Norwich City recorded their second Premier League win of the season with a 1-0 win over Stoke City at Carrow Road.
Bradley Johnson rose highest to head the hosts into the lead in the closing minutes of what was a drab first-half affair as both sides struggled to fashion any sort of fluency.
Stoke, who last won an away Premier League game 10 months ago, were very short on ideas for much of the game but improved immeasurably with the second-half introduction of Kenwyne Jones.
The Trinidadian had the best chance of the second-half but he dragged his effort past the post as the hosts held on to record back-to-back home victories in the Premier League.
Having taken the reigns following Paul Lambert’s acrimonious split from the club over the summer, Chris Hughton’s remit was clear: preserve the Canaries’ Premier League status.
While the men from Norfolk’s form has picked up in recent weeks with wins against Arsenal in the league and Tottenham in the cup, the raw facts remained that they had managed just one win and seven goals in their opening nine Premier League matches.
Despite that impressive midweek showing in the Capital One Cup against Spurs, Hughton elected to ring the changes for the visit of the Potters. Grant Holt returned up front with Wes Hoolahan operating just behind him against a Stoke side who had drawn six of their opening nine games this season.
For Stoke, Andy Wilkinson deputised for long term absentee Marc Wilson at left-back as the Potters looked to ensure they were not dragged into a relegation scrap following that sluggish start to the season.
Norwich were the marginally better side in the opening period and that superiority should have been converted into a lead when Hoolahan found Anthony Pilkington bearing down on goal but the former Huddersfield Town man’s shot was straight at Asmir Begovic in goal.
What Tony Pulis’s side lacks in quality it makes up for in endeavour and Peter Crouch had their only chance of the half following some industrious work down the right from Geoff Cameron, but, having taken the ball down on his chest, he wildly fired over the bar.
To compound the frustrations of both managers on the touchline, the quality of set play ball was also well below par. However, when the hosts finally did get the delivery right – in the penultimate minute of the first half –Johnson rose highest to head the hosts into the lead from a Robert Snodgrass centre.
Norwich, buoyed by that late first-half goal, started the second period in the ascendancy but it was Stoke who should have registered next but Jon Walters struck his shot straight at John Ruddy following a flick from Charlie Adam.
With Crouch cutting an isolated figure upfront, Pulis turned to Jones on the bench with 20 minutes left to play and his introduction almost had an immediate impact but his header from an Adam free-kick was straight at Ruddy in the Norwich goal.
He then dragged an effort past the post as the Potters applied the pressure but the Canaries regrouped and saw out the closing minutes of the half to continue their recent fine run of form.
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City): A rare creative spark in a game that sorely lacked invention.
Ruddy 6, Whittaker 6, Turner 5, Bassong 6, Garrido 5, Snodgrass 7, Tettey 7, Johnson 6, Pilkington 6, Hoolahan 8, Holt 6. Subs, Morison 5, Barnett. L 5, Bennett 5.
Stoke City: Begovic 5, Cameron 5, Huth 5, Nzonzi 4, Adam 5, Shawcross 5, Whitehead 5, Walters 5, Kightly 5, Crouch 6, Wilkinson 5. Subs: Whelan 5, Jones 6, Etherington 5.