Norwich City 0 Stoke City 1: High-flying Sidibe helps stuttering Stoke mind the gap</B>

Last October, Mamady Sidibe was nearly killed on the football pitch. The 28-year-old suffered severed veins in his right arm after being attacked by an angry mob of Togo fans while playing for his native Mali in an African Nations Cup qualifier. Last night, the striker breathed new life into Stoke's promotion campaign by scoring the winner in a less than convincing performance at Carrow Road.

The manner of the victory did not bother Stoke's manager, Tony Pulis, who left his leading scorer Ricardo Fuller on the substitutes' bench with Saturday's trip to third-place Watford in mind.

Pulis had seen his side go into the game without a win in three matches, and was grateful to Sidibe. "I'm pleased for him," Pulis said. "He puts so much work into his game and he's an absolute handful."

Sidibe's winner was just his second goal of the season and came in the 58th minute when he flicked a long throw from Rory Delap past David Marshall in the Norwich goal.

Stoke could have taken the lead in the first half, though, when full-back Carl Dickinson saw his left-footed cross come back off the bar with Marshall stranded.

The Norwich manager, Glenn Roeder, bemoaned a "ridiculously poor goal" from his side's point of view, having spent two days working specifically on dealing with Delap's long throws.

For Stoke, this long overdue win was worth the wait. With all those around them dropping points Pulis's side were able to move within a point of the leaders Bristol City at the top of the table.

They had goalkeeper Carlo Nash and the Norwich forward Jamie Cureton to thank. Nash twice saved well from substitute Ched Evans and once from Cureton, as Stoke clung on to their slender lead. Cureton then unbelievably missed from just three yards out with the game in injury time.

Pulis was thankful for Cureton's error. "I've known Jamie since he was seven years of age," he said. "I was at Bristol and I was a pro there and Jamie was a little schoolboy. I might send him a bottle of champagne if we do go up this season."

After the season Sidibe has had, Pulis would do well to set one of those bottles aside for him.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Marshall; Otsemobor, Pearce, Shackell, Camara (Evans, 69); Croft, Fotheringham, Pattison, Bertrand; Dublin, Cureton. Substitutes not used: Gilks (gk), Gibbs, Spillane, Daley.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Nash; Griffin, Cort (Shawcross, 81), Riggott, Dickinson; Lawrence, Diao (Fuller, 52), Delap, Pugh; Cresswell, Sidibe (Gallagher, 84). Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Wilkinson.

Referee: K Woolmer (Northamptonshire).