Cureton strikes for U's

IT WAS fitting that Jamie Cureton should choose Hallowe'en night to haunt his old club with a deadly finish, so continuing Colchester United's excellent run of results.

By Carl Marston

IT WAS fitting that Jamie Cureton should choose Hallowe'en night to haunt his old club with a deadly finish, so continuing Colchester United's excellent run of results.

Former Norwich City striker Cureton was confident that he would score, on what was his first return to Carrow Road since his departure in 1996.

And so it proved. The U's front-runner crashed home a 53rd minute opener, after Johnnie Jackson's initial shot had only been parried by keeper Paul Gallacher.

The ball broke loose for Karl Duguid, who squared for Cureton to gleefully ram home his seventh goal of the season.

It was the 31-year-old's 152nd league goal of his career, although he only scored six of these for his first club Norwich.

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The U's could not hold onto their slender advantage, as they came under increasing pressure, and Canaries midfielder Dickson Etuhu lashed home a stunning 25-yarder for the equaliser in the 71st minute.

It would have been cruel on Geraint Williams' men to concede a late winner. They created the better chances on the night, and will be delighted to have pocketed another point.

The Essex club have now lost just two of their last 11 matches, having lost their first four on the bounce. They remain in 10th spot in the Championship table.

For Norwich, remarkably this was their first home draw for more than a year, since the 1-1 result against Millwall on October 15, 2006.

The Canaries received a boost before kick-off, with their experienced strike-force of Robert Earnshaw and Darren Huckerby both passing late fitness tests.

But there were no surprises in the U's camp. Manager Williams stuck with the same side which had beaten George Burley's Southampton 2-0 at Layer Road on Saturday. Both Kevin Watson (calf) and Richard Garcia (ankle) were still injured.

The U's started in impressive fashion, and they almost took the lead inside the first 40 seconds.

Chris Iwelumo flicked on Wayne Brown's cross, and Karl Duguid pounced with a first-time shot that keeper Paul Gallacher did well to parry.

Colchester were encamped in the Norwich half of the pitch throughout the first five minutes, but the Norfolk hosts finally broke the shackles on six minutes.

Earnshaw scampered on to Huckerby's through ball and threatened to shoot goalwards, only for Wayne Brown to intervene with a marvellous block.

The game was being played at a frenetic pace. Jamie Cureton almost shocked his former club with a strong run and shot that flew only a foot wide of the far post, and Greg Halford then ballooned a header over the top from Duguid's cross.

Cureton was certainly not afraid to shoot against his old club. The 31-year-old eyed up the target again on 14 minutes with a long-range firecracker that Gallacher was at full stretch to beat away.

A minute later and the Canaries were on the attack. Moroccan Joussef Safri unleashed a stinging shot, from 25 yards out, that struck Brown in the stomach.

The U's defender was floored by the full force of the shot, but was typically back on his feet within seconds.

Peter Grant's side were beginning to get a grip of midfield, and carved out a chance for Earnshaw in the 23rd minute. The former Cardiff and West Brom front-runner managed to turn superbly on the edge of the box, only to slice his shot wide of target.

The Carrow Road faithful were screaming for referee Dermot Gallagher to send off Iwelumo in the 31st minute, after the U's striker had collided with keeper Gallacher while contesting Chris Barker's cross.

Iwelumo seemed to connect with his shoulder rather than his elbow, and was therefore given a yellow card rather than a red one. Scottish international Gallacher was able to continue after treatment.

In the 36th minute, Davison was seriously worried by Huckerby's angled drive, which was struck through a crowd of players.

The U's keeper lost control of the ball, but was able to collect the rebound before defender Jason Shackell could react.

Cureton was desperately close to grabbing the lead for the visitors on 44 minutes. The U's striker ghosted in behind his marker Gary Doherty to meet Duguid's cross with a downward header that Gallacher blocked at point blank range. It was a good chance.

And Norwich also had a late chance to snatch a first-half advantage. Huckerby's low shot skidded across the wet turf and rolled only a foot wide of the post. But honours were even at the interval.

Norwich were in the ascendancy at the start of the second period, and a cross from full debutant Robert Eagle cannoned off Earnshaw and nearly sneaked in at the near post.

However, it was Colchester who took the lead in the 53rd minute, thanks to Cureton's slick finish. It was his seventh goal of the season.

Jackson let fly with a ferocious left-footed drive that Gallacher could only parry. The rebound dropped into the path of Duguid, who squared for a delighted Cureton to scoop into the net from eight yards out.

Norwich players appealed for offside against Cureton, but left-back Aidan Drury appeared to be playing the U's goalscorer onside.

Tempers boiled over when Huckerby took a tumble under a challenge from Pat Baldwin in the 58th minute.

Huckerby and Brown squared up to each other, with several team-mates joining in from both sides.

The net result was a booking for Baldwin, for the original foul, while Earnshaw lifted the free-kick over the bar and onto the top of the net.

Grant made a change on the hour mark, by introducing veteran striker Dion Dublin for youngster Eagle, and the U's made their first switch seven minutes later, with Manchester United loanee Ritchie Jones replacing McLeod.

Davison was finally beaten on 71 minutes, as Etuhu slammed home his fourth goal of the season.

Livewire Huckerby turned on the edge of the box and rolled the ball into the path of Etuhu. The tall Nigerian controlled before smashing home a glorious shot from 25 yards out.

Substitute Dublin was agonisingly close to heading the hosts in front on 80 minutes.

He climbed high to meet Huckerby's cross with a header that soared a foot over the bar, from the edge of the six-yard box.

Etuhu should really have netted his second goal of the night in the 85th minute.

He charged onto Dublin's slick back-heel, but scuffed his shot from close-in, enabling Davison to gather.

In the final minute of normal time, Baldwin conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position for a foul on Dublin. Earnshaw fancied his chances, but curled his effort a foot wide.

That was Norwich's last chance, although U's substitute Jamie Guy was not far adrift with an injury-time bullet that flew wide of Gallacher's far post.

The U's have now lost just two of their last 11 matches.

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