Norwich City 1 Stoke City 1 match report: Stoke lose Jonathan Walters but gain what may prove a vital point
Walters struck from the spot for the second week running after John Guidetti was brought down but he was dismissed five minutes later for a dangerous challenge on Alex Tettey
Saturday 08 March 2014
A match of depressingly low quality but steadily increasing tension ended with a Stoke City side reduced to 10 men hanging on for what may prove to be a critical point.
Having conceded a disconcertingly straightforward goal when they allowed Bradley Johnson to head in a Robert Snodgrass cross, the Potters equalised when Jon Walters converted the penalty after Sebastien Bassong was judged to have fouled John Guidetti. Judged harshly, according to Norwich manager Chris Hughton. Both Bassong and Guidetti were stretching to reach a loose ball, and if the defender’s foot caught that of Guidetti first, contact appeared to be relatively slight.
“I do think it was a very soft penalty,” said Hughton. “It’s a ball Seb didn’t need to go for, but on another day another referee might not have given it.”
What added to Hughton’s frustration was it came during a period of the game in which Norwich, having gone ahead, looked relatively comfortable. But as he acknowledged, once Walters, having put away the spot-kick with some aplomb, was sent off for a foot-up challenge on Alex Tettey, the Canaries never looked remotely likely to break Stoke down.
Unfortunately for Hughton, one of the reasons why was that at 1-0 up he had taken off Wes Hoolahan, by some margin the most creative player on the pitch, and replaced him with a holding midfielder in Jonny Howson. His attempts to defend that decision were more than a little plaintive.
“The thing with Wes is he hasn’t been involved so much this season and has had more football in the last week than he has for some time. I just wanted some fresh legs in there. It seemed like one of those types of games we were going to win 1-0.”
In the circumstances Stoke manager Mark Hughes was happy enough. “After we equalised I thought we could have gone on and got maximum points but Jon’s sending-off changed the game. Jon has accepted he did catch Tettey, but there was an intention to win the ball and both players had their feet high.
“Unfortunately we lose him for three games for one of those challenges in games that are a matter of millimetres.”
The result leaves Norwich just four points above Cardiff in 18th in the table, and means they have scored only six goals in their last nine matches at Carrow Road. Stoke are only two points better off, but face a somewhat less daunting run-in than the East Anglians, who are no doubt sick of being reminded their last four games are against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
As Hughes pointed out, had either Peter Crouch or Marko Arnautovic taken one of the three decent chances Stoke created in the opening 15 minutes the game might have panned out very differently. As it was it sank into a sweating morass of heavy tackling and misplaced passing, in which the quick feet of Hoolahan offered rare moments of skill, most notably when his flicked pass put Snodgrass through just before half-time. The Scot hit his shot from an angle first time, but Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic made a fine save diving to his right.
Begovic was more fortunate after the break, when he let Hoolahan’s hopeful drive burst through his hands and had to turn quickly to scramble the ball away.
Norwich City (4-2-3-1): Ruddy; Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson; Tettey (Elmander, 80), Johnson; Snodgrass, Hoolahan (Howson, 67), Redmond; Van Wolfswinkel (Hooper, 80).
Stoke City (4-4-1-1): Begovic; Pieters, Wilson, Shawcross, Cameron; Odemwingie (Guidetti, 63; Ireland, 80), Whelan, Nzonzi; Arnautovic (Etherington, 74); Walters: Crouch.
Referee: Andre Marriner.
Man of the match: Hoolahan (Norwich)
Match rating: 4/10
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