“One-nil to the football team,” the Norwich City fans chanted, enjoying their side’s progress to a third consecutive home win, four days after they knocked Tottenham out of the Capital One Cup and two weeks after breaking their Premier League duck under Chris Hughton at Arsenal’s expense.
Stoke, without an away win since January, a run now spanning 15 matches, had five players booked, which suggests the fans had a point.
In reality, it was not quite so black and white. The team in red and white had perfectly good intentions and produced moments of quality. Yet they tended to be fleeting moments. And, decisively, their opponents had the rub of the green.
It certainly seemed that way to Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, whose dismay at seeing Charlie Adam harshly booked for an alleged dive was only compounded when referee Andre Marriner took a different view of a Robert Snodgrass tumble with seemingly minimal contact just before half-time, booked Stoke defender Andy Wilkinson for a foul and awarded Norwich the free-kick from which they scored.
The two incidents prompted Pulis to suggest that suspected dives should be considered at a disciplinary meeting on a Monday after reviewing TV replays, rather than be ruled upon by the referee.
“I just think the whole diving situation should be taken out of the hands of referees entirely,” he said. “We are piling pressure on the referees and I think it should be a retrospective thing now, with a panel sitting on a Monday to look at incidents that the referee wants them to look at again.
“The referee should only make a decision if he is 110 per cent sure that a player has cheated, otherwise a panel should decide.”
Pulis did not accuse Snodgrass of diving, but he was sure Adam had not. “I am disappointed with the goal,” Pulis said. “I’ve seen the referee and had a quick chat about it. It certainly was not a free-kick and the disappointing thing is that when the lad falls Andre and his linesman are so close to it.
“I’m not saying that Snodgrass fools the referee but, if they look at it again, they will see that Andy Wilkinson does not touch him. I looked at the incident when Charlie is booked for diving and Javier Garrido pushes him in the back. That’s a double kick in the teeth for us.”
Pulis might be suspected of taking a partial view, given that Stoke deserved a point at least on the balance of play, but Hughton was not inclined to take issue.
“I’ve not seen the [Snodgrass] incident again,” he said, “but I’ve heard some of the comments from the Stoke people. I think it was the linesman who gave it and he had a good view. If you are going to level anything at Robert Snodgrass, then you have to say the same about Charlie Adam. It is a tough physical game and there are always going to be incidents you can highlight.”
What was not in dispute was the impressive technique employed by Bradley Johnson, who scored the goal with a perfect back-header after Snodgrass got up to take the free-kick, directing the ball into the farthest corner of the goal, beyond the reach of the visitors’ goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
That apart, however, after Begovic had been required to save with his feet from Anthony Pilkington, most of the better chances fell to Stoke, for whom Adam gave glimpses of the breadth of his passing skills. It was from his delivery Jonathan Walters and substitute Kenwyne Jones missed two good chances during a second-half rally that had Norwich stretched, and indirectly when his cross was only half cleared and Jones, with a clear sight of goal, dragged the best opportunity wide of the left-hand post.
Then again, Norwich deserved credit for regrouping twice after defenders Michael Turner and Garrido had to be replaced because of injuries.
Norwich (4-4-1-1): Ruddy; Whittaker, Turner (R Bennett, 55), Bassong, Garrido (Barnett, 69); Snodgrass, Tettey, Johnson, Pilkington; Hoolahan (Morison, 86); Holt.
Stoke (4-5-1): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson (Whelan, 84); Walters (Jones, 69), Whitehead, Nzonzi, Adam, Kightly (Etherington, 60) ; Crouch.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the match: Tettey (Norwich)
Match rating: 6/10