Colchester United 3, Norwich City 0
DAVID CUFFLEY Norwich City’s Jekyll-and-Hyde run of form continued at Layer Road as they crashed to a disastrous defeat at the hands of East Anglian rivals Colchester United. Three goals in the space of 20 minutes in the second half did the damage for the out of sorts Canaries.
Norwich City's Jeckyll-and-Hyde run of form continued at Layer Road as they crashed to a disastrous defeat at the hands of East Anglian rivals Colchester United this afternoon.
Three goals in the space of 20 minutes in the second half did the damage for the out of sorts Canaries.
Ex-Canary striker Jamie Cureton struck the first blow after 52 minutes after excellent work from strike partner Chris Iwelumo.
Richard Garcia added the second 11 minutes later after City keeper Tony Warner had beaten away a shot from Johnnie Jackson.
And Iwelumo made it 3-0 after 72 minutes following an error by Andy Hughes.
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Iwelumo had struck the bar with a first half header and he almost scored a fourth for Colchester, only to be denied by an excellent save from Warner.
Norwich were well beaten in a derby contest they would rather forget.
Dickson Etuhu was a surprise absentee from the City side against Colchester, ruled out by illness. It meant he was missing from the starting line-up for only the third time this season. With skipper Adam Drury also sidelined by an ankle injury, there were two changes to the team which started the last match against Stoke a fortnight ago. Mark Fotheringham and Dion Dublin were recalled to the starting 11 as the Canaries went in search of a third successive Championship win for the first time this season.
There was also a surprise on the bench with 16-year-old Scottish striker Kris Renton named as one of the five substitutes and therefore in with a chance of becoming the youngest player to appear for the club in the Football League if he was brought into action. Michael Spillane and Robert Eagle completed a trio of youngsters on the bench, keeping company with goalkeeper Paul Gallacher and Luke Chadwick.
Colchester showed one change to the team that won 2-1 at Southampton a fortnight ago. Skipper Karl Duguid returned after recovering from a knee injury, with John White dropping to the bench.
It was City's first competitive fixture at Layer Road for 47 years. Colchester won that last encounter 3-0 in February 1960 when both sides were in Division Three.
City kicked off in bright sunshine and blustery conditions with their travelling fans standing behind Warner's goal.
Shackell was twice forced to make clearances in the opening minutes as Colchester attacked down the right.
The home side then forced a throw by the right corner flag and this time Fotheringham was on hand to knock the ball clear.
Some neat footwork by Martin enabled him to put Huckerby through in City's first attack but Gerken was right behind Huckerby's right-foot shot.
Play switched quickly to the other end where a cross by Iwelumo took a slight deflection off Shackell but Warner was able to collect at his near post.
The Canaries went back on the attack and Dublin glanced a header wide from a cross from the right by Croft.
Dublin was in the action again after six minutes in his striker's role when he got on the end of a deep cross from Hughes but was unable to direct his left-foot shot on target.
Next, Martin made good ground in the Colchester half before firing in a low, left-foot shot, but Gerken was right behind it.
A miscued clearance from Doherty fell to Iwelumo as Colchester attacked and the big striker's shot squirted off the boot of Shackell and into Warner's arms.
There was a real escape for City after 10 minutes when Izzet crossed from the right and Iwelumo produced a powerful header which Warner was able to touch on to the bar. As the ball ran loose, Garcia tried to turn it goalwards and, through a forest of legs, Warner was grateful to grab it close to the goal line.
It was certainly an end-to-end start and Dublin was just over the top with a header from a corner as Norwich pressed again.
United instantly went back on the attack and Hughes made an important clearance from a Garcia cross before Brown let fly from long-range, but his left-foot shot flew wide.
Jackson switched briefly from the left-flank to the right as Colchester built another promising move but his cross was too strong and drifted beyond the far post.
City boss Grant was an unhappy man with 20 minutes gone, remonstrating with the referee after he penalised Huckerby for a foul on Duguid on the halfway line, right in front of the dugout.
Cureton was keen to get on the scoresheet against his old club as he made room for a shot on the edge of the box, but Shackell was in the right place to block his attempt.
Watson was next to try his luck from long-range and his left-foot drive from 25-yards was only just off target.
Dublin brought Gerken into action again in the 24th minute when he got on the end of a Huckerby cross but it seemed to bounce off his shin before he could get it under control.
Iwelumo was proving a handful and after an error from Shackell, he tried to toe-poke a shot past Warner from an acute angle, the keeper palming it away for Hughes to hack the ball clear.
City won a corner on the left and Safri's kick towards the near post was met by the head of Doherty, still looking for his first goal of the season, but this time a yard or two off target.
Safri decided to shoot from outside the area but found Izzet in the line of fire and his effort was blocked. Fotheringham picked out Croft with an excellent through ball but the winger's first touch let him down and the ball ran to Gerken.
When Safri upended Cureton on the edge of the Norwich area, it gave United a dead ball opportunity. Jackson curled in a left-foot shot but Warner was right behind it.
