Colchester United 1, Norwich City 1

JONATHAN REDHEAD Norwich City snatched a point after a dramatic final 10 minutes at Layer Road. A drab match appeared to be heading for a goalless draw until Kevin McLeod poached a goal for the home side from a corner after 79 minutes. But in a game neither side deserved to win, City battled back to score with just a minute to go.

JONATHAN REDHEAD

Norwich City snatched a point after a dramatic final 10 minutes at Layer Road. A drab match appeared to be heading for a goalless draw until Kevin McLeod poached a goal for the home side from a corner after 79 minutes.

But in a game neither side deserved to win, City battled back to score with just a minute to go as Danny Granville could only poke Gary Doherty's header into his own net.

Norwich City boss Glenn Roeder made two team changes for tonight's televised clash at Layer Road.


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The first was expected with Gary Doherty coming in at centre-back for Martin Taylor who has returned to Birmingham City after his successful loan spell.

However, the second change was something of a surprise with Darren Huckerby dropping to the bench to be replaced by Darel Russell.

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Huckerby was joined among the substitutes by Dion Dublin, Lee Croft, Michael Spillane and goalkeeper Steven Arnold.

Meanwhile struggling Colchester made several changes after their 4-1 defeat to Cardiff City. Danny Granville, Clive Platt, and Pat Baldwin all came in to a side that has lost four of its last five games.

After getting booed by the home crowd on his first return to Colchester, City striker Jamie Cureton was quickly into the action, winning the Canaries a first minute free-kick although Matty Pattison's delivery came to nothing.

The opening five minutes were played at a frantic pace with neither side able to get a foot on the ball or any measure of control.

However it was the home side that started slightly the better with veteran Teddy Sheringham showing a couple of customary nice touches.

The only alarm for City came from being reduced to 10 men for around a minute with right-back Jon Otsemobor off the pitch receiving treatment for a facial injury.

On his return City forced a free-kick on their right wing, but Pattison's deliver was poor although Cureton did manage a shot which was blocked by the packed home defence.

The game's first real effort came on 11 minutes as Mark Yeates burst down the Colchester right but his drive from the edge of the box flew over David Marshall's goal.

United then forced a corner but Pat Baldwin headed over.

The game was still scrappy although the lively Cureton won a free-kick on the edge of the United box, but Mark Fotheringham's effort was easily saved by Dean Gerken.

City suddenly stepped up a gear and from Fotheringham's through ball Jimmy Smith found himself free down the inside left channel but as he shaped to shoot Baldwin blocked his effort behind for City's first corner of the game, which came to nothing after referee Jones spotted a City foul in the penalty area.

The game was still rattling along at a fierce pace and the home side were next to attack but Marshall excellently plucked Granville's deep cross out of the air.

The home side started to apply some pressure, especially down the City left. From one Yeates cross an almighty scramble ensued, until a relieved Doherty managed to head clear.

On 23 minutes, Cureton, who was still being barracked with every touch, broke clear down the right after reaching Pattison's through ball but his speculative right-foot shot from a tight angle flew high and wide.

City looked fairly secure and compact in their 4-4-2 formation with Pattison and Smith flanking Fotheringham and Russell in midfield.

The back four without Taylor looked safe although Jason Shackell almost caused confusion by clearing one cross which Marshall had come out to claim easily.

There was still precious little goalmouth action although Kevin McLeod flashed a left-foot volley from a Sheringham throw-in just wide.

City seemed content to try to play on the break at times, although Pattison forced another corner as his low, left wing cross was blocked. But again the delivery was poor and the under-employed Gerken claimed Fotheringham's cross easily.

With half-time approaching the game desperately cried out for someone to apply some quality as the match resembled a cup-tie.

Sheringham appeared the only man with any quality as both sides toiled without reward.

With three minutes to half-time, City were awarded a free-kick near to Colchester's right corner flag after Ched Evans was fouled. Again Pattison's delivery was poor but City managed to force a couple of corners as they tried to end the half with a flourish and Evans' shot was blocked by Sheringham.

At the other end Platt, who had been fairly anonymous tried a shot on the turn which dribbled wide.

The half-time whistle was a blessed relief to the cold and bored Layer Road crowd after 45 minutes of dour football with no real chances to speak of.

Half-time: Colchester 0, Norwich 0.

City subs Croft and Huckerby went through vigorous half-time warm-ups although neither side made any changes at half-time.

The start of the second half was delayed by at least a minute as the marching band seemed unable to find a way off the pitch, but City started brightly and Cureton had an ideal chance to silence the boo boys after 47 minutes.

