Matching Stoke in every way possible very nearly did the trick for Norwich.
Replicating their opponents' tactics, physicality and favoured manner of scoring goals resulted in the Canaries leading until deep into added time, before finally succumbing, as so many teams have before them, to the uncomplicated but always dangerous aerial threat offered by Kenwyne Jones.
That Norwich had been harshly reduced to 10 men with 25 minutes remaining added to the sense of injustice around Carrow Road. Ritchie De Laet had put Norwich in the lead with a header direct from Bradley Johnson's free-kick in a first half that was otherwise disappointingly low on quality and, even when the referee, Neil Swarbrick, sent off Leon Barnett for allegedly bringing down Jon Walters, the Norwich goalkeeper, John Ruddy, saved the penalty.
"I thought we were brilliant, we looked really good against a really good side," said Norwich's manager, Paul Lambert. "The actual contact [between Barnett and Walters] was at least three yards outside the box. It should probably have been a free-kick but we took a double hit with the penalty and sending-off. With 11 on the pitch I think we'd have seen it through."
Eyebrows were raised when Lambert's team-sheet showed six changes to the side that gained a respectable draw at Wigan in their opening fixture, not least because only two were down to injury. The most notable omission was that of Wes Hoolahan, under normal circumstances the Canaries' most creative player, as Lambert switched from his usual midfield diamond to a flat four.
Given Stoke's record of having failed to score in seven of their previous nine away league games, there were concerns the Scot might have been unnecessarily negative but, while the quality of the game rarely rose above the mediocre in the first half-hour, it was the home team that made the first-half running.
The loss of Jermaine Pennant to a calf injury shortly after the half-hour reduced Stoke's attacking options but the manner in which they went behind eight minutes before half-time must have infuriated their manager, Tony Pulis, for its simplicity. A free-kick on the Norwich right was curled into the Stoke penalty area by Johnson and De Laet got ahead of his marker Walters to glance a header beyond the Stoke goalkeeper, Asmir Begovic. The Belgian De Laet, on loan from Manchester United, came into English football when Stoke signed him in 2007
What appeared to have been Stoke's best opportunity to equalise came shortly after the hour with the penalty award. Ruddy's save corrected one of the injustices but Norwich still had to survive the remainder of the game with 10 men.
They appeared to have done so until, with three minutes of added time played, Jones, who had already turned one close-range shot high over the bar, got up on the six-yard line to head Glenn Whelan's cross past Ruddy.
"We were a little bit flat in the first half but we're on a different journey now with European football in midweek," said Pulis. "Travelling away in midweek and having to deal with that and then coming back and playing on Sundays is a completely different way of running a football team, in respect of preparing for games, and it's something we have to learn as we go along."
He confirmed he is hoping to bring "three or four" new faces into the club this week. "We need a little more quality," he said.
Lambert, whose signing of the defender Daniel Ayala from Liverpool last week means he has now added eight players to the squad that won promotion from the Championship, is less likely to be active in the market before the transfer window closes but his selection on Sunday demonstrated he is happy to throw any of his players into the mix.
Man of the match De Laet (Norwich City)
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