Baldwin picked out Izzet with a 40-yard pass as the hosts went forward again, but the midfielder made a hash of his cross from the right and sliced it into the crowd behind Warner's goal.
The strong wind was certainly playing a part in proceedings and the two sides were perhaps taking the aerial route rather too often for the contest to flow.
Huckerby's trickery earned City their third corner and when Safri's kick was punched away by Gerken, Fotheringham attempted a curling effort from well outside the box, but it was again well over the top.
A huge goal-kick from Warner reached Dublin almost on the edge of the Colchester area, but the veteran was adjudged to have fouled Baldwin, who still did well to guide the ball back to his keeper.
Three minutes before the break Martin tried to weave his way into a shooting position and went down under challenge from Brown but the referee was unimpressed by City's appeals for a free-kick.
Martin was soon in the action again with a determined run before picking out Huckerby, but there were too many bodies in the way of the City forward and Colchester were able to crowd him out.
On the stroke of half-time, Huckerby attempted a one-two with Fotheringham, only for the midfielder's return pass to fall short but still Norwich were pushing forward and Safri produced another long-range effort, but far too high to trouble Gerken.
City started the second period with Huckerby appearing to have taken up a more advanced position, with Martin dropping a little deeper.
A minute into the half, Croft laid the ball back for Hughes, whose attempt at a right-foot shot managed to clear the stand behind Gerken's goal and go completely out of the ground.
As the hosts hit back, Garcia was just inches away from getting his foot on the end of a flick from Iwelumo and Colchester threatened again when Izzet flashed a header wide from a dangerous cross from Barker.
Seven minutes into the second half, Colchester broke the deadlock and almost inevitably it was ex-Canary striker Cureton who scored his 18th goal of the season. A deep cross from the right from Duguid seemed almost too strong, but Iwelumo did superbly to nod it back from beyond the far post and Cureton, with his back to goal, controlled it neatly before swivelling to hook a right-foot shot past Warner, who may have got his fingertips to the shot but couldn't keep it out. It completed a notable double for Cureton, who had also scored when the two sides met at Carrow Road in October.
United had their tails up and Doherty blocked a shot from Watson before Safri earned a yellow card for a foul on Cureton just outside the box. Referee Russell in fact produced a red card by mistake in the first instance, which caused much hilarity not least from Safri himself. From the resulting free-kick, Cureton curled a right-foot shot over the top. The little striker was buzzing now and it took a determined challenge from Hughes to halt him in his stride as he again weaved his way into the Norwich area.
Huckerby tried to get Norwich going when he burst into the Colchester area after cutting in from the left side but he overran the ball and it went out for a goal-kick.
Things went from bad to worst for the Canaries when they went two goals down after 63 minutes. Jackson was the architect of the goal with a determined run from the left and when his powerful cross shot was beaten away by Warner, Garcia was first to the loose ball to knock it gleefully into the net.
With less than 25 minutes to go, Grant made his first change when Chadwick was sent on in place of Croft.
Norwich almost pulled a goal back in extraordinary fashion when Hughes pumped a high free-kick into the box and it was dropping under the crossbar, forcing Gerken to tip the ball over for a corner. Dublin managed to get in a header from the resulting flag-kick but Colchester scrambled it away.
Norwich were looking ragged at times and after Safri was muscled out by Garcia, it took a clearance from Doherty to stave off further trouble.
Huckerby briefly produced a bit of spark with a mazy run into home territory but his final shot rolled wide of the target.
City's misery was just about complete after 72 minutes when Iwelumo bagged his 16th goal of the season to make it 3-0. A disastrous attempted back-headed by Hughes fell well short of Warner and although Iwelumo's first attempt was blocked he had enough time to regain possession and drill a low, right-foot shot just inside the post.
Only a brilliant save by Warner a minute later denied Iwelumo a second goal when he was once more given the freedom of the City penalty area.
Huckerby was next to be shown the yellow card with 15 minutes to go for a foul on Iwelumo on the halfway line, which produced an angry response from the goalscorer.
If City were ragged at the back, they were not much better at the other end and after Chadwick had sliced an attempted cross into the crowd, a diagonal ball from Safri also disappeared into touch.
With 12 minutes left, Martin showed some determination to pursue a through ball and fire a left-foot shot just off target.
Colchester made their first change of the afternoon soon afterwards when Guy replaced Iwelumo.
Colchester made another change with eight minutes left when Cureton departed to a great ovation to be replaced by Ephraim.
Huckerby and Brown earned a swift word from the referee after an altercation when the City man's run into the area was abruptly halted by two Colchester defenders.
Martin earned a yellow card with six minutes left, though he appeared a shade unlucky after challenging Gerken for a loose ball and Brown was fortunate to escape punishment when he grabbed the Norwich man round the neck.
Shackell went close with a header from a corner as time ticked away, with Watson managing to clear from just a yard in front of the goal line.
Hughes almost matched his previous effort with two minutes left when another long-range shot flew yards over the bar but was this time saved by the netting on the roof of the stand.
In a late flurry from Norwich, Huckerby's cross was only just too strong for Dublin at the far post.