Last-gasp own-goal agony for Colchester

Colchester United 1 Norwich City 1By Carl MarstonA LATE own goal from Danny Granville prevented Colchester United from recording a precious victory over fellow strugglers Norwich City in a live Sky TV game this evening.

Colchester United 1 Norwich City 1

By Carl Marston

A LATE own goal from Danny Granville prevented Colchester United from recording a precious victory over fellow strugglers Norwich City in a live Sky TV game this evening.

The U's looked to be heading for only their second win in 11 games, when Kevin McLeod steered home Johnnie Jackson's corner from point blank range in the 78th minute.

But Norwich poached a point on 88 minutes, with Colchester old boy Jamie Cureton playing a key role. Defender Gary Doherty nodded down Lee Croft's free-kick into the six-yard box, where U's right-back Granville diverted the ball home under pressure from Cureton.

It was a heart-breaking end to the game for Geraint Williams' men, especially as Cureton had helped to deny them a couple of points.

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The U's therefore remain in the relegation zone going into a busy Christmas period of fixtures.

It was no real surprise that Cureton's name was greeted by a chorus of boos when the teams were read out before kick-off. The 32-year-old had accused the Essex club of “lacking ambition” when he left to join Norwich over the summer.

It was an instantly forgettable first 10 minutes to the game, with neither side mustering a goal attempt or even managing to string together a series of passes.

The U's created the first chance of the evening in the 11th minute. Mark Yeates sped onto Kem Izzet's hooked ball forward and advanced a few yards before cracking a shot over the bar from an angle.

A few seconds later and Teddy Sheringham and Clive Platt combined to earn the U's their first corner. Centre-half Adam Virgo headed skipper Johnnie Jackson's delivery over the top, despite jumping well at the far post.

A mistake by Virgo enabled Cureton to race through on goal. It looked ominous for the U's, but Virgo recovered to block-tackle Cureton, just when the Canaries striker was shaping to shoot.

City earned a couple of quickfire corners towards the end of the half. Ched Evans threatened from the second of these, although the Manchester City loanee saw his shot well blocked by Sheringham.

At the other end, Platt was not far adrift with a shot on the turn from an acute angle that rolled agonisingly wide of the far upright. That was just about the U's best effort of a very disappointing first-half.

Marshall was finally called into action with a couple of shots. Izzet's rather tame effort from the edge of the box was easily saved, as was Yeates' more powerful drive from the right edge of the penalty area.

Colchester nearly broke the deadlock in the 55th minute. It was a neat move, with Sheringham flicking Yeates' slick cross into the path of Platt, who let fly with a half-volley that was superbly tipped over the bar by Marshall.

The hosts had appeals for a penalty turned down on the hour mark. Kevin McLeod and Sheringham combined down the wing and McLeod's cross was aimed for the onrushing Yeates, who took a tumble under a challenge from Mo Camara. Referee Michael Jones was well placed, and he merely waved play on.

Yeates insisted that the City left-back had tripped him, although the Dubliner may have just lost his footing at the vital moment.

Substitute Jamie Guy had an immediate impact. The U's striker got behind the Norwich defence, kept the ball in play and then cut inside before rifling in a shot that was blocked by Doherty for a corner. It was the first of two corners.

The first corner was punched away by Marshall for another corner, from which the U's broke the deadlock thanks to MCLEOD'S close-range effort in the 78th minute.

Jackson's corner was completely missed at the near post by Camara, and McLeod could hardly miss from point-blank range as he steered into the roof of the net.

Norwich came storming back. They had appeals for a penalty waved away when substitute Croft appeared to be tugged back by Virgo inside the box.

Only the woodwork denied the visitors an equaliser in the 82nd minute. Huckerby's cross was met by Darel Russell, whose header beat Gerken but cannoned off the inside of the post. It was a lucky let-off for the U's.

United threatened on the break in the 85th minute. McLeod released Guy with a terrific through ball, and the U's substitute managed to slide the ball past keeper Marshall, only for right-back Jon Otsemobor to intervene with a last ditch tackle. Otherwise, Guy would have had the simple task of side-footing the ball into an empty net.

Jackson conceded a free-kick in the 88th minute, from which pressure by Cureton forced GRANVILLE to divert home for an own goal and a dramatic equaliser.

Doherty nodded down Croft's free-kick into the six-yard box, and Cureton was ready to bundle the ball home. Granville tried to stop him, but only construed to help the ball over the line at the far post.

Cureton celebrated in front of the Norwich fans, much to the annoyance of the Layer Road faithful.

There were three minutes of injury-time, but the U's didn't look like regaining their lead. It was certainly a case of two points dropped.


COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 7, Connolly 7, Baldwin 7, Virgo 8, Granville 6, Yeates 7, Izzet 7, Jackson 7, McLeod 7, Sheringham 6 (sub Guy, 75), Platt 6. Unused subs: Guttridge, Balogh, Elito, Cousins.

NORWICH CITY: Marshall 7, Otsemobor 7, Shackell 6, Doherty 7, Camara 6, Smith 6 (sub Croft, 69), Fotheringham 7, Russell 7, Pattison 6 (sub Huckerby, 61), Cureton 8, Evans 6 (sub Dublin, 62). Subs: Huckerby, Croft, Dublin, Spillane, Arnold.

Referee: Mr Michael Jones (Cheshire)

Attendance: 5,560