First team unlucky to leave Middlesex without a point

Norfolk county badminton first team travelled to Hounslow in Middlesex for their third match of the season on Sunday. Last time Norfolk played Middlesex II was two years ago and the corresponding fixture ended in a 10-5 victory for Norfolk. With the Middlesex team looking much stronger than before (6 of their 9 players having played for their 1st team already this year and at least 1 of the other 3 playing as a regular in Prem A last year!). With 2 of their regular players (Louise Culyer and Devon Minnis) missing, Norfolk called on Katie Ruthen from the 2nd team as a replacement. Norfolk knew they had a hard day ahead and would definitely have been happy with a losing point.

Both male singles players having moved to Norfolk from Middlesex in recent years had a point to prove. The match began promisingly for Norfolk with number 1 Daryl Jacobs winning in straight sets. Number 2 Rory Kitchen faced a difficult challenge in Jacob’s brother Steven. In a closely fought match Kitchen came out on top winning 21-19 in
the third. With Minnis and Culyer out, up stepped Julie Pike and Katherine Cooper to contest the ladies singles for Norfolk. Pike was very unfortunate to lose out 21-19 in the third whilst Cooper faced a player who has been a regular in Prem A in recent years (and would probably still be there this season if she was available for the fixtures). Despite putting up a great fight Cooper lost out 21-18, 21-15.

Middlesex 2 – 2 Norfolk

The Middlesex men’s doubles pairs looked strong on paper and the first pair even stronger on court! Both Norfolk pairs (Jacobs & Matt Howes and captain Justin Gerrard & Jono Atmore) lost out 9 & 19 and 16 & 14 respectively. The 2nd pair containing Jacobs’ brother also looked strong and despite both Norfolk pairs taking a set they both lost out giving Middlesex a clean sweep in the men’s doubles.

Middlesex 6 – 2 Norfolk

The ladies doubles was a much closer affair with the Norfolk girls, as always, doing Norfolk proud. All the matches were very closely fought with 1st pair Cooper & Toni Sturgeon losing out 23-21, 21-16 to the stronger Middlesex pair before beating the other pair in 3 sets. Pike & Price put up a fantastic effort and were unlucky to lose 21-19, 21-19 to the 2nd pair before taking a set off the 1st pair.

Middlesex 9 – 3 Norfolk

With just the mixed to play Norfolk knew they needed all 3 to take the losing point they were fighting for. All 3 games went on court together and 1st pair Jacobs & Cooper were first to finish beating their counterparts in straight sets. Next to finish was 3rd pair Atmore & Sturgeon who, after losing the first set, turned their game round and comfortably won to 11 in the third. This left 2nd pair Gerrard & Pike on court having lost the first end to 10 and just sneaking the second 24-22. The atmosphere in the hall was electric with everyone knowing what was riding on this last (38 th) set of the day. Having been heavily down, the Norfolk pair fought back to 20-20, then 21-21. I wish I could report that the match finished as we all would have loved but unfortunately the Middlesex pair just managed to get over the line first winning 23-21 giving them all 3 points.

Final Score: Middlesex 10-5 Norfolk.

Well done to all who played, all in all there were 5 very close games with Middlesex winning 4 of them. Just one more going to Norfolk would have meant a losing point which I think would have been a fairer result. If nothing else, the day was character building. Bring on next weekend – Kent at home, Easton College 1pm.