13-17 September, Luxembourg
Day three of the Championships dawned and the big question being asked of the men`s team was : could the boys maintain their momentum ( having won their opening matches against Macedonia and Kosovo) and overcome our Celtic cousins from Wales.
A different challenge faced the women who were scheduled to play Macedonia and had a real opportunity to get their first win following defeats at the hands of two very strong teams from Estonia and Norway.
Lucy Elliott opened up against the No1 Dijana Ristovska and lost a very tight match in 4 ends after winning the first end 11-8 ( but showed again that she has the shot making ability and technique to perform well at this level). Gillian played a very controlled game to win 3-0 and level the match at 1-1. Next up, Faye Leggett, who exceeded all expectations and achieved a great win destroying the number 3 Nadica Vchkova 3-0 to put Scotland 2-1 ahead. Cometh the hour, cometh the captain and Gillian played a superb match to overcome no1 Ristovska 3-1 to seal the victory. Well played Scotland!
Meanwhile on table 9 the men were in the thick of a battle with Wales having won the opening match courtesy of Niall Cameron 3-0 against Daniel O`Connell. Great stuff from the Cameroon but Wales bounced back with a five set win from Callum Evans against Colin Dalgleish. One all in the match and next up young Calum Morrison against the older experienced Dean Cundy. Despite losing the first set 11-8, Calum worked out how to get the better of his opponent, won the next three sets to clinch a remarkable win and put Scotland 2-1 up in the match. After winning a very close first end 12-10 Colin settled down against O`Connell and produced some great attacking play to win 3-0 and clinch another notable win for Scotland 3-1. Three matches played, three matches won and Bosnia next up the following morning to decide who would top the group.
Saturday 10am, 16 September and day 4 of the Championships brought Scotland men to the table against a strong Bosnian side and the women facing another strong team from Latvia. In summary, both teams lost 3-0 but that stark score line does not do justice to the quality and intensity of play from Scotland. Lucy Elliott can be proud of her match against no1 Zdanovska losing out narrowly 11-8 in the fifth set while Faye contested an excellent first end losing 13-11 to Baiba Bogdanova. Next and final match for the women was at 7pm against Bosnia-Herzegovina who had beaten Scotland last year in the qualifying event in Sarajevo. Unfortunately one of the Bosnian women had suffered a back injury and was unable to play which meant that Faye did not get a match. First up Lucy once again was drawn against the no 1 player but again played some high quality table tennis losing another tight match 3-1. Gillian who had played consistently well throughout the Championships produced her best form when it mattered to record a 3-1 win against Sanja Milojica and level the match at 1-1. With Faye receiving a walkover win against the injured Emina Hadziahmetovic we were now 2-1 ahead. Unfortunately Snezana Markovic proved too strong for Gillian and again Lucy lost out on another tight four sets losing 3-1 to Sanja Milojica and Bosnia ran out 3-2 winners. Scotland women finished in 37 position ahead of Macedonia.
In similar vein the men lost 3-0 to Bosnia but all three games were very closely contested with Calum Morrison ( losing his first match in the tournament) producing another excellent performance in going down in 5 sets. By finishing second in their group the men were now in two crossover matches to decide positions 33 to 36. First up at 4pm was Azerbaijan with two strong Chinese players in their line up. At this stage in the tournament the quality of table tennis was a level up from our first three matches and was bringing out the best in our players as well as of course identifying where improvement was needed to compete and win! High points in this encounter were another outstanding win for Calum at no3 against Sadikh Sadigov to keep us in the match and at times, a blistering performance from Colin Dalgleish losing 3-1 against the no1 Xinyu Yang.
Our final match on Sunday morning resulted in a 3-1 defeat to Montenegro to finish in 36th position in the final standings (42 countries took part). Once again Calum Morrison kept Scotland in the match at no3 finding a way to win in five sets after losing the first end against Branko Cubovic. This win completed a remarkable debut for Calum winning 5 from 6 matches at his first Senior European Championships. While Colin Dalgleish lost both his matches in 5 ends as a result of too many unforced errors he once again showed that he has the quality and weight of shot to win at this level and finished his first senior Europeans playing all matches at no1, winning 3 and losing 6. Niall Cameron played an outstanding captain`s role throughout the event playing at no 2, winning 3 and losing 3 but also by being a constant source of encouragement and motivation for the whole squad, ( not to mention some cool guitar and vocals to keep our spirits up). In summary, both teams were a credit to themselves and excellent ambassadors for Scotland in terms of their behaviour on and off the court.
Just a final note to record the decision of the ETTU Congress which voted in favour of reducing the number of teams in all future Championships to 24! This landmark decision brings to an end the concept of the whole family of table tennis nations coming together to participate in one event under the same roof. In future Scotland faces a long road to qualify through a process of individual home and away matches followed by a zonal group qualifier in order to participate in the main event. As a nation we definitely have the talent so, onwards and upwards Scotland, let`s take up that challenge!