Norfolk celebrate Premier milestone

The Norfolk County Badminton team are celebrating after winning promotion to the National Premier Division for the first time in their history.  Having qualified for the play-offs by winning their section of the regional First Division, Norfolk overcame Staffordshire and Wiltshire to secure second place behind Derbyshire.

In their opening match at badminton's headquarters in Milton Keynes, Norfolk slipped to a narrow 7-4 defeat against a Debryshire side containing internationals Donna Kellog and Kristian Roebuck.  Ian Murphy, Julie Pike and team caption Katherine Cooper all won their respective singles with the other Norfolk rubber coming from Murphy and Cooper in the mixed doubles.

The afternoon session saw a resurgent Norfolk claim a 8-3 victory over Wiltshire as Pike and Cooper claimed further successes and Mike Philpot edged a close encounter against Simon Woodhouse.  Norfolk progress in the match was stalled by successive defeats in the men's doubles, but victories in the women's doubles by Pike and Louise Culyer and Cooper and Toni Sturgeon gave Norfolk a 5-3 lead going into the Mixed.

The mixed doubles had been a strength of Norfolk throughout the regional matches, and so it proved again with combinations of Murphy and Cooper, Justin Gerrard and Pike and Philpot Culyer securing and 8-3 win. Those results left Norfolk needing to win their final match against Staffordshire to acheive a Premiership place.

Cooper and Murphy won their singles to keep the match even going into the level doubles, where Norfolk gained the lead through Murphy and Gerrard.  But they were immediately pegged back after Paul Daynes and Alex Wyett suffered a narrow loss.  However, further women's doubles successes for Pike and Culyer and Cooper and Sturgeon gave the county a 5-3 advantage heading into the final three mixed doubles.

An expectant East Anglian following sensed promotion was in Norfolk's grasp, but defeats for Gerarrd and Pike and Philpott and Culyer the county went into their final match all square.  There Murphy and Cooper came out on top again to gain a well deserved promotion for the Norfolk squad who had risen to the occasion with a strong all-round performance.

Delighted team captain Katherine Cooper said "Promotion is something that as a team and as a county we have been building towards for several years.  We lost the play-offs last year and that prepared us for how tough it would be this time.  We knew the final match was going to be a tough game, as there was a lot of pressure from the fans and we had a lot riding on it.  We took the game to Staffordshire and showed that we wanted it more, and we deserve our promotion for the effor the team has put in."

Norfolk are now set to face more teams of the quality and experience of Derbyshire, but Cooper insisted her team were ready for the challenge.  "The way we played showed we can compete with those teams and players." she said.  "The experience of playing sides of quality will help us improve and hopefully we can head the way for Norfolk badminton in the future."

The promotion presents a bright future for Norfolk badminton, as Cooper explained: "We've got good juniors coming through and Norfolk has a limited availability of coaching and resources, so getting promoted should improve our future prospects.  It would be great if we can stay in the division, but we need to focus on the task ahead".

The task begins in earnest when the new season kicks-off in October.

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Norfolk Badminton's First Team - Promoted to the Premier League 2011