On-fire Jamie hoping to get the boot
THE race for the Golden Boot is approaching the last bend, and Colchester United's Jamie Cureton is in the perfect place to strike for home.An on-fire Cureton is now joint top with Cardiff's Michael Chopra in the Championship's goalscoring charts, a remarkable achievement for a 31-year-old who had lost his way in the previous three seasons.
By Carl Marston
THE race for the Golden Boot is approaching the last bend, and Colchester United's Jamie Cureton is in the perfect place to strike for home.
An on-fire Cureton is now joint top with Cardiff's Michael Chopra in the Championship's goalscoring charts, a remarkable achievement for a 31-year-old who had lost his way in the previous three seasons.
And while the up-and-coming Chopra, after leading the table for so long, is now struggling in front of goal in a struggling team, rival striker Cureton can't stop scoring, and his U's team can't stop winning!
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Cureton has bagged seven goals in the last four matches, a feat that has taken him past 20 goals for the first time in six seasons.
The ex-Norwich, Bristol Rovers and Reading stalwart became the first Colchester player to reach 20 goals in a Football League campaign, since Tony Adcock in 1984-85, while notching a hat-trick in the 3-0 win at Southend on Good Friday.
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And the darling of Layer Road obliged again on Easter Monday, sweeping home his 21st league goal (and 22nd overall) with an injury-time winner to break the resistance of physical Leeds in a 2-1 victory.
By contrast, Chopra is enduring a lean time at Ninian Park, which must make Cureton a good bet to steal the Golden Boot during the final four games of the season.
Chopra, a £500,000 purchase from Newcastle United last summer, collected a brace against Preston (4-1 win) on February 23, to activate a clause in his contract entitling him to improved terms.
The deal was that if Chopra reached the 20-goal landmark, then he would enjoy an extension to his contract, and that has since been completed.
However, 23-year-old Chopra has gone off the boil on the pitch, as has his Cardiff team. He is without a goal in the last seven matches - he hasn't scored since that win over Preston - while Dave Jones' men have gathered just four points from a possible 21 from their last seven fixtures.
That has allowed buoyant Colchester to leapfrog them in the Championship table, thanks to a scintillating run of four wins on the trot. Geraint Williams' men are now a tantalising three points off the top six.
But it's not just a two-man race for the Golden Boot. Only two other players in the top 10, in addition to Cureton, were amongst the goals on Easter Monday, and one of those was fellow Colchester striker Chris Iwelumo!
The other was West Brom's Diomansy Kamara, who is just one adrift of Cureton and Chopra on 20 goals following his injury-time winner in the 2-1 success at Norwich City. The Senegal international certainly has the pedigree to finish as the division's leading scorer - he was a £1.5m signing from Italian side Modena during the summer of 2005.
Fourth-placed Grzegorz Rasiak, like Chopra, is another striker out of form. The Polish international, a £2m purchase from Tottenham, has been unable to hold down a regular place in the Southampton starting line-up in recent weeks.
Rasiak has 18 goals to his name, but he is without a goal for more than a month. Instead, he has been playing second fiddle to Marek Saganowski, who scored in the Saints' 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Colchester on March 16.
On current form, therefore, Rasiak is unlikely to overhaul Cureton in the goal-charts. He has not found the back of the net in six games, and was only an 86th minute substitute in the 2-1 reverse by table-topping Sunderland on Easter Monday.
Iwelumo, meanwhile, moved up to joint fifth with his equaliser in the victory over Leeds. Robert Earnshaw, who also has 17 goals, is still on the comeback trail following a long-term groin injury, so the Norwich City front-runner is unlikely to feature heavily during the last month of the season.
There are four games remaining, and Cureton must be in with a great chance of winning the Golden Boot.
This season is still very much alive and kicking, both for him and his U's team.
Next stop is Hull City's KC Stadium on Saturday.