U's V Norwich - Match Report
Colchester United (0) 3 Norwich (0) 0
Matthew Calmus, Layer Road
U`s in party mood as former Cannery makes Norwich squawk
Saturday, 31st March 2007
Colchester United revived their slim play-off hopes with a three-nil victory over Norwich City at Layer Road, after goals from Jamie Cureton, Richard Garcia and Chris Iwelumo.
A quasi-derby, it produced the same scoreline the last time both teams met on Essex soil in 1961; Colchester`s leading scorer of all-time, Martin King, bagged a hat-trick that day, in front of a 14,000 gate.
This game captured the imagination of the public too, where City`s former Cannery Cureton scored his eighteenth Coca-Cola Championship goal of the season.
He shone against his old club, which inspired the two further second-half strikes and whet the appetite ahead of Good Friday`s authentic derby-day against Southend.
Colchester took to the field with a fit-again Karl Duguid, who slotted in at right-back, having recovered from injury, following an injection earlier in the week. This was at the expense of full-back, John White, although the rest of the XI remained unchanged.
Norwich City, in the midst of a min-revival under boss Peter Grant, began the game brightly with who shots from veteran captain Darren Huckerby, and another from fellow stalwart Dion Dublin.
These tested home 'keeper Dean Gerken early on, along with an Andy Hughes twenty-yard drive, which he was more than capable of dealing with.
Colchester kept the goal-attempts tally even, with shots from Johnnie Jackson, and Iwelumo, who had a couple of headed shots. Jackson`s left-foot drilled shot flew wide of Tony Warner`s post.
Scotsman Iwelumo later scored his first open-pay goal since January, and was as impressive as ever; the perfect foil for his slighter partner in attack, Cureton.
The U`s managed to keep Norwich threat, 19-year-old Chris Martin, quiet during the game, also seeing off a few searing Huckerby runs. Youngster Martin has been one of the few successes stories in a frustrating season for City.
Of his star, who has five goals to his name, Grant said: "I looked at him in the youth team and felt he had something; as soon as the FA youth Cup run was over, he`d be with us everyday.
"He is a good lad who just loves the game," added Grant, who might have been speaking about Cureton. The Colchester forward has a well-documented passion for former club Norwich, which had him vowing not to celebrate should he score.
When he did hit the string, Cureton was true to his word. His goal came about as a direct result of both teams attacking more during the second period, attempting to break the stalemate.
His right-footed finish, on the turn, hit the back of the net from inside the six-yard box, at the same time as reviving memories of his most recent previous strike against Southampton.
The U`s went on to cement that lead through Garcia, who benefited from Jackson`s cross, firing home from eighteen yards. His low shot beat Warner, masking a hitherto frustrating afternoon for the Aussie.
In between those goals, Norwich`s Youssef Safri received a booking for unsporting behaviour for preventing Cureton from adding to his tally, impeding a run that have would have seen him clean through.
The half-hour blitz was complete, however, when Iwelumo left the opposing defence blushing. He snatched the ball in the penalty box, using both power and pace to guide the ball into the net.
It put United three goals clear, and was a just reward for Chris, who should have scored earlier when he created a chance by turning a City defender with a neat back-heal in the area.
The win leaves them top of the derby mini-league, and on 59 points in the Championship standings.
Of the five East Anglian match-ups involving Colchester this season, including games against Ipswich, Norwich and Southend, the U`s have amassed ten points, with three wins from a possible five games. Ipswich are next behind Colchester, with only nine points, and that clash against Southend is still to come.
Those in Colchester will travel to Roots Hall in three days time hoping for more. With six games to go, according to Cureton, the motivation is still high, but United must rely upon others to lose matches - and win their own - if they are to nick a play-off sport, of which they currently lie seven points adrift.
"We know there's still a chance of the play-offs," said Cureton recently. In terms of top-six contending opponents, United are still to play Stoke (away) and Sunderland (home).
"If we can sneak in, it would be a massive opportunity but all we've said to ourselves is we'll try and win as many games as possible out of the last seven so we can end the season on a high.
"If that takes us to the play-offs, that`s great. If not, well we still know we will have had a very good season."