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Bradley Johnson headed in the only goal as Norwich City continued their revival with a hard-earned win over Stoke City at Carrow Road.
The Canaries are unbeaten in four games across all competitions following the international break, having reached the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup with victory over Tottenham Hotspur in midweek.
Stoke, though, were unfortunate not to have taken something from the match when they produced a much-improved second-half display after falling behind to Johnson’s effort just before the break.
Norwich recalled captain Grant Holt and England goalkeeper John Ruddy into the starting XI as manager Chris Hughton again utilised his full squad.
Stoke, who had drawn six of their nine Barclays Premier League games, brought in full-back Andy Wilkinson after Marc Wilson fractured a bone in his calf against Sunderland last weekend.
Following a positive start by the hosts, it was the visitors who created the first real opening after eight minutes when midfielder Charlie Adam curled a low shot wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Norwich were soon on the offensive, their pressure leading to several corners which were unceremoniously hacked cleared by the Stoke defence.
After 23 minutes, Wes Hoolahan cut into the Potters’ penalty area and pulled the ball back for Anthony Pilkington but the winger could only drive his shot straight at goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Wilkinson tripped Robert Snodgrass as he got away down the left channel, conceding a free-kick in a dangerous position just before half-time and the foul was to prove costly as the delivery from the Scotland international was first class, and Johnson flicked the ball on into the top corner a minute before the interval.
Norwich almost went 2-0 up when Snodgrass just failed to connect with Pilkington’s cross through the six-yard box, but Stoke had a good chance to level at the start of the second half.
Norwich defender Michael Turner fell over as he tried to clear Adam’s flick and Jonathan Walters got ahead of Sebastien Bassong to drill a low shot goalwards, which Ruddy did well to parry away at point-blank range.
Turner hobbled off and was replaced by England Under-21 international Ryan Bennett, the former Peterborough United centre-half.
Stoke continued to press, winning more of the ball in midfield and looking to hit striker Peter Crouch, who once had a productive loan spell at Carrow Road, at every opportunity.
As the hour-mark approached, visiting manager Tony Pulis made a change when Matthew Etherington replaced fellow winger Michael Kightly.
Norwich continued to be pressed backwards, but were dangerous on the counterattack. After 63 minutes, Snodgrass carried the ball away down the left for Alexander Tettey to release Holt. The striker floated an intelligent crossfield ball to the back post where Pilkington arrived at pace but could not keep his shot down.
Stoke switched things around again as Kenwyne Jones came on for Walters, while Norwich made another forced defensive change as Leon Barnett replaced Javier Garrido, who looked to have picked up an injury.
Jones met a free-kick into the Norwich penalty area with a downward header, which Ruddy stooped to gather.
Stoke striker Jones was then unfortunate to see his shot drag wide of the far post after collecting another dangerous ball on his chest and creating space in the six-yard box.
Despite four minutes of stoppage time, Stoke were unable to force the equaliser as Norwich closed out their second successive home Premier League win.
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|17 Nov 2012||v Man Utd (H)|
|24 Nov 2012||v Everton (A)|
|28 Nov 2012||v Southampton (A)|
|02 Dec 2012||v Sunderland (H)|
|08 Dec 2012||v Swansea (A)|