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17:13 3rd March 2012

Potters Back Up To Eighth Spot

MATTHEW ETHERINGTON answered his manager's call for more goals from wide players by firing home the 72nd minute goal which gave Stoke City their second home win in the space of six days over Norwich City in the Barclays Premier League.

Etherington produced the perfect response after Tony Pulis indicated that he wanted his wingers to deliver more in terms of goals before the game and it settled an encounter short of clearcut chances and goalmouth excitement at the Britannia Stadium.

City found it difficult at times to break down Norwich's spirited resistance and the excellence of goalkeeper John Ruddy, but the breakthrough came immediately after Tony Pulis had sent on both Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones.

It was Jerome who got an important flick on which released Etherington into the box before he lashed his shot past Ruddy at the near post.

The victory, City's second over a promoted team in a week, lifted them back up into eighth in the Premier League table, three points behind Liverpool.

Just as significantly, the Potters are now 14 points clear of the bottom three with only eleven matches remaining and just four short of the 40 point mark.

Pulis made one change to the line-up that had got back to winning ways in the Premier League with Huth's availability after suspension meaning that he was restored to the centre of the Potters defence to partner Shawcross.

City started the game brightly but Norwich withstood the initial test from set-pieces when they were forced to two corners.

It wasn't until the ninth minute that the Potters carved out the first clearcut chance as Walters jumping for the ball found it break for him as he burst past his marker to unleash a rising shot which was well saved by Ruddy.

A slick passing movement opened up the way for City's next opportunity as Crouch found Etherington, but when his cross was headed well off target by Walters, the striker was adjudged to be in an offside position.

Little had been seen of Norwich as an attacking threat in the first quarter of the game, although Holt caused one anxious moment when he burst forward onto a long ball from Johnson, but Shawcross eventually dealt with the danger.

The next chance at the other end fell to Huth whose snap shot from 25 yards flew over the bar after Crouch and Walters had got their heads to a cross from Shotton when one of his long throw-ins came straight back to him.

The best move of the game up to that point saw Walters spot a Whitehead burst from midfield and when he slid the ball into his path, the former Sunderland man couldn't make clean enough contact with his shot to trouble Ruddy.

City were forced to make a change when Wilkinson limped off with an injury and Pennant's arrival meant Shotton moving to right back.

The next attempt at goal came from Huth whose snap shot from 25 yards flew over the bar after Crouch and Walters had got their heads to a cross from Shotton when one of his long throw-ins came straight back to him.

Only an excellent reflex save from Ruddy three minutes before the break prevented City going in front when a high ball delivered into the six-yard box by Shotton broke for Crouch off Johnson, but his shot was blocked by the 'keeper.

Norwich made a change at the break with Jackson replacing Pilkington, but there was no change to the pattern of play as City pushed forward.

As they had done in the first half, the Canaries came through the first flurry of corners and throw-ins unscathed with Ruddy doing well under pressure.

City persisted with their bombardment of the Norwich defence as Pennant swung over a free kick from the right and then Crouch headed wide at the far post when Etherington whipped in a corner from the right hand side.

With the Potters struggling to break down Norwich's brave resistance, Pulis decided to freshen things up by sending on both Jones and Jerome as a new strike partnership with Crouch and Walters both making way for the substitutes.

The move paid off immediately as Jerome got the flick on with his head which released Etherington into the box and after skipping past one challenge, he opted to lash the ball past Ruddy at his near post and into the far corner.

Jones and Jerome then almost combined to produce a second when they caught Norwich on the counter attack in the closing stages.

It was Jones who found the space to slide a pass into the direction of Jerome, but although his clear path to goal was quickly closed down, the former Birmingham man cut inside before his attempt to curl a shot in at the far post was deflected away.

With three minutes of added time, Jerome had the opportunity to put the game beyond reach when Whitehead swung the ball into the box and when the striker's first shot on the turn was blocked, he couldn't connect with a second attempt.

    Data provided by Press Association


    The Potters played out four replays to finally beat Bury in the FA Cup in 1955