Barclays Premier League: Stoke City 1, Norwich City 0
17:23 03 March 2012
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A second-half goal from Matthew Etherington was enough to condemn Norwich City to their second Premier League defeat in a row.
Etherington struck after 72 minutes at the Britannia Stadium when he rifled a left-foot shot past goalkeeper John Ruddy at his near post, after a throw-in had been flicked into his path by substitute Cameron Jerome.
There was some doubt over whether the throw should have been given Stoke’s way in the first place, but the goal gave the Potters second successive home win, which on possession and chances they probably felt they deserved - but it was not a great spectacle for a crowd of more than 27,000, and it was a poor advert for the Premier League.
The Canaries, for their part, failed to really trouble home goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and did not really threaten often enough to grumble about the outcome.
Ex-Canary Peter Crouch almost gave Stoke the lead late in the first half when he had two efforts blocked, but Ruddy was not overworked either and it looked as if Paul Lambert’s men might go home with a point until Etherington struck.
Following their FA Cup exit against Leicester and home defeat by Manchester United, it made it a hat-trick of defeats for City.
There were three changes to the Canaries’ starting eleven from the 2-1 defeat by United six days earlier.
Midfielder Jonny Howson, who signed from Leeds in January, was given his City debut just four days after playing 90 minutes in a reserve game against Wolves, while there were recalls for Russell Martin and Elliott Bennett.
David Fox and Simeon Jackson were relegated to the substitutes’ bench, while Adam Drury missed out on a place in the 18.
Ryan Bennett, Lambert’s other January capture, from Peterborough, was named among the substitutes after finally teaming up with Norwich.
Stoke made one change after the 2-0 home win over Swansea, Robert Huth returning in defence after suspension at the expense of former Norfolk schoolboy and World Cup defender Matthew Upson.
Before kick-off, members of Stoke’s 1972 League Cup-winning squad were presented to the crowd on the 40th anniversary of their Wembley win over Chelsea.
Stoke kicked off and won a corner in the opening minute, Naughton heading clear from Etherington’s kick.
A foul by Shawcross on Holt gave City, wearing their green second kit, their first free-kick after six minutes, but Surman’s ball was floated too close to Begovic, who made a clean catch.
A slip by Naughton let Walters in for a powerful shot from the right, but Ruddy was able to reach up and knock it down, grabbing the ball on the bounce.
A fine pass by Howson enabled Bennett to break and he got the better of Wilson, but his cross was too strong for the incoming Pilkington.
Shotton tried out his long throw from the right touchline and when the ball was cleared back to him, he crossed for Huth, but the defender headed wide.
Another long throw found the head of Crouch, but Ruddy saved his effort fairly comfortably.
Howson was shown the yellow card after 21 minutes for bringing down Whelan after Bennett’s return pass left him short.
Whitehead missed Stoke’s best opening yet midway through the half when Shotton played him through but his shot lacked the power to beat Ruddy, who saved, diving to his right.
Stoke made an enforced change with just 25 minutes gone as Wilkinson, who seemed to have taken a knock, made way for Pennant, with Shotton switching to right-back.
Huth blazed over after Crouch and Walters teed up the chance but there had been little to seriously trouble either ’keeper.
Holt got in a far-post header from a free-kick by Pilkington, but straight at Begovic.
Holt let fly again when he chested down Naughton’s free-kick, but his effort was well off target.
With just over two minutes to go to the break, Crouch very nearly gave Stoke the lead with two attempts at goal in a matter of seconds. First his header from Shotton’s cross was blocked by Johnson’s foot, but the ball came back to Crouch off Ward and this time Ruddy made a fine point-blank save from his follow-up shot.
• Half-time: Stoke City 0, Norwich City 0
City made a change at the break with Jackson replacing Pilkington.
It was a humdrum start to the second period with Stoke still relying on their long throw routine and City making little impact.
Bennett brought a save out of Begovic after 54 minutes, following a pass by Howson, but his 20-yard shot lacked power and Surman may have been better placed for a pass.
Holt needed attention after being winded by a challenge from Whelan, but his discomfort drew little sympathy from the home crowd.
City won a free-kick for a foul on Holt, but Surman’s curling effort was no problem for Begovic.
With just over 20 minutes to go, Stoke made a double change up front with Jerome and Jones replacing Walters and Crouch.
And with 72 minutes gone, the home side got the breakthrough they had been seeking when Etherington scored with a fine finish.
A throw-in on the left was flicked on by Jerome and Etherington negotiated Ward’s challenge and rifled a left-foot shot past Ruddy from a tight angle.
Howson departed the action with 15 minutes to go when Lambert added a third striker to the mix in Wilbraham.
Jackson had a shot blocked as City tried to find a way back into the contest.
Fox replaced Johnson as City’s final change with 11 minutes to go.
Russell Martin produced a vital block on Jerome after 84 minutes as Stoke looked to wrap up the points, and Begovic did well to gather a cross under pressure from Holt as they pressed again.
Naughton fired into the crowd in the final minute, which rather summed up City’s afternoon.
Bennett was booked in stoppage time for a challenge on Whelan.
• Result: Stoke City 1, Norwich City 0
• Stoke City: Begovic, Wilkinson (Pennant, 25), Shawcross, Huth, Wilson; Shotton, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington; Walters (Jerome, 69); Crouch (Jones, 69). Subs (not used): Sorensen, Upson, Pennant, Diao, Fuller.
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Russell Martin, Ward, Whitbread, Naughton; Pilkington (Jackson, 45), Howson (Wilbraham, 75), Johnson (Fox, 79), Surman; Bennett; Holt. Subs (not used): Steer, Ryan Bennett, Hoolahan, Morison.
• Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
• Attendance: 27,483
• Goals: Stoke: Etherington (72)
• Bookings: Norwich: Howson (21), Bennett (90)