He ran on to Shackell's free-kick but from 12-yards out he smashed his half-volley wide as neither goalkeeper had any reason to dirty their kit.

Whatever Roeder said to his players at half-time seemed to have worked as City forced the pace. A cute pass from Fotheringham on 53 minutes allowed Cureton to twist and turn inside the box before Adam Virgo threw himself in front of the shot.

Suddenly the game opened up, and United went closest to breaking the deadlock. Platt volleyed spectacularly from the edge of the City box but Marshall was equal to the effort and put the ball over as it dipped under the crossbar.

Four minutes later Cureton tried his luck inside the United box once more but again his shot was blocked and Russell fired the rebound over.

After 60 minutes the home crowd were incensed as referee Jones waved away penalty appeals as Camara appeared to clip the heels of Yeates inside the City box.

After 61 minutes Roeder made his first change bringing Huckerby on to the left-wing in place of Pattison. This was followed a minute later by the introduction of Dion Dublin in place of Ched Evans.

Huckerby's first contribution was an electric run down the City left but his low cross was cleared and from the United counter attack Doherty made a vital interception from Johnnie Jackson's pass.

Dublin's first involvement came on 68 minutes as his chest pass set up Huckerby for a left-foot shot from the edge of the box which seemed to be heading behind for a corner until Gerken intervened.

In the 69th minute Roeder played his last card with Croft coming on for Smith.

The City boss was clearly signalling his intention for three points from a game which had certainly improved since the first half but still lacked a touch of class.

In the 75th minute Jamie Guy came on for Teddy Sheringham as United made their claim for three points.

Suddenly the home side were piling on the pressure with a series of crosses into the City box.

And on 78 minutes the deadlock was finally broken as the home side took the lead.

From a United corner from the left City defender Camara appeared to duck under the ball and Kevin McLeod was on hand to poke into the net to give the home side the lead.

Suddenly City were chasing the game and three minutes later their players and the away fans thought they should have had a penalty as Croft was sent tumbling.

The ball went out for a corner and as Huckerby returned the ball into the box from the half-cleared flag-kick Russell headed against the post from just six-yards out and the ball bounced to safety.

Huckerby's first contribution was an electric run down the City left but his low cross was cleared and from the United counter attack Doherty made a vital interception from Johnnie Jackson's pass.

Dublin's first involvement came on 68 minutes as his chest pass set up Huckerby for a left-foot shot from the edge of the box which seemed to be heading behind for a corner until Gerken intervened.

In the 69th minute Roeder played his last card with Croft coming on for Smith.

The City boss was clearly signalling his intention for three points from a game which had certainly improved since the first half but still lacked a touch of class.

In the 75th minute Jamie Guy came on for Teddy Sheringham as United made their claim for three points.

Suddenly the home side were piling on the pressure with a series of crosses into the City box.

And on 78 minutes the deadlock was finally broken as the home side took the lead.

From a United corner from the left City defender Camara appeared to duck under the ball and Kevin McLeod was on hand to poke into the net to give the home side the lead.

Suddenly City were chasing the game and three minutes later their players and the away fans thought they should have had a penalty as Croft was sent tumbling.

The ball went out for a corner and as Huckerby returned the ball into the box from the half-cleared flag-kick Russell headed against the post from just six-yards out and the ball bounced to safety.

City were now pouring forward desperately in search of an equaliser.

But they were nearly caught out on the counter attack with just five minutes remaining. Guy ran clean through and rounded Marshall, but as he seemed set to roll the ball into an empty net, Otsemobor nicked it off his toes and away from danger.

After 86 minutes Danny Granville became the first player to be booked for a foul on Croft. From the resulting free-kick Shackell headed over.

But on 89 minutes City snatched a dramatic equaliser. Another Fotheringham free-kick was headed goalwards by Doherty and as Cureton closed in, the ball trickled into the corner although it appeared the final touch came off Granville.

That did not stop Cureton's exuberant celebrations in front of the away fans much to the disgust of the home faithful.

And that was that despite three minutes of frantic added time.

Full-time: Colchester 1, Norwich 1.

Colchester: Gerken, Baldwin, Connolly, Virgo, Granville, Yeates, Jackson, Izzet, McLeod, Platt, Sheringham. Subs: Cousins, Guy, Guttridge, Balogh, Elito.

Norwich: Marshall, Otsemobor, Shackell, Doherty, Camara, Smith, Russell, Fotheringham, Pattison, Evans, Cureton. Subs: Arnold, Huckerby, Croft, Dublin, Spillane. Referee: Michael Jones (Cheshire)

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