Premier League: Norwich City 1 Stoke City 0
By Football News
In an even match the only goal came in the first half, as Bradley Johnson headed in a free-kick from the right flank, but Stoke had more than their fair share of the chances to equalise, particularly after the break.
Jonathan Walters and Kenwyne Jones both could have levelled the scores for the visitors, but their finishing was ultimately not up to standard on the day.
Neither side made drastic changes, with Norwich manager Chris Hughton bringing in Steven Whittaker for Russell Martin at right-back, and Robert Snodgrass for Elliott Bennett on the wing.
Stoke made just one change from the team which drew with Sunderland last time out and it was an enforced one, as Andy Wilkinson came back into the team for the injured Mark Wilson.
The opening 30 minutes was very much a battle in midfield, with neither team able to gain a decisive advantage, but the hosts really should have taken the lead around the 25-minute mark.
Wes Hoolahan jinked down the left, playing a one-two with Anthony Pilkington before finding the winger again inside the area, but his close-range effort was stopped well by Asmir Begovic.
The hosts had definitely been the better side and eventually took the lead just before half-time.
Robert Snodgrass did well to win a free-kick down the right before delivering it himself and Johnson rose to produce an excellent back-header that looped into the top corner of the net.
Seconds later Snodgrass almost got himself on the score sheet after good work by Pilkington down the left, but he could not connect with the low cross. Nevertheless, the Canaries went into the break with a deserved lead.
Stoke were showing a little more urgency early in the second half and nearly equalised when Peter Crouch flicked a high ball on to Jonathan Walters, but under pressure from Sebastien Bassong the former Ipswich Town man's shot was parried away by John Ruddy.
Stoke continued to look more interested and were pressing, but Norwich almost doubled their lead on the counter-attack, a brilliant move ending with Pilkington hammered Grant Holt's back-post cross well over the bar.
The visitors went close again with 15 minutes left in the match, as Crouch headed a cross on for Kenwyne Jones, and after bringing the ball down on his chest, the forward lashed a volley just wide of the far post, with Ruddy helplessly beaten.
Stoke piled on the pressure in the dying stages, but with Norwich holding firm the hosts managed to secure the three points and the win.