AUDIO: Norwich City's Zak Whitbread - Stoke City defeat was a learning experience
PUBLISHED: 18:07 04 March 2012 | UPDATED: 18:25 04 March 2012
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Zak Whitbread put down Norwich City's defeat to a relentless Stoke City as a learning experience.
It is one thing being aware of the Potters’ direct and frustrating approach – but as most sides that travel to the Britannia Stadium usually find, stopping Tony Pulis’ men is quite another.
Like earlier in the season a Canaries cup exit has been followed by two league defeats, albeit this time a tough trip to Staffordshire and a visit from Manchester United – and in-form Whitbread was unhappy at how Saturday unfolded.
“You would have said it had 0-0 written all over it – it was stop start and there weren’t many chances at either end, it was quite bitty and it can be very frustrating for teams coming here, but Stoke have worked on that for years and made a real go of that,” said the 28-year-old.
“We’re disappointed. It took us until they scored for us to get into the game, get our stamp on it and try and get the ball down and play, but they are renowned for it.
“You know what you’re getting and you have got to try and nullify that, but then also you have to find a way to put your own stamp on it. So it takes half of you to try and look after one, and then you’ve got to get forward and get the ball down yourself.
“If you ask a lot of managers, they have been scratching their heads for a while why they can’t come away from here with something more.
“We tried to play but it’s not as easy as that. They do put their stamp on a game, they are at home with the crowd and with the stops in play for set pieces. They are so used to that now, their set pieces, their pace and it’s easy for them to dictate play.
“The other team has to make their mark on it. Stoke have been doing it for a good few years now and had good success from it.
“Obviously we’ve got to learn from today, see what went wrong and see how we can amend that.
“It’s not going to turn into crisis talks or anything, we just need to focus on the next game. These are great learning experiences. It’s a tough place to come for anyone but we’ve got to learn from it.”
In the end a dour contest was settled by the few seconds Norwich’s defence switched off – something manager Paul Lambert laid responsibility for squarely at the officials.
Stoke full-back Marc Wilson took a quick throw-in that referee Michael Oliver initially looked to be awarding to Norwich – something replays suggested should have been the case.
Wilson’s quick thinking eventually led to Matthew Etherington’s 72nd-minute winner, which always looked more than enough to secure matters.
“It’s a bit of a soft goal and we’ll look at that and be disappointed with the build up to it,” said Whitbread.
“From where I’m standing it was our throw. Without wanting to get into trouble, they’ll make their own decisions and whether they know or not is not for me to talk about – but we are disappointed with it.
“Beyond that I don’t think they created much, beyond the long throws and what not. It was a scrappy game but we are desperately disappointed not to have made a bigger impact on it and not come away with a result.
“There aren’t many teams who are that direct…we are disappointed but there is another game next week.”
By which time the scars from the Britannia should have healed – even for skipper Grant Holt.
“I think everyone got a bit of a kick at some stage, didn’t they?” smiled Whitbread. “I saw Holty go down a couple of times. He’s as solid as they come and he doesn’t go down that often without a touch.
“It’s always going to be a battle here. They’ve got some strong lads.”