City hero Jamie Cureton held to his pre-match promise of not dancing on anyone's Championship grave after bagging his first-ever Canary hat-trick against his old employers.
The Norwich hitman bagged goals No 12, 13 and 14 for the season in the midst of yesterday's 5-1 rout – a three-goal haul bookmarked at either end by first Jon Otsemobor's sweet, solo run and strike after just six minutes and then by Dion Dublin's precise, 18-yard lob in second-half injury time.
In between one-time Canary loan signing Kevin Lisbie accepted Jason Shackell's gift to pull the U's briefly back into contention before Norwich delivered three, unanswered goals after the interval.
It was a result that lifted the home side five points clear of the danger zone with six games left. A repeat result at home to Burnely in a fortnight's time would get the Canaries to within touching distance of the finishing line – a massive job done by City boss Glenn Roeder given the bottom-of-the-table shambles he inherited at the end of October.
It was equally a result that drove a large nail into Colchester's Championship coffin. And while boss Geraint Williams vowed never to give up the fight until the mathematics say stop, it was clear that the one-time Layer Road hero had all but applied the last rites to the Us. They travel to West Bromwich Albion next weekend with 11 points between them and safety.
Cureton clearly still has a lot of affection for Colchester United – the club and the players, at least. The 'banter' between the 32-year-old and the Us supporters – something that sparked a sharp, post-match exchange in the aftermath of the Layer Road game earlier this season – will continue.
You have a pop at me and I'll have a pop back, appears to be Cureton's line. Only his words come with goals attached after now smashing four past his old employers; the club, of course, that he won the 'Golden Boot' for last season with that 24-goal haul.
“I said after the last game – that if that's there way of treating me, I won't go mental but I will celebrate my goals,” said Cureton. When the boot was on the other foot last year and the one-time City apprentice bagged a beauty in Colchester's home game against a dishevelled Norwich side, he refused to celebrate as a mark of respect. Times change; relationships strain. He clearly doesn't wish the club itself any ill-will.
“They booed me from the start and I always had it in my head that I will celebrate, but I still feel for them,” said the City hero.
“I've got nothing against the club or my old team-mates. I've got some very, very good friends there and I'm disappointed to see them where they are and they deserve a lot more because they work tirelessly.
“Their whole ethic is on work-rate and it's just a shame. The club seemed to be moving in the right direction, the new stadium was coming and all that sort of stuff. And it looks now like they could go down and it's not the step that they wanted. And I feel for them, definitely.”
Judging by the way he celebrated the first of his three strikes – an impeccably-timed move off the near-post to give Darren Huckerby the angle for a pull-back and the fierce volley that followed – Cureton will long remember this weekend. It is, after all, not every day that you bag the tenth hat-trick of your professional career – and the first for the club that nurtured your teenage talents.
“This is my tenth hat-trick,” confirmed the star of this weekend's show, who left the field with the match ball safely tucked up his shirt.
“But, yes, first for Norwich and my tenth overall. I think the only side that I didn't score a hat-trick for were Swindon. Every other club I think I've managed to get one, if not two – if not three for Bristol [Rovers]. So it's very special being my tenth and obviously it's very special being for Norwich – and against Colchester… So it's all kind of come into place today.”
He actually grabbed two for the Us last season in that 24-goal rush. In what has been a difficult season for all concerned, if Cureton can grab another two or three before the season ends away at Sheffield Wednesday, then 17-odd goals is still a very fair return.
He could easily have finished yesterday's contest with four or five to his name after blazing over after Dublin's sumptuous, 35-yard lob fell back off the bar and at his feet, while U's skipper Johnnie Jackson gifted him a one-on-one with the keeper with a horror back-pass only for Dean Gerken to ride to the rescue.
The U's No1 went wholly the wrong way come Cureton's calmly-taken penalty and had little or no chance with the 88th minute third following a wonderful tee-up by the ageless Dublin.
“I probably had two more chances so three out of five isn't bad,” said Cureton, who did not know until just before kick-off whether he would actually get the starting nod. This week's arrival of the on-loan Maceo Rigters and the form of the teenage Ched Evans is keeping him firmly on his toes – just as Roeder intended.
“It's been one of those seasons,” said Cureton, well aware that one or two big opportunities have come and gone. “I've missed a lot of chances and scored a few.
“But like I've said before, I always back myself. Play enough games and I'm normally a one-in-two [striker]. I always back myself to score. Even when I missed the chances, I knew that it was just going to be one of those games where there's going to be more chances.
“And I'm always confident. Even when I miss. I get annoyed – because I feel that I should score. I back myself all the time to take my chances. And I've done that all season.
“There's been a lot of downs and stuff; a lot of pressure. But on the whole things today have gone my way and I'm pleased because obviously I've took stick. And, hopefully, that's just a step in the right direction.”
Next up for the Canaries, of course, is Bristol City away. Given Cureton's long-standing connections with the blue half of that city – first as a kid and then as a player – the stick could well be flying again at Ashton Gate. Which, on yesterday's evidence, will suit Roeder and the Canaries just fine.
Don't wind Cureton up; it's the worst thing you can do…
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