Howson strike secures merited victory for CanariesJONNY HOWSON's 25-yard strike in the first half was enough for Norwich City to clinch a deserved second victory of the season against Stoke City on Sunday afternoon.
The midfielder slammed the ball home in the middle of dominant opening half for the Canaries, and they finished the job after the break in comfortable fashion.
Stoke City will be disappointed not to make more of home advantage on an afternoon where Canaries goalkeeper John Ruddy was rarely tested.
Chris Hughton gave Anthony Pilkington and Martin Olsson their first Premier League starts of the season, with midweek heroes Gary Hooper and Josh Murphy having to settle for places on the bench.
Stoke kept the same line-up that was defeated 3-1 by Arsenal last weekend, with former Canary loanee Peter Crouch, who scored in the Capital One Cup meeting with Tranmere Rovers on Wednesday, named among the substitutes.
Norwich showed confidence on the ball in the early stages and they almost took the lead on nine minutes – Robert Snodgrass’ dipping corner was met by Ryan Bennett at the back post, and after his initial effort came back off the crossbar, Asmir Begovic closed down the rebound.
They were the much better team in opening chunk of the first half, refusing to let the Potters settle with the midfield trio of Leroy Fer, Alexander Tettey and Howson dominating the centre of the park.
Arnautovic had Stoke first real chance on 33 minutes when a powerfully-struck shot from the right, having been set up by Charlie Adam, but it whistled over the bar.
Only a minute later, City took a deserved lead, however – having won back possession from a home throw-in, Pilkington flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Howson.
With little option than to shoot, the midfielder picked his spot, the left corner, and hit a firm shot from 25 yards that a stretching Begovic couldn’t reach.
It was no less than what Hughton’s men merited for a vibrant opening half, and although Stoke forced a couple of corners late in the opening 45, City took the advantage into the break.
HALF-TIME: Stoke City 0-1 Norwich City
Stoke’s revitalisation at the beginning of the second half was brought about by a double substitution by Mark Hughes, who introduced Jermaine Pennant and Stephen Ireland for Jonathan Walters and Charlie Adam, but thankfully City’s defence were holding firm.
Pilkington, sporting a new shaven haircut, fired wide after skipping past two challenges on 59 minutes, before Kenwyne Jones kept John Ruddy on his toes with a near-post shot at the other end.
Jones was then substituted for former City man Crouch as Hughes made his final change in the 66th minute, with Hughton making his own change up front as Johan Elmander came on for Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Snodgrass then forced Begovic into a smart stop with a curling effort with 12 minutes left on the clock as Norwich looked for that second goal to kill off their opponents.
Even though Stoke had more of the ball in the final ten minutes, Norwich never looked under threat and closed out the game for their second win of the campaign.
GOALS: Norwich City: Jonny Howson (34)
STOKE CITY: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross (c), Huth, Pieters; Walters (Pennant 45), Nzonzi, Adam (Ireland 45), Wilson, Arnautovic; Jones (Crouch 66). Subs not used: Sorensen (GK), Whelan, Palacios, Assaidi.
NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Martin (c), Turner, R Bennett, Olsson; Tettey, Fer, Howson; Snodgrass, Pilkington (Whittaker 83), van Wolfswinkel (Elmander 76). Subs not used: Bunn (GK), Johnson, Hooper, Hoolahan, Josh Murphy.