Rampant Stoke rout Norwich
If there were some fans wondering if Stoke could return to winning ways after last week's defeat at Southampton, they had their answer today at the Britannia Stadium. Although the Canaries were without Earnshaw, Huckerby and Safri, the Potters were on top form and dominated a poor visiting side. The 5-0 win is Stoke's best performance in four years and comes on the back of the 4-0 win at Leeds and a 2-1 win against Sunderland to double their season's points tally in just the last two weeks.
To compound the visitors' woes, they had on-loan keeper, Jamie Ashdown sent off for bringing down Luke Chadwick as he looked certain to make the score 3-0.
Stoke dominated from the start with the visitors playing a defensive 4-5-1, leaving veteran Dion Dublin as the only man up front. Lee Hendrie was in his usual perfect form in midfield and it was that man Hendrie who opened the scoring on 20 minutes for his third goal in five games after some nice moves with Mamade Sidibe and Ricardo Fuller. Stoke continued to press and it was Fuller who coolly rifled the ball into the net after a cross from Hendrie was knocked on by Sidibe.
Stoke started the second half by sitting back slightly too much and allowed the Canaries to have more possession but except for a shot from Dublin, never looked like troubling Simonsen. But it was that man Hendrie who again looked the most dangerous as he fired a shot into the side netting.
If there was even the remotest chance of a Norwich fight back, then it was buried in the 70th minute as Luke Chadwick broke clear of the Norwich defenders after a great through ball from Hendrie and tried to take the ball around the hapless keeper who pulled him down just as he was about to shoot from three yards. The referee immediately showed the red card and there followed a short period of handbags as Carl Hoefkens and Danny Higginbotham argued as to who was going to take the penalty. It was Higginbotham who eventually fired a good shot to the reserve keeper, Paul Gallacher's left and into the net for Stoke's third.
After that it was game over and Chadwick finally managed to get his name on the score sheet in the 80th minute and Darel Russell made it five in injury time with a blistering shot which was pushed on to the post by the keeper and rolled over the line.
Mention must be made of the referee, Paul Robinson. For once we had the pleasure of a referee who, with the exception of Ashdown's deserved red, never pulled out another card and on several occasions let the play go on when lesser refs have been known to blow for the slightest misdemeanour.
Stoke go to Leicester on Tuesday night hoping to round off an enviable record for October having scored eleven goals and only conceded two, along with three wins out of four. They have a team that now has belief in itself and a new talisman in the shape of the on-loan Lee Hendrie.
Now, just remind me what happened to the 'Red card for Pulis' campaign?
Stoke: Simonsen, Hoefkens, Duberry, Higginbotham, Griffin, Chadwick, Russell, Diao (Brammer 80), Hendrie (Sweeney 80), Sidibe, Fuller (Pericard 75).
Subs not used: Bangoura, Hill.
Norwich: Ashdown, Shackell, Fleming (Thorne 55), Doherty, Colin, Etuhu, Hughes (Eagle 58), Robinson (Gallacher 73), Drury, Croft, Dublin.
Subs not used: Ryan Jarvis, Rossi Jarvis.