West Lothian were expected to finish top of the East Section of the Cities & Counties Championship for the Andrew Hamilton Trophy, but only qualified in second place by the skin of their teeth following a shock 119-111 defeat from Stirling County East at Carron & Carronshore.
Everything was going sweetly for West Lothian as they made a strong start on away territory to charge into a 51-24 lead after completion of the first seven-end phase but the situation turned sour as they took their foot off the accelerator much too prematurely.
Stirling East – who had only managed to win one of their previous six games in the section – can never be treated lightly, hit back to capture the second phase 48-28 before taking the third 47-32.
The only bright spot for West Lothian was the news that Midlothian had lost to Borders. “This defeat was certainly a shock to the system,” said West Lothian team manager Jimmy Mallon. “We lost too many shots over the last phase when the chips were down.”
End 20 was the real undoing for West Lothian. When defending a still healthy looking 12-shot lead (108-96) suddenly panic spread in their ranks as Stirling East closed to 110-109 with a 13-2 counter-attack before unleashing a tremendous 10-1 count on the final end.
It is a damming and worrying match statistic for West Lothian that they only managed to win on one of their six rinks but Neil Speirs (+10) was unable to compensate for the losses sustained by Steven Fleming (-1), John Aitken (-1), Grant Logan (-3), Thomas Mann (-6) and team captain Raymond Logan (-7).
Speirs stormed into a 14-2 lead then traded on the cushion of 12 shots to skip Andrew Semple, Ian Drysdale and Alec Allan to a 24-14 win over opposition star figure Simon Thomson.
Fleming dashed into a 12-1 lead that looked full of promise then, in company with Diz Drysdale, Walter McDougall and James Speirs, led 18-12 before being piped 19-18 by a 1, 1, 4, 1 finish from Steven Glen.
Aitken skipped Ewan Shearer, Blair Mackie and Calum Logan into a 16-9 lead but ended up losing 17-16 to a 1, 1, 4, 2 finish from Gary Crosbie.
Grant Logan and his rink of Steven Forrest, Greg Logan and Mark Allison were outgunned from 11-11 to lose 18-15 to Stuart Hogg, while Frazer Muirhead, Bryan Cooper, Gary Smith and Ray Logan went 22-10 down and lost 23-16 to Craig Ross.
Mann and his front-three of David McCormick, Sandy McDougall and George Sneddon trailed 25-10 before a late rally saw them lose 28-22 to Stuart Williamson.