Cruel Britannia

Stoke City 5, Norwich City 0: The Canaries suffered the biggest defeat of the season with a 5-0 hammering by Stoke at the Britannia Stadium this afternoon. New boss Peter Grant now knows the size of the job he has in hand as he looked on in horror as a lacklustre City shipped two poor first half goals to Lee Hendrie and Ricardo Fuller.

Norwich City suffered the biggest defeat of the season with a 5-0 hammering by Stoke at the Britannia Stadium this afternoon.

New boss Peter Grant now knows the size of the job he has in hand as he looked on in horror as a lacklustre City shipped two poor first half goals to Lee Hendrie and Ricardo Fuller.

Things got worse in the second half as a fight-back never materialised and Jamie Ashdown was sent off for a professional foul.

Danny Higginbotham scored the resulting penalty, and Luke Chadwick added a fourth, before City's humiliation was completed in injury time by ex-player Darel Russell.

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City boss Peter Grant sprang a few surprises in his selection for today's match, with four changes to the starting line-up from Tuesday's Carling Cup game at Port Vale.

In came Jamie Ashdown for Paul Gallacher, Dion Dublin for Robert Earnshaw, Andy Hughes for Youssef Safri and Ryan Jarvis was replaced by Craig Fleming.

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Gallacher, Peter Thorne, Robert Eagle and the Jarvis brothers were on the bench.

For Stoke City, boss Tony Pulis brought in striker Mamady Sidibe and winger Luke Chadwick for Vincent Pericard and Peter Sweeney.

City kicked off on a pitch made very slick by a brief shower minutes before the game started and quickly adopted a 4-1-4-1 formation with Hughes wide left, Doherty as the holding man in front of the back four, and Dublin up front on his own.

Stoke were playing a regular 4-4-2 formation.

City's first attack in the third minute saw Lee Croft's cross narrowly headed clear of the on-rushing Hughes.

The first shot of the game in the fifth minute came from Stoke's Salif Diao but he fired wildly over from 25-yards.

Ashdown's first action in the visitors' goal saw him concede a needless corner after five minutes, as he tried to let the ball run out of play. He looked less convincing coming for the flag-kick but managed to punch clear.

Two minutes later Croft's tricky run down the right ended with a poor cross behind Dublin and Hughes.

Stoke were applying the early pressure and were looking toward right-winger Chadwick to provide them with penetration. A corner won from his jinking run saw Diao head powerfully over from eight-yards out.

City were finding things tough against a big, physical Stoke side, but a superb run and chase down the right-hand side by Croft saw him break a tackle, but for the second time, Hughes was denied a header on goal by Carl Hoefkens.

In the 19th minute after a good passage of Norwich passing, Croft and Dublin were convinced City should have been awarded a penalty after the latter knocked the ball against Michael Duberry.

But referee Paul Robinson waved them away and then turned down the home side's shout for a penalty after Jason Shackell appeared to tug Sidibe back inside the box.

But the home fans could not care less as Stoke took the lead two minutes later. Hendrie broke down the left and swapped passes with Sidibe. He then made his way into the box and fired low past Ashdown for his third goal in five games.

City went close for the first time after 26 minutes when Shackell headed on Carl Robinson's free-kick, but his effort was deflected narrowly wide for City's first corner which came to nothing.

The visitors were finally starting to see more of the ball and pass it slightly better, but Stoke almost doubled their lead when Sidibie's turn and snap-shot from the edge of the box flew narrowly wide after 30 minutes.

Norwich stayed on the back foot as Doherty carelessly fouled Ricardo Fuller 35-yards out but the free-kick was wasted as Chadwick supplied a poor cross.

Another silly foul by Doherty on Sidibe after 33 minutes gave the home side another free-kick this time five-yards closer. However Danny Higginbotham's free-kick squirmed through the wall and into Ashdown's arms.

As they continued to squander possession City's only threat appeared to be from the lively Croft. However Jurgen Colin nearly surprised home stopper Steve Simonsen with a 35-yard blockbuster which went over.

But City slipped further behind after 37 minutes as Darel Russell crossed for Fuller he dallied and lost the chance. But when the ball was crossed back in, Sidibe knocked it down for Fuller again. As Ashdown smothered his close-range effort, Fuller recovered, went round Shackell and smacked home from six-yards out.

While all this was happening Fleming lay injured in the City box but quickly recovered after the physio was allowed on.

City started to look like a labouring side as Stoke's confidence grew. And things could have been worse as Sidibe went sprawling after a tug in the penalty area from Drury, but referee Robinson turned the spot-kick claim down.

Dublin showed signs of life in the City team as his 20-yard effort flew narrowly over, but there was nothing to cheer for the travelling contingent as the half-time whistle blew.

t Half-time: Stoke City 2, Norwich City 0

There were no changes to either side as Stoke kicked off the second half towards their own fans at the Boothen End. Stoke were content to let City have the ball but then sprang into life after 50 minutes when Hendrie tuned Colin inside out inside the City box.

But his right-footed drive went wide of the near post and into the side netting.

Peter Grant made his first change on 55 minutes as ex-Stoke striker Peter Thorne came on to loud applause from the home fans in place of Fleming.

City switched to a 4-4-2 as Thorne partnered Dublin and Doherty dropped into the back line alongside Shackell.

Norwich's second change came on 58 minutes as the ineffective Hughes was replaced in a like-for-like swap by teenager Robert Eagle.

Dublin acrobatically volleyed wide from a chipped Croft cross on 62 minutes as City strained to get back into the game. He should have done even better a minute later as he headed Eagle's superb cross inches wide from the penalty spot.

Norwich suddenly started to look more capable as Stoke sat back and crosses aimed for Dublin and Thorne rained into their box.

There was a minute's delay on 69 minutes as the assistant referee's flag broke and had to be replaced.

But the light relief was short-lived for City as a cute reverse pass from Hendrie a minute later released Chadwick one-on-one with Ashdown. As the winger went round the keeper he was brought down and Ashdown saw red.

Carl Robinson was sacrificed and subbed for goalkeeper Paul Gallacher but there was nothing the Scot could do as Higginbotham blasted the penalty kick home to his left.

After the goal Stoke immediately made a change as striker Pericard came on for Fuller.

The tricks and flicks were now starting to appear from the home side as they deservedly made it 4-0 on 78 minutes. After Gallacher saved from Russell, the ball made its way to Chadwick on the edge of the box. He turned Doherty and fired low, left-footed past Gallacher from 16-yards.

Straight after the goal Stoke made their final two substitutions with Diao and Hendrie replaced by Dave Brammer and Peter Sweeney.

On 83 minutes Croft went down under a heavy tackle from Higginbotham and received lengthy treatment before continuing.

City were searching for a consolation but only had two speculative long-range Eagle efforts which flew over the bar.

Norwich's misery was complete in injury time when a free kick was half cleared to ex-Norwich man Darel Russell on the edge of the box. He controlled and volleyed towards goal, and although Gallacher got a touch the ball hit the post before trickling in.

The final few minutes petered out as Stoke and their fans revelled in their biggest win of the season.

t Stoke City: Simonsen, Hoefkens, Duberry, Higginbotham, Griffin, Chadwick, Russell, Diao, Hendrie, Sidibe, Fuller. Subs: Bangoura, Brammer, Pericard, Hill, Sweeney.

t Norwich City: Ashdown, Drury, Shackell, Fleming, Doherty, Colin, Etuhu, Hughes, Robinson, Croft, Dublin. Subs: Gallacher, Thorne, Ryan Jarvis, Rossi Jarvis, Eagle.

t Referee: Paul Robinson (E Yorkshire)

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