Norfolk book play-off spot

PUBLISHED: 13:33 22 March 2011 | UPDATED: 13:42 22 March 2011

Norfolk’s first team completed this season’s Inter-County Championship fixtures in style, beating the Hertfordshire second string 11-4 and, in so doing, reaching the play-offs to the elite Premier League for the second successive year.

The match started with both Ian Murphy and Michael Philpott narrowly losing their singles but Julie Pike and Katherine Cooper levelled the match with good wins.

Pike put in a determined display to beat the Herts number one and ex-Norfolk player, Charity Barnes, in a hard-fought game, while Cooper came away with a more comfortable victory.

The ladies’ pairings of Pike and Louise Culyer and Cooper and Toni Sturgeon completed their season-long dominant form in the level doubles.

They notched up four more wins, while Murphy and Justin Gerrard added to the tally with two more victories.

Paul Daynes and Alex Wyett made up a new, fresh and promising pairing, despite losing both their doubles, including a hard fought three-setter against the Herts second string.

Going into the mixed, Norfolk were 8-4 ahead with a Premiership play-off place already secure.

But that wasn’t enough for the fired-up county team who then stamped their authority on the match with three more victories. They now face a seven-week break before the play-offs which take place at the National Badminton Centre, Milton Keynes on May 7 and 8.

Despite losing their match against Nottinghamshire’s third team 6-9, the county second team gained a vital losing point which secures their place in Division Three for next season, with Leicestershire dropping down into Division Four.

The team shared the singles games with the two youngest members, Luke Cox and Devon Minnis, getting excellent wins, with Cox coming through 21-17, 21-16 and 13-year-old Minnis making her senior county debut in style, winning in three sets 17-21, 21-17, 21-11.

The men, James Ruthen and Cox and Andy and Chris Piff had a tough time, losing all four level doubles, but the women, Helen Newstead and Lucy Curran and Amber Nielsen and Katie Ruthen won three out of four, cutting back Nottinghamshire’s lead by two games to 7-5.

This left Norfolk needing to win one mixed doubles game to secure that vital losing point and avoid relegation to Division Four.

The first two games were lost but Andy Piff and Helen Newstead came out on top in a very exciting final game to win and maintain their Division Three place.

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