Openers can be notoriously unreliable indicators of a season, but it’s unlikely that many Norwich fans would be so wary of assessing the work of that desperately frustrating first afternoon in the Welsh capital.
Norwich are one of football’s archetypal yo-yo clubs, which comes with a fervent expectation that when the momentum will swing downwards, as it has emphatically done with relegation from the Premier League in May, progress in the opposite direction to the championship will be fast and complicated enough. -free.
If that scenario is about to play out, it’s pending, and on proof of the defeat of a revamped Cardiff side that included eight debutants, a different fate could await us.
Norwich manager Dean Smith will hardly need reminding that he arguably has less leeway than any of his Championship counterparts. Although it is only a first setback, he has no choice but to preside over immediate improvement when Wigan visit Carrow Road on Saturday.
“We should come away with at least a draw, but we’ll get better,” Smith said. “We were in a hurry and lacked quality in the final third. Our creativity must be much better in terms of runs and final passes.
A goal early in the second half by West Bro summer signing Romaine Sawyers was enough to earn Cardiff all three points which were naturally met with a punch by manager, Steve Morison.
“We are on the right track, but we are still under construction,” he said. “The game was very tight, but we had that moment and they didn’t. We only won one game and we have to make sure we back it up with a performance next week.
The former Millwall striker has overhauled his squad this summer, with 13 players leaving and 14 arriving. But the combined expense for signings is no more than the £50,000 Cardiff handed out of league Lewes for the services of broker Ollie Tanner.
If Morison wasn’t reading too much into a result, he acknowledged that when you’re trying to shape a new team, winning is precious oxygen.
Cardiff finished off the full value of their win although – when Perry Ng was sent off in the 74th minute for a second yellow card after pulling off Milot Rashica as the visitors looked to counterattack – that win looked doubtful.
They were spared some feverish rearguard action at the end when Norwich captain Grant Hanley saw red for a tackle on Mark Harris that warranted a second caution that leveled the numbers.
Cardiff dictated much of the initial pace, working intricate triangles in midfield and showing a much-vaunted change of approach from the more direct politics of recent seasons.
Norwich made their presence felt more as the first half progressed and Todd Cantwell forced Ryan Allsop to swing his ferocious effort around the post in the 20th minute.
The goal came four minutes into the second half when Sawyers received the ball from 25 yards out. His crisp shot went through a host of bodies into the bottom corner of Tim Krul’s net.
Then Smith, who worked with Sawyers at Walsall and Brentford, claimed the shot was meant to be a cross but Cardiff fans won’t mind.
Norwich had their moments like when Kenny McLean met Cantwell’s corner with a side-footed volley that returned from the crossbar. But Teemu Pukki reacting angrily to a challenge from Joe Ralls in the 66th minute, sparking a pushed game that saw Ralls and teammates Ng and Andy Rinomhota all booked, summed up their frustration.
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