A perfect replacement

Jamie Cureton's desire for a regular place in the Norwich City starting eleven is so strong that he would probably not take kindly to the tag “supersub”.

Jamie Cureton's desire for a regular place in the Norwich City starting eleven is so strong that he would probably not take kindly to the tag “supersub”.

But after bagging a priceless winner at Scunthorpe in December and a late equaliser at Watford on Tuesday night, the Canaries' leading scorer has proved a valuable man for manager Glenn Roeder to bring off the bench.

Cureton's very first goal for the club, back in the mists of time in 1994, came as a 19-year-old substitute in a 3-0 Premiership home win over Chelsea.

But the teenage years and the twenties have come and gone and the 32-year-old striker does not want to be keeping the bench warm at this stage of his career.

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Cureton admitted after the game at Vicarage Road that it was “a little bit of a shock” to be left out of the side after scoring in the previous two matches, and he felt he had a point to prove when he was sent on in place of Mo Camara.

“I'm very disappointed when I don't play especially when I feel I'm in form and I'm doing what I'm expected to do, but the manager has a reason why he's done it. I've done what I've done to try to force his hand to play me next week,” he said.

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“The manager's got options and he makes decisions. I was very frustrated when he named the team in the dressing room and got a bit down, to be honest. Thankfully I managed to score.”

Nevertheless, Roeder's use of substitutes in his four months as manager has invariably been well-timed and effective.

The days of watching three substitutes wheeled out in the last five minutes as little more than a time-wasting exercise are, one hopes, gone.

In the 3-1 win at Blackpool in November, the introduction of Lee Croft, Darren Huckerby - back from suspension - and Ched Evans in good time helped give City the extra drive needed to turn a potential draw into a victory.

Cureton's winner at Scunthorpe and even John Hartson's half-time arrival against Ipswich - despite the mirth over his girth - were other examples of changes made early enough to influence the outcome of the match.

“People might say you've made an astute substitution, but nearly every time, it's a hunch, a feeling about how it could go,” said Roeder.

He said he made a point of telling those left on the bench that any one of them could still prove to be a matchwinner.

“It's not just about 11 players, it's about 16 - the whole squad. I always tell them the hero might be sitting on the bench, so you have to keep yourself alive and alert and you may go on and win the game for us,” he said.

“I went through a period as a manager where I didn't make many changes, but since I have been here I've quite often used all three substitutes.

“Jamie was always going to get on the pitch at some stage, and he scored a wonderful goal to give us a draw.

“Jamie's actually had a big impact when he's come on this year, once the game has stretched and there is a lot more space and room for him to play in.

“It doesn't mean to say he can't complete 90 minutes like he did against Barnsley brilliantly, when he led the team. It's horses for courses - he was very unlucky to be left out at Watford. I left him out because of who we were playing.”



Trevor Howard (Norwich 2 Hull 0, Mar 15, 1972): City's promotion challenge was flagging after six games without a win but Howard, on as a substitute for David Cross, delivered a late goal to lift the tension for a Carrow Road crowd of more than 30,000. Ken Foggo added a second to make sure City returned to the top of Division Two. Howard had also scored City's first ever goal by a sub on Boxing Day 1968 - the winner at Hull - and six of his 19 goals for the club were as a sub.

t Chris Sutton (Norwich 3 Coventry 2, Nov 23, 1991): Sutton, 18, was making only his third Division One appearance when he replaced Darren Beckford with 11 minutes left and City trailing 2-1. Robert Fleck equalised with five minutes to go and Sutton scored a dramatic last-minute winner with the last touch as Rob Newman hammered the ball across the six-yard box.

t Mark Robins (Arsenal 2 Norwich 4, August 15, 1992): The first day of the first FA Premier League season and striker Robins made his debut, replacing Sutton with half an hour left and City trailing 2-0. He scored a spectacular diving header with only his third touch to reduce the arrears - and later wrapped up a stunning victory with the fourth goal, robbing Tony Adams and beating David Seaman with a perfect chip.

t Marc Libbra (Norwich 2 Manchester City 0, August 18, 2001): French striker Libbra had missed the opening Division One game of the season because of a family bereavement, but made an instant impact in City's first home match. He scored just seconds after replacing Iwan Roberts, lifting the ball over Steve Howey and volleying past goalkeeper Nicky Weaver to put his side 1-0 up. Paul McVeigh added a second two minutes from time.

t Iwan Roberts (Birmingham 1 Norwich 1, May 12, 2002): It could have been the most lucrative goal in City's history, but they ended up losing the play-off final at the Millennium Stadium on penalties. Roberts, replacing David Nielsen seven minutes from the end of normal time, scored two minutes into extra time when he headed home a cross from another substitute, Alex Notman. He admitted afterwards he thought it may have been the winner. Alas, the Golden Goal rule didn't apply.

t Phil Mulryne (Reading 0, Norwich 1): Mulryne had been on the field just four minutes when, with the assistance of referee Neale Barry, he fired the only goal of this televised Easter Monday game to nudge City closer to the Nationwide League Division One title. Dean Gordon's clearance bounced off Barry's back as the official tried to duck under the ball and it dropped perfectly for midfielder Mulryne to sweep a perfect half-volley past 'keeper Jamie Ashdown.

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