Cardiff City boss Dave Jones only had kind words for Paul Lambert’s Canaries, after the Bluebirds hit the Championship summit with a 3-1 win over their Norfolk visitors at the weekend.
Norwich were given a mountain to climb after just 12 minutes, with Jay Bothroyd and Michael Chopra putting the south Wales outfit in command.
And despite a 34th minute Canary reply via the head of Wes Hoolahan, a penalty expertly dispatched by former Aston Villa man Peter Whittingham – given for a supposed handball by Elliott Ward – sealed the contest moments later.
Bothroyd headed Cardiff in front early on after Whittingham’s clever corner, but City could have cleared the ball earlier. And it only got worse when a monster goal-kick found its way to Chopra after a deft flick from man-of-the-moment Bothroyd. Simple finish; 2-0.
Hoolahan’s header from a Steven Smith cross gave the visitors brief hope, but Whittingham’s spot-kick restored the two-goal advantage.
However, the Canaries rallied for long spells and Bluebirds boss Jones was impressed with what he saw. The new league leaders, who rose above Neil Warnock’s QPR after Saturday’s success, certainly knew they were in a game.
“It was a hard match for us today and I thought that they played really well against us. Norwich made us work hard for the three points,” said Jones, speaking to the club’s official website.
“They came with a diamond shape which caused us problems at times, making it hard for us to nullify what they do.
“They got themselves back into it and deservedly so in my view, but we killed their momentum by going straight up the other end and getting the penalty, which Whitts [Whittingham] took well for us again.
“Today hasn’t just been about going forward. At times my players had to put their bodies on the line and block Norwich City’s chances.
“In fairness both defences did well and it was a good top of the table clash. In the end we took the sting out of them and we took the ball from them and knocked it around well.
“Norwich defended well though and also pulled off some good blocks, and they will be disappointed with the result, but not so much with the performance from the team.
“Overall it was a good game and certainly a good game for the spectators. We know we can score goals, but on occasions we took our foot off the gas and allowed them to take the initiative from us.
“It’s something that we’ll learn from – there was some sloppy play at times and loose passing. But they are all things that we can work on next week.”
That penalty decision turned out to be a major moment in the contest and after getting back into the match through Hoolahan’s header, ‘culprit’ Ward admitted that the spot-kick just minutes later knocked them sideways.
Leon Barnett’s header seemed to strike his defensive partner on the hand rather than anything deliberate and even Jones admitted that his table-topping side had possibly got the luck on this occasion. You win some, you lose some.
“The ball definitely hit their player’s hand but some you get and some you don’t and this time we had the luck,” he continued.
“But fair play to Norwich; they pulled a goal back but we went down the field and scored from the penalty. It was a hard victory but we started on fire with those two early goals.”