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Norfolk United Premier squad face agony of relegation play-off

PUBLISHED: 06:30 26 March 2014

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Norfolk United have endured mixed fortunes at the end of the season.

While the East Region Division Two squad finished second after a 35-31 victory over Crosskeys at the UEA Sportspark, the Premier squad found themselves facing a play-off to retain their league status.

The Premier squad travelled to Loughborough to take on TFC – with the winners guaranteed their Division Three place next season.

United produced a great effort and fought until the end, but after 60 minutes of end to end play, they went down 34-32, meaning they go into the play-offs on May 3-4.

United’s East Region starting seven was: Maddie Ewer, Rachael Wright, Gina Hopkinson, Levi Starkings, Mollie Armes, Vanessa Coulson and Amber Parrott.

Immediate pressure was put on centre passes, with Armes getting tips and great unit work in the circle from Coulson and Parrott saw a good number of turnovers for United. Excellent timing down the court and flawless shooting from Wright and Ewer saw United with a lead of seven, 13-6, at quarter-time.

For the second quarter, Crosskeys opted to change their shooter and GD. This made no real impact on United as they continued to pull away, increasing the lead to 11.

Crosskeys GA, towards the end of the quarter, changed her tactic and started to play herself for the shots, which allowed them to claw three goals back and at half-time it was 22-14.

The third quarter was an untidy one for United, with too many errors down the entire court, allowing Crosskeys a chance of getting back into the game.

However, it was all to play for in the final quarter, with the score at 26-23 going into the final 15.

The final changes saw Starkings in at WA, Amy in at C and Jenny Milligan taking the WD bib. The scrappiness continued but United did break Crosskeys’ flow and when it mattered towards the end, the shots were sunk with confidence, United managing to hold on and take the game 35-31.

Rachael Wright, sponsored by SC Crane Assisted Haulage, was named player of the match.

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Opinion: It’s been a very eventful few days for Norwich City, and it all started with that brilliant 1-0 win at Ashton Gate. This win was thanks to another wonderful James Maddison goal and one hell of a save by Angus Gunn, one his old man I’m sure would have been proud to make. Sadly Norwich went out of the FA Cup at the third round stage for the fourth consecutive season, but gave a magnificent account of themselves and pushed Chelsea all the way – but it wasn’t to be as they were knocked out in the cruellest way, on penalties. The win against Bristol City means the club have won nearly twice as many away games as they have done at Carrow Road, Norwich are now unbeaten in their last four league games while conceding just one goal in those four games. Saturday gives City an opportunity to win back-to-back league games for the first time at Carrow Road this season, which is quite astounding considering we’re now in mid-January. I guess it just goes to show how they’ve struggled to break teams down and how inconsistent they have been on their own patch. Chris Wilder brings his out-of-sorts Sheffield United down to Carrow Road – I’m sure he’ll get a nice warm welcome from the Norwich faithful after some of the remarks he made after Norwich’s very impressive win at Bramall Lane in a bad-tempered game earlier in the season when the Blades we’re flying in the league, something they aren’t quite doing at this moment in time, having won just one of their last 10 Championship games. I think tomorrow gives the lads a real chance of closing the gap even more on the teams in those play-off positions. I scored a few goals against Sheffield United in my career, especially when I played at Bramall Lane – a brace for Leicester springs to mind. I scored a couple for Norwich against them at Carrow Road and looking back on my 96 goals for the Canaries, one of those was one of the most important that I scored for the club. The first of those two City goals came in a thrilling game when we found ourselves 2-0 with just 24 minutes gone, but we made the boos and the jeers turn to cheers with goals from Phil Mulryne, Tony Cottee (his one and only for Norwich), Chris Llewelyn and yours truly seeing us make a tremendous comeback to win the game 4-2. The other goal I was talking about came in our Championship-winning season on January 31 and, as I said, it’s right up there with some of the most important goals I scored for the club. It was a top-of-the-table clash as both us and Sheffield United had had a very good first half to the season and were fighting it up at the top of the league. It was a very close game with not many clear-cut chances until a ball broke to me in the 59th minute. It came to me perfectly, about 12 yards from goal and without breaking my stride I smashed it past the helpless Paddy Kenny and Carrow Road erupted. It was a very important win for us and as a forward there’s no better result than winning the game 1-0 with you getting the winner. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish both Russell Martin and Cameron Jerome all the very best at their new clubs. Both have been magnificent servants to the club and have been ultimate professionals while they’ve represented Norwich City and have always given everything when they’ve played. Both have taken harsh criticism in the last two or three seasons and at times been made scapegoats, but one thing is for sure, they’ve never hidden and taken everything on the chin and got on with things. Let’s hope that whoever comes in to replace Russ and Cameron will show the same level of commitment to Norwich City over the next few years.

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