Stoke City 2, Norwich City 1

DAVID CUFFLEY A goal just two minutes from time by Richard Cresswell put a stop to Norwich City's mini revival at the Britannia Stadium this afternoon. Cresswell fired home from close-range following a corner to send Stoke's biggest crowd of the season into raptures and it was a bitter blow for the Canaries, who appeared to have survived a second half onslaught to earn a point.

DAVID CUFFLEY

A goal just two minutes from time by Richard Cresswell put a stop to Norwich City's mini revival at the Britannia Stadium this afternoon.

Cresswell fired home from close-range following a corner to send Stoke's biggest crowd of the season into raptures and it was a bitter blow for the Canaries, who appeared to have survived a second half onslaught to earn a point.

Norwich were well worth the interval lead given to them by Darren Huckerby's fifth minute goal on his return to the starting line-up.

But the visitors were caught cold less than 30 seconds after the restart when Stoke defender Leon Cort headed the equaliser from a cross by Liam Lawrence.

Just before Cresswell's winner, keeper David Marshall appeared to have saved the day with a brilliant save from Ricardo Fuller, but it was not to be.

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There were seven yellow cards with three of them going to Norwich, to Darel Russell, the recalled Gary Doherty and keeper Marshall.

City boss Roeder was forced to make changes to the side which brought two successive victories against Coventry and Blackpool.

Fullback Jon Otsemobor was ruled out on the morning of the match because of a migraine, while winger Luke Chadwick, troubled by a long running shoulder injury, was also omitted from the 16 against his old club.

In addition, Roeder decided to leave leading scorer Jamie Cureton on the bench.

Into the starting line-up came Gary Doherty for his first senior appearance since October 2, while Lee Croft and Darren Huckerby were both included after impressing as second half substitutes in the 3-1 win at Blackpool.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis, taking charge of the Potters for his 200th game, named the same 11 and the same five substitutes involved in the 3-1 win over Queen's Park Rangers in midweek.

Norwich kicked off and it was clear that Doherty had been given the right-back role in place of Otsemobor, with three players in central midfield roles and Croft and Huckerby taking up wide positions.

There was almost a breakthrough for Stoke in the very first minute when Fuller found space on the right and picked out Lawrence, but his cross whizzed across the face of the goal with no one there to apply the finishing touch.

Fuller and Sidibe combined to set up Lawrence again in a similar position after four minutes and this time his attempted cross took a deflection off Camara and Marshall was able to prevent it going out for a corner.

There was joy for the Canaries and their big contingent of travelling fans after just five minutes when they took the lead through Huckerby.

It was a header from Dublin which gave Huckerby a head start on the home defence and he kept his cool to send a powerful left-foot shot past Simonsen.

It was on the very same ground four years ago that Huckerby scored his first goal for Norwich and the visiting fans were in good voice after witnessing another excellent finish from Norwich's danger man.

Pugh made an important headed clearance from a Huckerby cross as Norwich pushed forward again and as the home side counter-attacked, another centre from Lawrence went begging as it drifted across the edge of the six-yard box.

With 11 minutes gone there was a real scare for Norwich when Cresswell crossed from the left and although Dublin managed to win the header against Sidibe, he actually directed it towards his own goal, where Marshall had to leap acrobatically to his right to palm the ball away and prevent an own goal.

As the Canaries switched to attack again, Pattison tried his luck with a long-range shot but was well off target. Then Dublin chested a Huckerby cross into the path of Russell but he was unable to make clean contact and hooked his shot harmlessly into the keeper's arms.

A couple of long throws from Delap posed problems in the Norwich defence and it took some fairly rudimentary defending from Dublin to clear the danger.

There were groans from the home crowd when Croft challenged Cresswell and came away with the ball, playing it sideways to Dublin, while Cresswell lay injured on the turf.

But with a promising attack in the making, Huckerby sportingly played the ball into touch to allow Cresswell to be treated.

Russell was close to getting on the end of a Croft centre as Norwich again threatened the Stoke rearguard but as the home team broke quickly, Marshall did well at the other end to gather a Cresswell cross under pressure from Sidibe and Lawrence.

With Stoke awarded a free-kick on the left touchline, Lawrence curled his cross towards Fuller and Taylor did exceptionally well to win the header and clear the danger.

Huckerby was looking a threat and a neat back-heel set up Pattison on the left, Huckerby racing into the area to meet the midfielder's cross but eventually being crowded out as he shaped to shoot.

A neat header by Sidibe fell kindly for Fuller and he tried to weave his way into the box before tumbling over but with the striker appealing for a trip by Fotheringham, the referee waved play on.

Norwich were standing up to the physical challenge pretty well with Taylor outstanding again at the back and he did well to block a shot from Cresswell after Sidibe had again won a header.

With just over half an hour gone, Stoke were forced into a change when right-back Wright limped off to be replaced by Wilkinson, who slotted straight into the same position.

An excellent move almost brought the Canaries a second goal after 32 minutes when Huckerby and Russell combined to send Camara clear on the left and Dublin met the fullback's cross with a first-time shot which flashed just wide.

