Memorable return for Katherine

Norfolk's first and second teams experienced mixed fortunes in the latest round of the Victor Sports Inter County Championships.

The first team came away from high-flying Middlesex seconds with a deserved 10-5 win to leap-frog their rivals into top spot in Division One with just two matches to play – and a Premiership play-off spot is a real possibility at the season's end.

The singles were shared two all with Ian Murphy winning in two straight sets and Katherine Cooper – returning to a singles court for the first time after a six-month absence – pulling off a creditable three-set victory. Michael Philpott and Julie Pike battled hard but missed out in their singles.

In the level doubles, Murphy and Justin Gerrard won both their games and all four ladies doubles also went to the visitors with strong performances from Louise Culyer and Pike and Toni Sturgeon and Cooper. Philpott and Paul Daynes again battled hard, but that elusive first win still awaits them.

So, Norfolk were 8-4 up going into the mixed doubles, needing two matches to secure a three-point victory. Murphy and Cooper came up trumps but Philpott and Culyer lost a tough three-setter, leaving Gerrard and Pike to win the final game. It was nail-biting stuff, with the game tied at one all and Middlesex 19-12 up in the final set. But the Norfolk pair dug deep to claw their way back, producing some of their very best play to clinch the game 21-19 to complete a three-point victory.

n In contrast, the second team are having a very difficult season and have produced only one victory in their first five matches Their latest defeat 12-3 was at the hands of Staffs seconds. Norfolk were severely under-strength due to the illness of several players, leaving them one lady short and only able to contest six of the level doubles.

Alex Wyett won his singles, beating the Staffs No 1 in three long sets. Chris Piff, Helen Newstead and Lucy Curran all had tough matches but got nothing for their efforts.

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In the mens doubles, Wyett and James Ruthen beat the Staffs first pair quite comfortably, but then went under to their second pair, while Christian Nielsen and Piff had two long and very close three-setters. both of which ended in defeat. In the ladies doubles Katie Ruthen and Newstead put in a great performance to beat the Staffs second pair, but, unfortunately, all three mixed matches went to the home side.