U's doomed as Canaries pile on gloom

Norwich City 5 Colchester United 1MANAGER Geraint Williams did not agree, but I guess that most people connected with Colchester United are just counting down the days until the end of a dismal season.

Carl Marston

Norwich City 5 Colchester United 1

By Carl Marston

MANAGER Geraint Williams did not agree, but I guess that most people connected with Colchester United are just counting down the days until the end of a dismal season.

Saturday was quite a painful experience, watching the basement U's crash to a heavy defeat at the hands of a Norwich team who had taken just one point from a possible 15 in their previous five matches.

It's been a fantastic adventure, following the fortunes of the U's in the Championship, but alas the highs and lows of the last couple of years are drawing to a close.

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In just six weeks time, a magical era will be over. The U's will be back in League One, visiting such places as Gillingham, Walsall and Cheltenham, after two years of gracing the stage at the likes of Sunderland, Charlton, West Brom and Ipswich.

The contrast between last season and this could not have been more acute, as was reflected in Saturday's trip to Carrow Road. United battled to the end, but they looked a forlorn set of troops at the final whistle. The dream is almost over.

Jamie Cureton scored in front of his former supporters last season, netting one of his 24 goals in United's 1-1 draw at Norwich. He was the villain of Carrow Road.

Now, though, he is the darling of the Canaries. The 32-year-old walked away with the match-ball after putting Colchester to the sword with a hat-trick, boosting his tally for the campaign from 11 to 14 goals.

Cureton lost the respect of many U's fans, after accusing the Essex club of “lacking ambition” when demanding a transfer request and eventually returning to his roots in Norfolk. Love him or loathe him, though, he is still a deadly finisher.

While Cureton's 12 league goals (plus two in the cup) seem certain to keep Norwich in the Championship, opposing striker Kevin Lisbie's 15 league goals have been to no avail.

Lisbie does not deserve to suffer relegation this season. The ex-Charlton stalwart was on target again, when halving the deficit just before half-time, but the U's season of anguish was summed up by the sad sight of Lisbie hobbling off with a calf injury in the second-half.

There are many reasons for the U's current plight, but here are three of them - a mass exodus of players last summer, the poorest defence in the division, and a frightening list of injuries.

Saturday highlighted all three. The departed Cureton did the damage; the goals conceded column was swelled to 72; and Lisbie joined a full team of crocked players on the sidelines.

With just six games remaining, the U's are 11 points adrift of safety. Relegation is assured, and could even be confirmed within the next couple of weeks. It's best to try and enjoy (if that is possible!) these final few weeks of Championship football.

The second-half was one-sided, but Norwich were given a few scares in an end-to-end first period. City supporters were certainly not feeling comfortable at half-time.

The hosts broke the deadlock early. Jon Otsemobor, quoted at 40-1 against scoring the first goal, ran half the length of the pitch, leaving both Adam Virgo and Medy Elito trailing in his wake as he fired across Dean Gerken and into the far corner of the net. It was the right-back's first goal for the club.

Norwich's second goal exposed the U's weaknesses on the left. Darren Huckerby was allowed to charge down the flank and deliver a cross for Cureton to volley home in some style.

Colchester's response was positive. Lisbie rattled the bar with a header from Phil Ifil's 40th minute cross, but was not to be denied just a minute later.

Lisbie pounced onto a dreadful backward header from Jason Shackell, following John White's long through ball, and skipped past the advancing David Marshall before sliding into an unguarded net.

City were hanging on until half-time, defending no fewer than four corners from Johnnie Jackson during stoppage time, but the U's faded badly in the second period.

Dion Dublin clipped the bar with a breathtaking 35-yard lob on 52 minutes, which also saw Cureton scoop the rebound over the top. But a minute later and Norwich were 3-1 up, thanks to Cureton's precision from the spot.

Ifil chopped down Matty Pattison on the edge of the six-yard box for a clear-cut penalty, and Cureton sent Gerken the wrong way to effectively seal the U's fate.

Glenn Roeder's men scored two more goals in the dying minutes, to fully punish their tiring opponents. First Cureton smashed home his hat-trick goal from Dublin's intelligent lay-off, and Dublin himself then scored the goal of the game by lifting a delightful shot past Gerken in stoppage time, after Darel Russell's original effort had been blocked.

There's still pride to play for, and 18 points, but the U's are now just going through the motions.

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