Reports that Frank Gray the team manager of Midlothian IBC had retired from the mainstream of the indoor bowling scene at the Dalkeith stadium were wide of the mark and the larger than life figure confirmed his continuing presence in the most dramatic way possible.
Setting the scene, it was the opening match of the Premier League on Saturday and Midlothian were the underdogs against a West Lothian team that were the defending champions and considered to be invincible on their own patch at the Inveralmond Stadium in Livingston.Gray has inspired Midlothian to great heights in the past including winning the PL title in 2011 and the latest chapter in his book of achievement was delivered in the shape of a shock 12 shot victory (77-65) over the title-holders.The managers pre-match mantra was convincing his team that if West Lothian were ever going to be vulnerable at home it would be in the first game of the season with match sharpness not at its highest level and on top that their inspirational team captain Thomas Mann was an absentee.Three former Bainfield stars made their debuts for their new club with Neil Watson lining up for Midlothian in a rink that by the luck of the draw opposed his former captain (Craig Moss) and vice-captain (Paul O’Donnell). The performance from Midlothian turned out to be immense under skips Billy Peacock, Ronnie Duncan, Colin MacFarlane, and captain David Peacock, with all but the latter named having the measure of their respective opposition. Much after-match praise was being lavished on the high quality play that tamed the PL champions of the past three seasons with the only dispute centring on who was the ‘Man Of The Match’ and with opinion divided the accolade was shared by Duncan and Billy Peacock. “We got wired in right from the start and a magnificent 17-4 lead after three ends was the ideal dose of medicine to boost our confidence and enthusiasm levels to a height that inspired us to achieve a commanding 23 shot supremacy (65-42) after 15 ends”, reflected Gray. Midlothian’s suppression of the home team talents was signalled by a 31-20 domination of the first seven-end phase and they sustained that pressure with a 28-20 addition on the second. WL showed some fight to capture the third phase, 25-18. Peacock (Billy) opened his account with a 4 at end three but in a quiet start he and his front-three of Ryan Yuill, Scott Matthews, and Andy Caldwell trailed 11-7 after nine ends to Bryan Cooper, Dougie Mitchell, Des Hagart, and Neil Speirs. Speirs was expected to kick-on by the home support but it was Peacock and Co that embarked on a purple patch spell first by carding a 4 to peels then going on to tenaciously grind out nine singles and a double without reply to register a great 22-11 victory.Meanwhile Duncan was in the process of earning rave reviews by skipping Watson, Andy Kelly, and Kevin McDougall into a promising 9-0 lead over Moss, George Sneddon, O’Donnell, and Calum Logan.Duncan and Co continued to fly high and led 20-8 after 15 ends before converting their supremacy into an impressive 24-15 victory. MacFarlane made the most inspirational contribution of the lot in the early stages having skipped Ian Forbes, Martin Wyllie, and David Munro into a 12-1 lead after six ends over Cameron Greer, Ian Drysdale, Stuart Johnston, and James Speirs.The outcome was never in doubt but McFarlane and Co became well held and had to settle for a 20-16 win that reflected a good away performance. Peacock (David) skipped his rink of Colin Cook, Craig Hodge, and Danny McDougall into a 10-8 lead after 13-ends but collapsed to a 23-11 defeat from Paul Lynas, Raymond Logan, Jamie Gracie, and Mark Allison.