City boss Paul Lambert admitted that the Championship will be a tough gig this season after they suffered a first day defeat to Watford in front of the Sky cameras.
The Hornets ran out 3-2 winners after a particularly dominant first-half display set them up for a opening day victory.
And a Danny Graham double, on top of John Eustace’s opener, was just about enough to see them home, despite a late Norwich rally.
Malky Mackay’s outfit were utterly dominant in the opening period but second-half efforts from Andrew Crofts and Michael Nelson got City within touching distance of an unlikely point. That would have been harsh on Watford though, if truth be told.
And Lambert wasn’t particularly impressed with his side’s defending for those first two strikes, which gave the Canaries a mountain to climb.
“You can’t defend the way we did for the first two goals but in the second-half we came back strongly. The goals were the disappointing thing though.
“You’ve got to be able to defend set pieces. You can’t legislate for it and in football, the team that makes the least mistakes tends to come out on top.”
If anyone ever needed any proof of the step-up from League One, tonight was the night. Talk of back-to-back promotions may have to be shelved for a while…
“You get punished more at this level,” said the Canary chief. “We’ve earned the right to play here but that’s in the past now.
“If you go up a level and make mistakes, you will get punished. That is certainly the case.”
It was a fairly quiet start to proceedings as August 6 clashes go but the Hornets were the first side to fashion a chance on four minutes, with the lively Eustace firing over from just outside the box.
City responded quickly through Simeon Jackson but despite the Canadian international being well placed, he could only poke the ball at visiting ‘keeper Scott Loach.
But Watford striker Graham was causing all sorts of problems and he enjoyed a couple of decent half chances before Malky’s men took the lead on 14 minutes, when that man Eustace struck from the edge of the area.
It was an excellent corner in but the former Stoke midfielder had too much space in the box, before his powerful shot, via a deflection, arrowed into John Ruddy’s net.
The Canaries were desperately trying to force a way back in at this point, but it was the Hertfordshire side who looked like they belong at this level and they bossed most of the first period.
Andrew Surman had a well directed free-kick saved by England Under-21 ‘keeper Loach but on 24, Watford took a 2-0 lead through the dangerous Graham.
The former Carlisle hitman played a wonderful one-two with Marvin Sordell before slotting it past Ruddy and all of a sudden, the City faithful were silenced. Again, Watford’s forwards were given too much space in vital areas and it was proving to be a harsh wake-up call for the promoted side.
The rest of the half belonged to the Hornets and a Jackson strike into the side-netting apart, Lambert’s team were struggling to make a breakthrough.
The start of the second-half, however, was a different story and it was clear that Norwich had renewed vigour, as they searched for the goal that would give them a sniff.
And it duly came on 52 minutes through the energetic Crofts. Wes Hoolahan weaved his magic on the edge of the box, ghosting past the Watford defence, and via a clever Jackson back-heel, Crofts fired home from just inside the penalty box.
City were now firmly on the front foot and even though Adrian Mariappa headed agonisingly wide after a Ruddy fumble on 58, it looked like an equaliser could be on the cards.
On 80, with the Canaries still pressing, substitute Grant Holt headed just wide from a Hoolahan cross but the League One champions were now finding it harder to create enough clear cut chances to force a leveller.
Watford were happy to strike on the break and they did exactly that a minute later, when Graham bagged his second as the City players appealed for a foul.
Graham was played through with plenty of space at his disposal but his shot could possibly have been stopped by new ‘keeper Ruddy and the Hornets looked home and dry.
There was some late drama though after Nelson’s effort and to be fair to the stand-in captain, it was a finish Messrs Holt and Martin would have been proud of.
After a cut-back from the right, Martin dummied it and the former Hartlepool defender slotted the ball into the corner of the net to ensure a few nervy moments for Malky’s men.
It did, however, prove to be too little, too late.
City: Ruddy; R Martin, Nelson, Ward, Drury; Crofts, Fox, Surman (McNamee 87); Hoolahan; Jackson (Holt 72), C Martin. Subs not used: Lappin, Rudd, K Smith, Johnson, Askou.
Leave a Reply