Stoke City 2-2 Norwich City: Canaries on brink of Premier League despite fourth straight draw

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Stoke City 2-2 Norwich City: Canaries on brink of Premier League despite fourth straight draw
Ashley Williams scored Stoke’s first equaliser at the start of the second half

Championship leaders Norwich City moved to the brink of promotion to the Premier League despite being held to a fourth successive draw by Stoke City.

The draw, combined with Leeds’ defeat by Brentford, leaves Norwich six points above the third-placed Whites with two games to go, and a goal difference superior by 10.

Norwich would have secured promotion on Monday had they held on after twice going ahead through Onel Hernandez’s crisp shot and Teemu Pukki’s glancing header.

But an Ashley Williams header and Tom Edwards’ unerring finish meant the Canaries still need a point from their final two games to be completely assured of their top-flight place, although it seems a formality.

Norwich’s run of four straight draws, two of which have required late levellers to rescue a point, has prevented the promotion party beginning early despite extending their unbeaten streak to 12 matches.

However, while second-placed Sheffield United have not buckled, Leeds have now lost their past two games to 10-man Wigan and mid-table Brentford, rendering Norwich’s slight stutter irrelevant.

Leeds’ loss in the late kick-off made the point Norwich collected in Staffordshire earlier on Monday became even more crucial because, despite leading twice, they could quite easily have left empty-handed.

Sam Clucas wasted two great chances for the Potters, heading wide unmarked and later blazing over, both from around six yards, with the score at 0-0 and 1-1.

After Clucas’ first miss, Norwich assumed control with Stoke keeper Jack Butland foiling a close-range Pukki header before he was left helpless by Hernandez’s vicious near-post strike.

But Williams’ header from a corner again showed up the Canaries’ recent defensive shortcomings, only for Pukki to nod Norwich back in front from Mario Vrancic’s cross – the Finland striker’s 28th league goal of the season.

The lead lasted just three minutes as Edwards arrowed a fine finish into the bottom corner from just inside the area as Stoke, who remain 16th after a 20th league draw of the season, earned a deserved point.

Stoke City boss Nathan Jones told BBC Stoke:

“In the first half we showed Norwich too much respect, we sat off them – we didn’t press them and work and graft and they were able to play in front of us.

“I thought we were disciplined. They only had one chance that they scored from, so it’s not like they were carving us open in any way – it’s just we needed to be a bit more proactive and get tighter.

“We were far too passive in the first half, but second half we stepped onto them and worked harder. We showed a real desire to go and win the game, I thought we were excellent and we should have scored more than two goals today.”

Norwich City manager Daniel Farke told BBC Radio Norfolk:

“We stay 12 games unbeaten. I’m not concerned about nerves, but we have to learn the lesson out of it [the result].

“To be honest, it’s what I expect when I work with a young side. It’s not like I can press a button and the Premier League [promotion] is coming easy.

“I expect it to be the hard way, and it looks like we go the hard way. There is no need to doubt ourselves. We go again on Saturday.”

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