City goal-scoring hero Jamie Cureton is never one to mince his words. And in describing yesterday's 1-1 draw with Wolves as “dire”, the 32-year-old was merely saying what many a supporter thought.
The fact, however, that he was saying it with a big smile of his face proved another point – that for as long as the re-born Canaries continue to gather points at their current rate, so few will quibble with the exact nature of the performance. Norwich have lost just once in their last nine games – for now, that's the only statistic that matters.
In fairness, it was probably only the first hour or so of the contest that deserved such a tag; after Andy Keogh's opener, the game suddenly fired into life – helped in no small measure by Glenn Roeder's second-half changes.
“I thought the game was very dire – up until probably the two subs,” said Cureton, as Dion Dublin and Lee Croft replaced Ched Evans and Jimmy Smith respectively.
Still lacking a natural passer of the ball in central midfield following Mark Fotheringham's hamstring injury, Norwich had slipped into some route one ways and in both Evans and Cureton himself lacked the physical presence to make that approach work. It was no coincidence to find Dublin's head flicking on a route one ball for Cureton's eighth goal of the season.
“I think that changed the game – we needed a target man the way the game was. Whether it was me or Ched (Evans), we needed Dion and Crofty to come on. I think from that moment the game swung our way; we got back in the game and created a lot of chances.”
One of which could have led to Cureton doubling his haul for the afternoon. But having flicked and twisted his way into the Wolves box, so his final shot just bobbled wide.
“Having done all the hard work, I'd created it myself, I was a bit disappointed that I poked it wide,” said Cureton. “And that's the sort of thing that disappoints me – it's great to get the goal, but I'm one of them that wants to score everything. They sort of niggle at me a bit.”
After an autumn barren spell that coincided with Peter Grant's reign plumbing the Championship depths, Cureton's fortunes have picked up again of late. Off the bench to score a big winner against Scunthorpe United, restored to the starting line-up again he kept City's recent unbeaten record intact with yesterday's 75th minute leveller.
“It's definitely good to keep the unbeaten run going,” he said, with the Canaries now having lost just once in their last nine games. “I think we've been performing well, though today we didn't perform well at all until the last 20.
“And in the last few months if we'd have gone a goal behind we probably would have been dead and buried, but we're showing good character now coming back and finishing games a lot stronger than we would have been doing,” he added, as the Canaries prised their third, priceless point from games in which they have gone behind – notably Colchester United away and now Charlton and Wolves at home.
“So it's nice to be unbeaten in six and we go into the Palace game now looking to take the points. So things are going well – they're going in the right direction.”
As is his return to Carrow Road. The Championship's 'Golden Boot' may look as if it is going elsewhere – Baggies' veteran striker Kevin Phillips remains seven goals distant at the top of the strikers' charts – but Cureton is still looking good to reach the end of January in double figures.
“It was nice to get the Scunthorpe goal; Charlton I felt sharp in the first-half but didn't really have as many chances; today I've managed to get another one so gradually the goals are going in and I'm feeling a lot sharper.”
He has to – with Roeder more than happy to keep everyone on their toes selection-wise. January is likely to further that process if the new City chief can add more firepower to his squad. Evans, for example, could yet be here for the rest of the season.
“We've got a strong squad now and the gaffer likes to change it around – especially upfront. You've just got to be on your toes and keep performing well and try and stay in the plans.
“And that's good for me – I like the pressure. And, hopefully, that's going to push my game onto another level now.”
In the meantime, however, there will be no rest for the wicked as City's busy festive schedule takes the Canaries to Selhurst Park on New Year's Day, before everyone entertains League Two strugglers Bury in the third round of the FA Cup next weekend. Only then will Norwich enjoy a mid-week off.
“The gaffer said that we looked tired today, but I think every team possibly feels it,” said Cureton, quizzed as to whether this intensive batch of games were starting to take their toll.
“We've just got to try and block it out and re-coup as quick as possible; go home, put your feet up, live right and just try and rest. Just try and be ready for the next game,” said Cureton, about to spend his New Year tucked up in bed early in a south London hotel.
“I think we're obviously fit enough, but mentally it can get to you. So we've got to go to Palace, try and be as fresh as possible and hopefully try and get a result there. And then the gaffer's promised us a couple of days break….
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