Musselburgh rout neighbours in league survival showdown
Musselburgh dealt out a whitewash to local rivals Royal Musselburgh on Sunday to keep their chances of first division survival very much alive, and in the process all but condemned their neighbours to a quick return to the lower flight.
This long overdue match – it was originally to be played in October, before being rescheduled to January then falling victim to the weather – finally took place on a glorious day for golf. Musselburgh started the day at the bottom of the table and knowing their survival in the top six depended not only on victories in their remaining two fixtures (both at home), but also on closing a five point “goal difference” deficit to Tantallon. So there was no room for complacency, and with Benn McLeod and Brian Henderson missing skipper Alex Chisholm left his players in no doubt as to what was required of them.
Connor Good and Jack Valentine led the way, and despite a nervy first tee shot from Valentine the youngsters forged ahead over the opening holes. But with Royal also needing a win to move clear of the relegation zone there was always going to be some resistance, and the ties that followed were very much in the balance early on. The home team were up in three matches and down in two as players passed through the tunnel to the eighth tee.
But Musselburgh made their move through the middle part of the round building substantial leads in each of the three matches they led. Good and Valentine put the first point on the board with a comfortable win on the thirteenth. Then Calum Burgess and Ken Davidson took just two holes more before they doubled the tally just as Myles Clapperton and Scott Greig were securing the league points for the home team with a 6/5 win over Chris Ratcliffe and Darren Fee.
So the match result was decided, but both sides knew there was more to play for with points difference likely to be the deciding factor in the relegation race.
The third tie had been tight all day, and now boarded the eighteenth tee all square. Home player Craig Dewar found the left greenside bunker with his approach, whilst Scott Cunningham came up some 50 yards short of the long par 4 for the visitors, only to see partner Lewis Reid thin his pitch through the back of the green. Musselburgh’s Andrew Millar, putting last week’s traumatic finish at North Berwick firmly behind him, then played a great bunker shot from a difficult lie to a few feet below the hole setting up a 1 hole win.
In the anchor match Ian Fyfe and Tom Cordery had been dormy two for the home team before Robert Cochrane and Kenny Fee pulled one back at the seventeenth. Both teams came up a little short with their approaches to the difficult eighteenth but again the visitors’ pitch was too powerful, leaving Fee a long downhill putt for par. The home pair didn’t need a second invitation and Fyfe’s chip came up a few feet below the hole from where Cordery was able to hole his putt to complete the whitewash.
The result leaves Musselburgh tied 5th with Tantallon on league points and match points, so with just one game left to play whichever of these teams wins by the greater margin will survive in the top flight.
Royal have suffered a dismal run since the turn of the year, Sunday’s being their fourth consecutive heavy defeat, but they aren’t out of the running yet. Jamie Ramsay’s team know they need a win when Tantallon come to visit in a fortnight, and hope Gullane do them a favour on their season ending trip to Musselburgh.
Elsewhere North Berwick came out on top in their cup tie against Tantallon. For the third time this season these teams served up a close finish, but the 3-2 win means the newly crowned league champions still have the double in their sights, and move on to a home semi-final against Craigielaw this coming Sunday.