City's goal-scoring hero Jamie Cureton last night revealed the depth of his disappointment at being dropped from Glenn Roeder's starting plans for the trip to Watford – and how delighted he was to make his point before the end of the game.
In fairness to Roeder, after handing the 32-year-old the captain's armband for the home clash with Barnsley and watch Cureton respond with both the winner there and a calmly-taken penalty against Blackpool a week later, he was clearly sorely-tempted to keep him in the mix.
In the end, however, it was the City striker's simple lack of inches that counted against him; that Danny Shittu versus Jamie Cureton was never going to be a fair fight. Leigh Bromby – he of the catapult throw – is no dwarf either.
Nevertheless, it still went down like the proverbial lead balloon with the man himself.
“It was disappointing not to start and obviously I had to try and do something when I came on – I've managed to score and obviously I'm very pleased,” said Cureton, whose wonderful, 81st minute volley made it three-in-three for the reigning 'Golden Boot' winner.
It also wiped the smile off Aidy Boothroyd's face as the Watford boss pinned his hopes on Shittu's trademark header proving enough to kick-start their automatic promotion charge back into life. And, potentially, put one back on Cureton's face after it disappeared in the dressing room before the game.
“I was very frustrated when he named the team in the dressing room,” Cureton admitted afterwards. His Canary heart is never too far from his sleeve.
“I got a bit down, to be honest. But thankfully I've managed to be given 20 minutes and I managed to score.”
Roeder's explanation may help Cureton's mood; the manager was also at pains to stress afterwards that he would have “a big part” to play in the final stages of the season. But it was clear that Cureton was, at best, bemused by the decision. But in the event, both men were probably proved right.
“I don't know why – the gaffer didn't name the team until we were down here,” said Cureton. “And we haven't spoke to eachother about it and it's obviously down to him. But, yes, it was a little bit of a shock and I was very disappointed, to be honest.
“He knows that; he knows I want to play every week. You've been captain, scored two in two and then you don't play. But the manager obviously has a reason why he's done what he's done today and I've done what I've done today to try and force his hand to play me next week.”
As for the goal itself, it was classic Cureton – one of those where his natural instincts took over. Radar switched on and in the zone, the City striker just let the force be with him.
“It just sat up nicely. I was going to take the touch and maybe lay someone in – and then it bounced up perfectly,” he said. “And as soon it did that, I was only ever going to do one thing – and that's hit it. And as soon as it left my foot, it's one of them that you know straight away…
“But it's pleasing because the boys worked very hard; blocked everything; this is a tough place to come. You know what you've got to do when you come here – stand up to them; be physical with them. And, hopefully, try and get the ball down at the times that you can.
“So it was nice to come away with a point and that was probably the more pleasing thing.”
The fact that Cureton bagged his 11th goal of the season in front of the travelling Canary supporters clearly made the moment that much sweeter. “I think I've only got Scunthorpe – so it's another away goal. So it's nice.
“They've travelled down on a Tuesday night; supported us very well and it's nice to send them home with a point,” said Cureton, hoping that the respect was going to be mutual. It would require some real, misty-eyed wishful thinking to hope that Roeder's men could pull off a Cardiff-like result at Vicarage Road.
Watford are big, strong, awkward and organised. Throw in a messy pitch and a mucky night and 1-1 is still a big result.
“I think they'll appreciate that this is a tough place and I think they'll appreciate how hard everyone worked – and I'm sure they'll enjoy the point, to be honest.”
And three in three? That's a run, isn't it?
“I'm pleased with my form – I've obviously just got to keep doing that to try and stay in the team. Obviously the manager's got options; he makes decisions. But I want to play every week.”
It also blew the Blackpool performance out of the system and, for now, got Norwich back on track. The big question is whether they can keep on that same stretch of track at the Ricoh Arena this weekend before the re-match with Stoke City at Carrow Road on Tuesday night.
“We were very disappointed to be honest [with the Blackpool result] because we felt it was a missed opportunity. To come here to a team with a big chance of going up and to play a lot, lot better than what we did on Saturday… Yes, I'd say that one was out of the system and now we move on to Coventry.”
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