Another game, another win, another clean sheet

Norwich City beat Stoke City 1-0 at Carrow Road on Saturday. It was the Canaries’ second win of the week, second consecutive home win in the Premier League, and second consecutive clean sheet in league matches.

After a shaky start, City’s performances, morale, and results are going from strength to strength.

Manager Hughton made no less than ten changes to his team for the midweek Capital One Cup tie at home to Spurs, which attracted a disappointingly low crowd of less than 17,000. Only Turner from the side that drew at Villa Park retained his place. Spurs too made changes to their normal starting eleven, but played a more experienced team and led deservedly from a goal by Gareth Bale after 66 minutes.

The turning point came immediately afterwards when Tettey and Jackson replaced Fox and Butterfield. Tettey’s shot was deflected off Spurs’ defender Vertonghen and Jackson pounced four minutes from time to give City a welcome home double over North London giants Arsenal and Spurs in the space of just over a week. In truth Norwich were a shade fortunate to win, but they are now in the last eight of this competition and have been handed a mouth watering home tie against Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa. No doubt the level of interest, and the attendance, will be higher for that game, especially as the Club have listened to the fans and lowered prices for that tie.

City returned to Premier League action on Saturday with a game at home to Stoke City. For this game Hughton reverted to his first choice line up. Whittaker took the right back slot usually occupied by Russell Martin and Snodgrass was preferred to Elliott Bennett in midfield. Norwich had the better of a fairly dull first half and the excellent Hoolahan set up Pilkington after 23 minutes, but the shot was saved. Holt set up Pilkington a minute later, but again the shot was saved.

After 26 minutes Adam received a yellow card for diving, or “simulation” as it seems to be called these days. Mr Pulis was suitably ungracious about referees and simulation after the game. Well he would be, wouldn’t he? One minute before half-time Wilkinson was booked for a foul on Snodgrass and from the free kick Johnson’s backheader looped over Stoke’s keeper and into goal. City might have had a second goal seconds later but Snodgrass was unable to connect with Pilkington’s cross.

In the second half Hoolahan attempted a Beckhamesque lob from the halfway line, unsuccessfully, and Ruddy saved sharply from Walters. Ryan Bennett replaced Turner, and after 69 minutes Barnett replaced Garrido. Stoke strove hard for an equaliser, and Kenwyne Jones twice went close, but City held on to claim the three points.

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This was by no means the most exciting game of the season, but was one occasion when the points really were more important than the performance. This win moved City into the dizzy heights of 14th place in the Premier League table and further away from the relegation dog fight. It made my long drive from London well worthwhile. On this occasion I could not face the tube/train/bus/train/train/bus/ train/tube journey from North London to Norwich and back on the official trip with the Capital Canaries!