Ace Cureton makes up for lost time
CHRIS LAKEY Norwich City 5, Barnet 2Jamie Cureton took his frustrations out on Barnet last night as he led City into the second round of the Carling Cup.The 31-year-old had been a victim of the virus that plagued City's preparations for their opener at Preston on Saturday and had to watch from the bench as his team-mates fired blanks at Deepdale.
Norwich City 5, Barnet 2
Jamie Cureton took his frustrations out on Barnet last night as he led City into the second round of the Carling Cup.
The 31-year-old had been a victim of the virus that plagued City's preparations for their opener at Preston on Saturday and had to watch from the bench as his team-mates fired blanks at Deepdale.
But City manager Peter Grant didn't fork out £1m for the Championship's leading scorer just to let him watch from the bench, and was satisfied he had recovered sufficiently to unleash him on an unsuspecting Barnet last night
And it took precisely 121 seconds for Cureton to make his mark - more than a decade since he last wore the yellow and green in anger.
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Cureton ensured City wouldn't go the way of Saturday's Carrow Road visitors Southampton, who were dumped out 24 hours earlier by Peterborough, with a brace of goals which helped Norwich to a 5-0 lead at half-time.
The Canaries blotted their copybook with a sluggish second-half performance which allowed Barnet to make the scoreline more respectable and despite hitting five at home, Grant clearly has work to do.
Grant made three changes to the side which drew at Preston on Saturday, with Julien Brellier missing out and Luke Chadwick and Dion Dublin relegated to the bench. In came Saturday subs Lee Croft, Cureton and Mark Fotheringham, with Grant changing to a 4-4-2 formation.
Barnet made just one change from the side which drew 0-0 with Morecambe at the weekend, assistant manager Ian Hendon brought out of "retirement" to replace injured centre-back Ismail Yakubu, forcing a minor reshuffle in defence.
Barnet were straight on to the attack, Anthony Thomas with his back to goal laying the ball back for Neal Bishop to shoot, forcing David Marshall to palm it away for a corner.
But that was just the start of Barnet's problems, as City broke swiftly down the right flank. Fotheringham set Jon Otsemobor free on the right flank and the defender put in the perfect cross to Cureton, who was on the penalty spot to smash home a lovely right-footed volley with a second over two minutes gone.
To be fair to Barnet, they responded immediately, and again Marshall had to be alert to deny Thomas from close range. Three corners in the opening five minutes was testament to the Bees' intentions but at the same time they had a mountain to climb.
City front man Chris Brown shot straight at keeper Lee Harrison and then set up Croft for a cross with some good work down the right as City tried to impose themselves - easier said than done against a Barnet side clearly intent on playing fast, attacking football.
While City were being pegged back the danger for Barnet was always that they would be caught on the break again - and with 16 minutes gone that's exactly what happened. Barnet had been warned, and when Adam Drury floated in a cross that Brown got his head to, the danger was clear. The ball fell to Croft lurking on the right and he put in a low cross that Sagi Burton failed to clear, the ball hitting Brown's heels and falling kindly to Cureton to poach a second.
Cureton almost turned creator two minutes later, sliding a lovely ball in to Brown, who nicked it past the keeper but lifted his shot over him - and onto the cross bar.
The Carrow Road faithful were in full voice, and City were beginning to hit top gear as they exploited Barnet's weakness at left back where Hendon was standing in.
No better example of that came when Simon Lappin, who had begun to torment the defence, went one better, picking up a poor clearance, making his way towards the area before hitting a belting left-footer into the far corner of the net from 25 yards.
All was well inside Carrow Road but City were clearly intent on exorcising a few demons still hanging around from last season. The pressure didn't ease and it was Fotheringham's turn to get in on the act on 25 minutes to put City four up, sidestepping and then firing home from the edge of the area after Jason Shackell's header from Lappin's corner had been cleared off the line.
Four goals without reply - never has a Norwich City scoreline under Grant looked so good.
But five would look better - and Darel Russel duly obliged in the 31st minute. It started with Lappin again, clipping in a cross which the excellent Brown headed back. Fotheringham fired it goalwards but keeper Harrison blocked it - only for Russell to follow up.
The Barclay was in full voice and good humour, although Harrison was probably only being polite when he applauded their rendition of "England's number one".
With a third of the game gone, thoughts turned to that famous 8-0 FA Cup win over Sutton in January, 1989. It was 3-0 at half-time that day - this one would have a different ending.
There was some respite as the game was delayed by an injury to a linesman and on resumption Harrison made a brilliant save to deny Cureton his hat-trick - so maybe the fans were right.
Still Barnet went forward - there wasn't much choice - and Thomas was unlucky to see a header hit the bar from Jason Puncheon's cross.
Temperatures rose when Brown was booked for a challenge on Burton which left the Barnet defender with blood pouring from a facial wound, and there were clearly words between a number of players as they headed down the tunnel for half-time.
Tempers cooled by the time the second half started, but City's appetite for goals remained red hot: Russell saw an effort blocked and then drove wide of the target within the opening four minutes while Brown headed over when he should have done better.
Brown left his mark on Hendon's cheek, just as he had Burton's, and with another card a real prospect, he was replaced by David Strihavka with less than an hour gone.
Ashley Carew gave City a reminder that Barnet were still a danger, of sorts, but should have done better than sidefoot wide from 10 yards. But the visitors were rewarded on 65 minutes when Puncheon fired home from the edge of the area on 65 minutes - a shot which took a deflection off Gary Doherty on the way.
It was just punishment for a City side who had sat on their laurels and allowed Barnet, unlikely as it seemed, to take control.
Shackell's header was the closest City had come with 25 minutes of the half gone, although Cureton might have been hat-trick hunting as he went on a mazy run when he could have passed to Strihavka instead.
Punishment was meted out quickly, as Birchall finished an excellent moved with Barnet's second on 74 minutes. The nerves weren't shredded - but the groans, for the first time, were becoming audible.
A third would have been too much - fortunately it didn't come to that and Peter Grant has his first Carling Cup win under his belt, albeit one that wasn't quite as convincing as the scoreline suggests.