West Lothian have escaped from the jaws of despair to steal a place in the knockout stage of The Cities and Counties Championship having finished in second place to East section winners Edinburgh & Leith.
Last years national finalists seemed to be in a serious nosedive when losing three games out of five but pulled themselves out of a disastrous scenario in miraculous style with successive wins over joint leaders E&L and East Lothian. The 20 shot away win over E&L in match number six gave West Lothian a glimmer of hope going into their final match against East Lothian at Haddington and the visitors rose to the occasion with a magnificent 15 shot triumph (119-104).
The final outcome was a close call with East Lothian mostly dictating the pace but never quite reaching a comfort zone and paying the ultimate price as West Lothian conjured up a magic finish of 10-2 and 12-1 that turned a 4 shot deficit into a 15 shot victory. East Lothian spurned their first chance to go for the kill following encouraging counts of 11-3 and 9-1 on ends eight and nine that pushed them from peels on the master scoreboard into a 16 shot lead; but the turning of the screw didn’t happen. End 14 presented the home team with a second opportunity to stamp their authority in the shape of carding 8-2 to establish a double-figure lead of 15; but their direction of travel became downwards and not upwards.
It was never a lost cause for an East Lothian side that only needed a draw to qualify for the quarterfinals but holding onto their declining supremacy was a challenge they failed to meet. In the end wins on the rinks skipped by Derek Oliver and Scott Kennedy and a peel for Craig Valentine against Sandy McDougall was the best the home side could muster leaving the glory of match victory to be sealed by triumphant WL skips, Raymond Logan, Thomas Mann, and Neil Speirs. The phase scoring illustrates the superior under-pressure fighting qualities of the visitors with the first seven-ends shared 37-37, EL dominating the second, 44-29; but WL storming to a game-changing 53-23 triumph on the third. Ray Logan produced a super display for WL as he skipped Steven Forrest, Walter McDougall, and Gary Smith to a 26-13 win over Ian Bell having answered pressure at 14-12 with an inspired purple patch finish of 3, 4, (1), 1, 4. Mann also switched on to flying mode when the tough questions were being asked and from 16-14 down produced a dynamic 1, 4, 3 finish to skip Andrew Semple, James Speirs, and John Aitken to a 22-16 win over Billy Mellors. Speirs picked up from 11-10 down with a run of four singles and with his nose in front skipped Ewan Shearer, Blair Mackie, and Andy Dunnett to a 17-14 win over John McCrorie.
McDougall (Sandy) shared a 12-12 scoreline after 11-ends and come 21 had skipped John Black, Jamie Aitken, and Gary Orr to a 20-20 peel with Steven White, David Whitson, Craig Bell, and Craig Valentine. Derek Oliver kept East Lothian in the picture with the stronger finish from 13-12 to skip Chris Johnston, Gordon Baillie, and Stevie Cochrane to a 20-16 win over Brian Craig, Alec Allan, Mark Allison, and Steven Fleming. Kennedy skipped Mark McCormack, Matt Osborne, and Glenn Blair into a handsome 18-8 lead but was forced to settle for a 21-18 win over Drew Paterson, Connor McKendrick, Stuart Johnston, and Grant Logan. The final match scores in the East section were, East Lothian 104 West Lothian 119; Midlothian 125 Edinburgh & Leith 111; Stirling East 120 Fife County 124; West Fife 144 Borders 93. The League Table –Top Two Qualify for the Last Eeight Knockout Stage – reads, E&L 8 (+71); West Lothian 8 (+42); Midlothian 8 (+32); Fife 8 (+23); East Lothian 8 (+19); West Fife 6 (-20); Stirling East 6 (-32); Borders 4 (-135). The quarterfinals take place on Saturday 4th July and the draw reads, Highland v Lanarkshire South (Holders) at Kinnoull; Edinburgh & Leith v Renfrewshire West at Bainfield; Wigtownshire v Northern Counties at Cumnock; Glasgow West v West Lothian at Kilwinning.