their opponents – that must be a mistake – surely? Nope – Team 2 who had already rearranged this final match of the season to last week couldn’t field a team! In fairness Team 3 were playing the same night but surely it would have been better to try and call on players from Div 3 or 4 for assistance than just concede! Never mind – maybe both Murrayfield 7 and Merchiston 3 want to get relegated from Division 1 and they will just declare their final match as void resulting in Team 2 surviving. Or maybe Team 2 fancy a go in Division 2 next season? A poor end to a poor season for our second team – come on Murrayfield and North Merchiston – do the decent thing and don’t play your final match…….
Handicap Cup Semi-final this week together with Team 3’s last two matches in Division 2 to decide their fate. Week 27 here we come.