Midlothian produced a strong finish to clinch an 11-shot victory (80-69) over fellow Premier League club Lanarkshire in the quarter-finals of the indoor bowls Scottish Cup at Coatbridge.
Wins on the rinks skipped by Colin Walker and Ronnie Duncan plus a peel for Sandy (AJ) Knight gave Midlothian the edge in a match that saw their colleague, David Peacock, suffer a narrow defeat.
The charismatic figure of Willie Rankin was forced to pull out with a leg problem after the trial ends, leading to team manager Frank Gray moving Lindsay Plenderleith up to third for Duncan and bringing Gary Thomson off the reserve bench to play second.
“Willie has been a central figure in our big revival since the turn of the year so I was concerned his absence would effect our morale but we showed great character and will to win,” said Gray.
“We expected a tough challenge from Lanarkshire as that is the history of this clash in recent seasons. They had us up against it for most of the match but we were never out of sight and we came good on the charge to the winning line.”
Lanarkshire had their nose in front for most of the first 15 ends but never by much and end 16 brought a dramatic transformation of Midlothian fortune with the Dalkeith camp cheering a 10-0 clean-sweep that catapulted them into a 62-54 match lead. “It was the only clean-sweep over the entire 21 ends and it was a game-changer with Colin (Walker) and David (Peacock) each carding a three and supported by a double for AJ (Knight) and Ronnie (Duncan),” said Gray.
Midlothian remained hard pressed all the way to the line but kept Lanarkshire at bay with counts of, 6-6, 1-4, 5-3, 4-1, and 2-1. The phase scoring illustrated the tightrope nature of the battle for supremacy, with Lanarkshire edging the first seven ends, 27-25, and the second, 24-23, but Midlothian producing a grandstand finish of 32-18 on the third.
Walker made the major impact on his game with a run of 2, 3, 2, 1 to lead 16-6 after 11 ends, then he stayed strong to skip Scott Matthews, Drew Pearson and team captain Billy Peacock to a 22-13 win over James Simpson. Duncan conceded 4, 3 to come under pressure at 17-17 but made a vital contribution to the business ends with a 3, 2, 1 finish to skip Ian Forbes, Gary Thomson and Lindsay Plenderleith to a 23-17 win over Jim Meikle.
Knight – who had lost a six at the eighth end – trailed 19-12 after 15 ends but helped save the day by skipping David Salkeld, Mark Yuill and David Munro to a 19-19 peel with a 2, 3, 1, 1 finish against Robert Grant. Peacock and his rink of Robert Campbell, Ian Brown and Martin Wyllie were heading for disaster at 15-7 down after 14 ends but rallied well with 1, 3, 3 before slipping to a 20-16 defeat from George Neilson.