Norwich 1, Colchester 1
CHRIS LAKEY Dickson Etuhu is making a habit of scoring spectacular goals at Carrow Road – and important ones at that. Last time it earned City three points, this time it was just the one – but it was a richly-deserved one against a Colchester side clearly intent on holding their own in the Championship.
Norwich City 1 Colchester United 1
Dickson Etuhu is making a habit of scoring spectacular goals at Carrow Road - and important ones at that.
Having condemned league leaders Cardiff to defeat 10 days ago, Etuhu struck again tonight - again from outside the box and again giving the keeper no chance.
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Last time it earned City three points, this time it was just the one - but it was a richly-deserved one against a Colchester side clearly intent on holding their own in the Championship.
Canaries boss Peter Grant had sprung something of a surprise by including leading scorer Robert Earnshaw and Darren Huckerby - both of whom had been rated just 70-30 against the previous day - ensuring that Robert Eagle was given his first Championship start. There was also a new look, Huckerby playing just behind Earnshaw as Grant reverted to four in midfield.
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But on Halloween night, the first fright came with less than a minute gone, Kem Izzet flicking on a cross from the left which Gallacher did well to palm around his right-hand post.
Colchester were clearly under instruction to go for the throat right from the start, and two early corners - good ones at that - set a few home hearts flickering.
It took a few moments for City to get going, but when Huckerby, roving just behind the front man, set Earnshaw free on four minutes, City had their first sight of goal, even though a defender's boot got in the way.
It was a brief respite, with Jamie Cureton given time and space to drive a shot from 25 yards which was just inches wide of the upright.
Colchester were doing a good job of unsettling the Canaries early on, Cureton and Chris Iwelumo giving the central defenders no time to rest - leaving Huckerby and Earnshaw to forage for some early scraps.
Earnshaw did that with a shot on nine minutes which earned City their first corner and Eagle's left-footed inswinger caused veteran keeper Aidan Davison all sorts of problems.
The early exchanges were anything but cat and mouse, both sides going for the jugular, but City gradually began to settle to the task trying to play, as Grant demands, on the front foot.
The early storm may have been weathered to some extent, but Cureton was keen to leave his mark, testing Gallacher from 20-odd yards after Safri had been robbed by Izzet.
However, there was more of an assured look about City than at the Britannia Stadium - and there's no doubt the presence of Huckerby and Earnshaw was a contributory factor: they looked sharp and in sync and with the 4-4-1-1 formation, City looked likely to score.
Earnshaw's biggest problem was that his efforts on goal were from distance and while his shots were getting closer to the target, Colchester were generally managing to keep him out of the danger areas.
Gallacher found himself in a danger area of his own on 31 minutes when Iwelumo chased a Chris Barker cross, Gallacher got there first but was then felled by the big striker: one was shaken but not badly damaged, the other was booked.
It certainly stirred emotions in the Carrow Road crowd, who turned the volume up a notch or two. City responded with Shackell just inches away from picking up the pieces when Davison spilled Huckerby's cross on 36 minutes.
Eagle then missed a Huckerby cross by inches and Dickson Etuhu shot straight at the keeper as City pressed for a goal before half-time.
But then came a passage of play that summed up much of the half - with Colchester going close on the break and City spurning chances. First it was Colchester, with Karl Duguid sending in the cross to the unmarked Cureton, who headed pretty much straight at Gallacher, who reacted quickly enough to stop the ball and enable Doherty to clear. Then at the other end Huckerby saw a shot go wide of the post - thanks to a deflection that referee Dermot Gallagher missed - and then another going over the bar. While they were hardly full-on chances, they were indicative of City's woes in front of goal under Grant.
It needed to change after the break, and Eagle's first time cross into the area almost set up Earnshaw, although in fairness it was a difficult ball for the striker to control as it struck his leg and went out of play.
But then came the killer blow, seven minutes in - and a controversial goal it was too. Johnnie Jackson's shot was parried by Gallacher and the ball fell to Duguid, following up, who cleverly knocked it inside to Cureton in plenty of space and the ex-Canary made no mistake from eight yards. City were furious but while Gallagher consulted his linesman, there was no changing his mind and the goal stood - TV replays proving just what a difficult decision it had been.
It raised temperatures again, and when Huckerby went down under a challenge just outside the Colchester area he reacted angrily - sparking a melee involving all but a handful of players. Pat Baldwin went into the book - and the tone was set for a thrilling final half-hour.
Grant brought Dion Dublin into the fray for Eagle, with Carl Robinson shoved further wide on the right, and Norwich gradually began to build a head of steam.
Colchester were clearly happy to put them out of their stride - Huckerby their number one target - but the imposing figure of Etuhu was clearly having none of that. If his winner against Cardiff a week and a half ago was good, then what he did to Colchester was straight out of the top drawer. Huckerby, who had tried time and again to get City going on the left, knocked it inside, Etuhu looked up, picked his spot, and slammed a beautiful right-foot shot into the corner.
City were back in it, and almost ahead six minutes later when Dublin rose well to get his head on a Huckerby cross but cleared the bar by a foot. Dublin then turned provider with a fine header which dropped to Earnshaw, who saw his shot turned around the near post for a corner.
If one team looked like winning it was Norwich, with Colchester struggling to contain Dublin, who was revelling in the role of saviour - but even his heroics weren't enough to break down the white-shirted barrier that the visitors had erected.
Their time-wasting antics didn't win them any friends - but it helped win them a point.