Writer: Chris Baldwin
Date:Tuesday March 11 2008
11th March 2008
Mamady Sidibe scored the winner for the Potters with his second goal of the season in their vital win at Carrow Road against Norwich which keeps Stoke in second place in the Championship.
Tony Pulis surprised fans with the decision to drop Ricardo Fuller to the bench. Carlo Nash kept the keeper's jersey, but he brought in Carl Dickinson in defence, allowing Danny Pugh to move into midfield, with Richard Cresswell moving alongside Mamady Sidibe in attack.
Stoke and Norwich both seemed to take their time adjusting to the new Potters' front row in an evenly matched first half as both sides had half chances to go ahead.
Leon Cort could have helped the home side score an own goal for the Potters, after his header had glanced off a defender and appeared to be heading goal-bound before being pounced on by the keeper. The Canaries also had first half chances with Cureton leading the attack, but Carlo Nash coped well with everything that was flung at him.
The second half started as tight as the first had ended and Rory Delap had a good shout for a penalty denied by teh referee after he appeared to have been brought down inside the box.
Within seven minutes of the restart, Pulis decided to bring off the tiring Salif Diao and throw on Ric Fuller. We all know that Diao on his day can be a force to be reckoned with, but why Pulis perseveres with attempts to get him match fit in this critical run-in is odd. Maybe a spell in the reserves would assist his match fitness?
Still the rejig to slot Fuller in up front and push Cresswell onto the left wing seemed to mix things up nicely for Stoke as five minutes later the Potters were ahead.
Yet another Delap long throw (you'd have thought opposing teams would have got the measure of these by now - but it's tough if they haven't!) found the head of the Big Mama himself who headed the ball over the keeper and into the net. Sidibe is fast becoming a positive goal scoring machine with his second of the season and both within a month!
Norwich huffed and puffed but failed to find any shot of substance to bring them back on level terms and it was not until the final minutes when the Canaries began to throw everything at the Stoke defence.
Leon Cort and Mamady Sidibe had to replaced by Ryan Shawcross and Paul Gallagher as they both hobbled off with knocks with just under ten minutes remaining. Shawcross was then kept busy along with Andy Griffin and Nash as a Norwich shot narrowly missed the post and then Cureton was guilty of the worst miss of the night as he scuffed the ball from barely four yards out. With the referee deciding that over five minutes of added on time should be played it seemed an age until the 400 Potters' fans who had made the trip to a windy Norfolk could celebrate a return to winning ways for the Potters.
With Watford being held to a goalless draw at Bristol City - courtesy of a penalty save from the Bristol keeper, we've now closed the gap on City to just one point. With a trip to Watford on Saturday, it's another agonising game for fans to contemplate.
Norwich City: Marshall, Otsemobor, Shackell, Pearce, Camara (Evans 69), Croft, Fotheringham, Pattison, Bertrand, Dublin, Cureton
Subs not used: Gilks, Gibbs, Spillane, Daley
Stoke City: Nash, Griffin, Cort (Shawcross 81), Riggott, Dickinson, Lawrence, Delap, Diao (Fuller 52), Pugh, Cresswell, Sidibe (Gallagher 84)
Subs not used: Simonsen, Wilkinson
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Date:Tuesday March 11 2008
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