Doherty got back to make a vital sliding clearance from another Lawrence cross as Stoke hit back.

Once again, Dublin was nearly responsible for a bizarre own goal 10 minutes before the break when a shot from Eustace took a deflection off his heel and rolled goalwards, where Marshall just managed to grab the ball on the line before it rolled inside the post.

Huckerby threatened to unlock the home defence when he managed to get away from Wilkinson right on the by-line but his cross to the near post was cut out by Pugh.

The first yellow card of the afternoon was shown to Stoke skipper Eustace four minutes before half-time for a blatant body-check on Croft, but Pattison wasted the resulting free-kick by hitting it straight out of play behind Simonsen's goal.

With just over a minute of the half remaining, Fuller produced an excellent effort in a bid to get his side on terms when he moved on to an astute pass by Eustace and cut inside on to his left foot before shooting narrowly over the top.

In stoppage time, there was a second yellow card shown as Shawcross halted Croft in full flight on the halfway line and the winter needed treatment on his left ankle.

t Half-time: Stoke City 0, Norwich City 1

The second half was less than 30 seconds old when Stoke drew level through defender Cort. The home side won a free-kick on the left, which was rolled back to Lawrence and he crossed right-footed into the area, where Cort rose to plant a firm header inside Marshall's left-hand post.

Fotheringham fired over the top as Norwich went on the counter-attack in an attempt to restore their lead.

There was a third yellow card for the home side soon afterwards when substitute Wilkinson was booked for a blatant check on Huckerby.

A cross field ball by Sidibe following a slip by Taylor almost had Norwich in trouble again but as it dropped over Camara's head, Lawrence failed to control it.

The home crowd had rediscovered their voice since the break and they were roaring for a penalty after 52 minutes, when it appeared the Canaries may have been lucky to escape.

A long throw from Delap was flicked on into the path of Fuller and as he let fly with a full blooded drive, Doherty appeared to block it with his hand, but the official waved play on.

It was all happening now and referee Probert stopped play to walk across to the halfway line, lecture Stoke's boss Pulis and send him into the stands.

Roeder made Norwich's first change nine minutes after the break when he sent striker Evans on in place of Pattison.

The home crowd were shouting for a penalty again when Lawrence protested that he was being held by Shackell as he went to meet a centre from Cresswell.

The atmosphere had certainly livened up and there was a fourth booking for Stoke when Fuller was adjudged to have dived under challenge from Shackell.

The crowd were screaming for a penalty again but instead, Fuller was shown the yellow card.

A misplace pass by Doherty gave Stoke the opportunity to break and Cresswell sent Pugh clear but he fired across the face of the goal.

The referee then called Russell over and booked him for what appeared to be a foul as the move was in progress - his fifth yellow card of the season.

Substitute Evans showed excellent footwork to juggle the ball into position for a shot from the edge of the area but it was just over the top.

With nearly 20 minutes gone in the second period, another long throw by Delap caused problems when it went right through to Cresswell, whose close-range header Marshall grabbed close to the goal line, much to the Canaries' relief.

Good work by Sidibe triggered the next Stoke attack as Eustace played a one-two with Fuller but fired a 20-yard shot wide of the target.

Midway through the half in a rare break Dublin did well to control a cross from the left and knock it into the path of Fotheringham, whose low shot took a deflection and almost wrong-footed Simonsen, but the keeper was able to recover.

Stoke forced a corner after 70 minutes and although Lawrence's kick was too strong, it was retrieved by Shawcross and his centre met the head of goal scorer Cort, who was not too far away from adding a second.

Cresswell then missed a golden chance to give Stoke the lead as they broke quickly following a poor corner at the other end by Fotheringham.

As the hosts counter-attacked, Shackell slipped on the edge of the area, leaving Cresswell in the clear but he sliced his shot into the crowd, who reacted with groans of dismay.

A through ball from Russell almost set up Croft as Norwich went forward but Simonsen raced from his line to collect.

There were two yellow cards for the Canaries in the space of a minute as the pressure began to tell. First Doherty fouled Shawcross and was booked and then, when the resulting free-kick had to be retaken, keeper Marshall kicked the ball into the crowd in frustration and he too was cautioned. That brought it up to seven yellow cards for the afternoon.

The Canaries made another change with 12 minutes left when striker Cureton replaced Croft.

Stoke made another change with 10 minutes left when striker Parkin replaced Sidibe.

Another Delap long throw forced Dublin to concede a corner with five minutes left and Cort was again first to get to Lawrence's flag-kick only to head narrowly over the top.

Camara did well to rob Eustace as the Stoke skipper weaved his way into the Norwich area with the minutes ticking away.

With two minutes remaining, Marshall dived to his right to make a brilliant save from Fuller but from the resulting corner, the home side took the lead.

The corner from Lawrence was nodded down by Cort and Cresswell with his back to goal, swivelled to fire home from close-range.

It was a bitter blow to the Canaries, who seemed to have weathered everything Stoke could throw at them in the second half.

t Result: Stoke City 2, Norwich City 1