Chris Hughton seems to prioritise results over entertainment but when both are lacking, all that is left is tension. This dreary draw means Carrow Road remains an uncomfortable place to be right now, not least for Hughton, who again finds himself confronted with searching questions about his team's bluntness. Norwich are four points off the relegation zone and his ability to keep them up is in doubt.
Only Crystal Palace have scored fewer goals than Norwich in the Premier League and Hughton's side seldom looked like penetrating against a Stoke team who are without a league win on the road since August. Gallingly for the hosts, soon after they did manage a breakthrough, with a header by Bradley Johnson in the 56th minute, they frittered their lead away, as Sébastien Bassong clunked into John Guidetti to concede a penalty that Jon Walters converted.
Walters was sent off five minutes later but Norwich did not look like exploiting their numerical advantage in the remaining 12 minutes and had to make do with a draw that leaves them in a precarious position with a daunting series of fixtures ahead. If a nerve-shredding finale to the campaign can atone for the dearth of thrills, then Norwich fans have something to look forward to.
"It feels like two points lost as opposed to a point gained," groaned Hughton. "We could have done ourselves a big favour and made life more comfortable for us."
The only change Hughton made after the heavy defeat at Aston Villa last week was to replace Gary Hooper, a striker who had not scored in 10 appearances, with Ricky van Wolfswinkel, a striker who had not scored since the first day of the season. Unsurprisingly, that did not transform them into a potent attacking force. Although Norwich had a good deal of early possession it was Stoke, without being any more inspired, who forged three clear chances in the first quarter of an hour. The best of them fell to Peter Crouch in the eighth minute but he fired weakly at John Ruddy from 18 yards. Marko Arnautovic then shot over after good work down the left by Erik Pieters, who, in the 15th minute, teed up Walters for a 20-yard shot that forced another save from Ruddy.
Nathan Redmond and Wes Hoolahan flickered, their mischievous conniving occasionally elevating the game above a test of endurance. Rations of action were meagre in a gruelling first period.
Perhaps the sheer tedium of proceedings caused Asmir Begovic to nod off in the 53rd minute, when he allowed a long-range shot from Hoolahan to slip through his hands but he recovered in time to claw the ball away before it crossed the line. Norwich sensed vulnerability and perked up. Three minutes later Norwich were in front. Snodgrass curled a free-kick and Johnson outjumped Ryan Shawcross to nod in from close range.
Norwich were looking safe until the 73rd minute, when Bassong brought down Guidetti in the box. Walters slammed the penalty into the top corner.
Walters was dismissed five minutes later for kicking Alex Tetty in the knee with a challenge that looked more oafish than malicious. "Jon has accepted that he did catch him but the ball was bouncing between two players and both had their feet high, so I think the punishment was a bit harsh," said Mark Hughes.
Norwich never threatened to score again. "We didn't really make any inroads," admitted Hughton. "In a game that wasn't a classic it was there for us to win and that's the frustration."