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17:04 21st August 2011


A CRUEL injury-time Stoke equaliser from Kenwyne Jones was enough to deny the ten-man Canaries their first Barclays Premier League win of the season at Carrow Road.

Ritchie De Laet's first-half header put Norwich firmly in the driving seat but a moment of real controversy in the second half left them with their backs against the wall, as referee Neil Swarbrick showed Leon Barnett the red card as he challenged Jon Walters on the edge of the box.

To rub salt into the wounds he also pointed to the spot, though the Norwich fans felt the challenge may have taken place outside the area.

Man of the Match John Ruddy made a great save to deny Walters from the spot, but he could do nothing to keep out the late leveller from Jones deep into injury time.

On the point Manager Paul Lambert said: "I thought we were excellent I really did. I thought that from start to finish, although they got that goal at the death. I thought the penalty decision was at least three-yards outside the box, I think that was clear for everyone to see. It wasn't a penalty, never in a million years.

"It might have been a foul, but how he gave it given his positioning being so far behind it and I don't think the linesman gave it, I just saw it on the tape and it changed the game. I thought we were comfortable in what we were doing and the way we started the game was excellent. As I've said before it shows just how far we've come.

"The lads were great, really really great and I can't ask for anything more from them. Their enthusiasm for the game was excellent and they were playing a very good Stoke side."

Before the game Lambert made five changes to the starting eleven which took the field against Wigan last weekend, Chris Martin came in to partner Grant Holt up front, with Steve Morrison sidelined through injury.

Wes Hoolahan started the game on the bench as City reverted to a 4-4-2 formation, Bradley Johnson and Andrew Crofts in the centre of midfield with Andrew Pilkington and Elliott Bennett providing the width. In defence Leon Barnett and Ritchie De Laet lined up in the centre, with Marc Tierney at left-back and on-loan Spurs star Kyle Naughton coming in at right-back for Russell Martin.

The Canaries started the game brightly, matching the crisp passing from the visitors and carving out the game's first half-chance when Pilkington's fierce drive from the edge of the box was charged down.

In the ninth minutes some home fans were calling for a penalty as Huth tangled with Leon Barnett during an aerial challenge in the box, but referee Neil Swarbrick was having none of it and play continued.

Play was even for the next quarter-of-an-hour until, City stepped up a gear with a spell of pressure started by a bright run and cross from the right by Bennett which was headed clear, followed a minute later by a powerful 22-yard effort from Johnson which deflected off a defender and behind.

Within minutes Norwich had another chance, Holt heading the ball down cleverly to set up Pilkington - but his half-volley was toed away by a Stoke defender.

Just before the half-hour mark came Stoke's first real moment of danger as Ethrington made space for himself on the left-hand side of the area beforing firing in a shot which Ruddy dived to palm away well.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis made the game's first substitution a minute later, Jermaine Pennant leaving the pitch to be replaced by Danny Pugh.

Jonathan Woodgate received the game's first yellow card after he illegally checked the run of Bennett as the Norwich winger threatened to burst free on the right touchline in the 36th minute. But the Canaries were not to be denied and when Johnson swung in the resulting free-kick De Laet met with the neat flick-on into the far corner to give Lambert's side the lead.

Two minutes later Shawcross joined his defensive colleague Woodgate in the book after kicking the ball away and then arguing with Mr Swarbrick about it when the ref came to have a word.

This was a shaky patch for the otherwise solid Stoke defensive line and they nearly went two down when Bennett's cross from the right was diverted towards his own goal by Woodgate, forcing Begovic to dive to his right and tip the ball away for a corner.

Norwich City 1, Stoke City 0

Stoke came out full of purpose immediately after the break but is was the home side who threatened to double their lead when Chris Martin cut in on to his left foot and hit a great shot which Begovic was forced to beat away at his near post.

As the game approached the hour Etherington tested Ruddy with a dipping 25-yard free-kick, but City's custodian was equal to the task, acrobatically tipping the effort over the bar.

The match then exploded into life in the 63rd minute with a moment of real controversy as Leon Barnett tangled with Jon Walters on the edge of the box and as the former Ipswich man went down, so referee Neil Swarbrick not only pointed to the spot but also produced a straight red card for the Norwich centre-back.

With TV replays suggesting any contact may well have taken place outside the area Norwich were left feeling hard done by but there was jubilation around the ground as Ruddy brilliantly saved Walters' spot-kick to preserve the home side's lead.

Lambert soon made a defensive substitution, Daniel Ayala coming on for his City debut after joining from Liverpool during the week, replacing winger Pilkington and a few minutes later brought on Surman for Bennett.

With eight minutes of normal time remaining Ruddy made another excellent stop, this time improvising well to back-pedal and keep out Shotton's cross-shot as it threatened to dip under the bar.

Norwich then made their final switch, the hard-working Chris Martin being replaced by Simeon Jackson up front for the ten-man Canaries.

But as the game entered five minutes of injury-time Norwich were increasingly under pressure and they suffered the cruellest of blows when their brave resistance was finally beaten by Jones heading home from close range.

Norwich City:
Ruddy, Johnson, Crofts, Holt (c), Pilkington (Ayala 66), C.Martin (Jackson 84), Bennett (Surman 74), Barnett, Tierney, De Laet, Naughton. Subs not used: Rudd, R.Martin, Hoolahan, Fox.
Stoke City:
Begovic, Huth, Whelan, Jones, Wilson, Pennant (Pugh 31), Shawcross (c), Whitehead, Walters, Etherington, Woodgate (Shotton 77). Subs not used: Sorenson, Collins, Upson, Wilkinson, Arismendi.

Neil Swarbrick


    Data provided by Press Association


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