NORWICH CITY’s wait to guarantee Premier League survival goes on after they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Charlie Adam’s goal straight after half-time saw the hosts move on to the coveted 40-point mark and rise above City in the Premier League table after a scrappy affair.
Chris Hughton’s side struggled for potency in the final third throughout the game and were caught napping straight after the break for the Potters’ goal – their best chances coming at the beginning and end of the game through Robert Snodgrass and Kei Kamara.
Tottenham Hotspur’s draw at Wigan means the gap now sits at six points, but extra focus will now be placed on City’s next two games – consecutive home clashes against Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion.
The Canaries made three changes from last week’s win over Reading, with Ryan Bennett replacing the injured Michael Turner as expected, while Javier Garrido made way for Steven Whittaker and Alexander Tettey replaced Elliott Bennett. Leon Barnett was named on the bench.
Tony Pulis was forced into one change for the Potters – Andy Wilkinson deputised for the injured Marc Wilson at left-back, while former City loanee Peter Crouch was named up front.
Both teams had corners in the opening stages, and although Snodgrass’ delivery didn’t meet his own standards from this season, the Scottish winger had a header just over the bar on seven minutes from Russell Martin’s cross.
Norwich started brightly, with Johnson’s hit a left-footed shot over after good link-up between Holt and Kamara, but Jerome slammed a volley only for his team-mate Steven Nzonzi to block the shot in the area on 22 minutes.
Nzonzi was involved again moments later, earning a booking for a late lunge on Kei Kamara, before Potters skipper Ryan Shawcross appeared to handle from a Snodgrass corner.
Cameron Jerome was then cautioned for a high foot on Mark Bunn as the game was affected by regular stoppages, with Holt yellowed for a tackle on Robert Huth in the corner.
A minute’s applause was well observed in the 42nd minute for former Potters midfielder Paul Ware, who died recently aged just 42.
HALF-TIME: STOKE CITY 0-0 NORWICH CITY
Stoke took the lead only a minute into the second period in typical fashion – Ryan Shawcross’ long ball was won aerially by Crouch, and Adam stole a march on City’s back four before finishing clinically past Bunn.
City seemed stunned by the goal so soon after the break and simply couldn’t offer the dynamism in the final third that was on show in the last away performance at Arsenal.
The Potters should have doubled their lead of 62 minutes – Bassong’s clearance was charged down by Adam, but Crouch somewhere missed his delivery at the back-post despite having found some space and the goal being at his mercy.
Hughton introduced Wes Hoolahan in order to spark some creativity in City’s midfield, but the display was lacking energy and the game looked to be closing out with a third consecutive away defeat for City.
Substitute Elliott Bennett’s weak shot on 77 minutes was systematic of the Canaries’ second-half display, and Holt’s frustrations became clear when he had an altercation with Huth.
The home team had a further opportunity with six minutes left on the clock – the ball fell to Nzonzi on the edge of the box and Bunn made a reaction save, and Crouch will be thankful he was in an offside position after lifting an easy chance over the bar.
City’s day was summed up when Bradley Johnson was booked for dissent, but they did have a sniff of an equaliser in the final moments when Ryan Bennett’s long throw was met by Kamara, but his header looped and rested on the top of the net.
FINAL SCORE – STOKE CITY 1-0 NORWICH CITY
Goals: Stoke City – Adam (46)
STOKE CITY: Begovic; Shotton, Shawcross (c), Huth, Wilkinson (Cameron 61); Adam, Whelan (Whitehead 65), Nzonzi, Walters; Jerome (Etherington 79), Crouch. Subs not used: Sorensen, Jones, Owen, Kightly.
NORWICH CITY: Bunn; R Martin, R Bennett, Bassong (Pilkington 86), Whittaker; Snodgrass (E Bennett 75), Tettey (Hoolahan 68), Johnson, Howson, Kamara; Holt. Subs not used: Camp, Garrido, Becchio, Barnett.