Graft and toil allowed Norwich City to finally enjoy satisfying away success once again
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There is something about a 1-0 away win which is just so satisfying – let alone when a team hasn't won on its travels in over four months.
Smiles will be shared by Canaries fans around Norfolk and beyond today but they won't be followed by talk of exciting skills or special performances, as this was far from a classic. Canaries boss Alex Neil will not be bothered though.
Winning 1-0 away from home, after resisting Cardiff's attempts to bully them into submission on the pitch and the Bluebirds' fans cranking up the pressure in the stands, was just what City needed.
Eight successive away games without a victory – 10 when cup games are included – stretching all the way back to October 1 meant fans, players and staff would all have snapped the proverbial hand off for a 1-0 win were it offered before kick-off.
It's the kind of result that successful seasons are built upon. Burnley won by a one-goal margin away from home on eight occasions on their way to the Championship title last season.
You may also want to watch:
Clearly automatic promotion remains incredibly unlikely, with a 15-point gap to close and 17 games to do it in, but it is a result so much heart can be taken from as hopes of a play-off place grow stronger by the game.
It was never going to be easy at Cardiff City Stadium, against a team who had won their last three home matches and who have become far stronger from having Yorkshire grit barked at them by Neil Warnock.
- 1 Trains cancelled due to flooding - and more heavy rain expected
- 2 More storms ahead as flood warnings remain in place
- 3 Man taken to hospital after cardiac arrest at beach
- 4 Risk of flooding in parts of region as storms slowly move in
- 5 Family demands answers after 91-year-old dies weighing four stone
- 6 Joy and relief as Latitude passes off successfully
- 7 Never mind the limo - aspiring farmer rides tractor to prom night
- 8 Church with 'features to get excited about' for sale for £80,000
- 9 Incredible aerial photos show scale of Latitude Festival
- 10 Cannabis stash worth about £2000 found hidden in home
So it was a brave decision from Neil to chuck in his two new boys from the start in South Wales, pitching Mitchell Dijks and Yanic Wilschut into the thick of battle just four days after signing.
Dijks in particular – the full six-foot four-inches of him – took to the encounter like a player seasoned in the drudgery of the English lower leagues, not European style with Ajax.
The left-back combined with the excellent Timm Klose from the opening minutes to make sure that any ball which came in their direction was soon repelled.
They had a huge opponent to contend with as well in Cardiff striker Kenneth Zohore but Dijks dumped the danger-man on his backside in the opening minutes and Klose towered about the Dane throughout the first half.
There was an early moment of concern when right-back Matthew Connolly found the space to send a sumptuous deep cross from the right which curled towards Zohore, as he climbed high above Russell Martin, only to head weakly at John Ruddy.
Little else troubled the City goal for the majority of the game though, as the visitors defended from the front, with even Wes Hoolahan indulging in some slide-tackling.
Cameron Jerome and Jonny Howson were both deservedly booked for getting stuck into the rough and tumble, as was Alex Tettey, finally receiving his 10th yellow card of the campaign.
However, the key moment summed up the Canaries' roller-coaster season nicely.
In amongst the much-improved will to battle and focus on the defensive necessities which this quality-laden Norwich squad have neglected too often this season, was a sequence of enjoyable class.
Klose's deft touch to keep the ball from going out for a throw on the left allowed Dijks to set Howson and Hoolahan away. Sharp passing between the midfielders saw Jerome on the charge and chopped down by Aron Gunnarsson 30 yards out.
Hoolahan put the subsequent low free-kick just where Jerome had asked for it and the striker showed more determination than Sean Morrison to dive headfirst and nod into the bottom-left corner of the net from six yards.
Either side of the goal City's top scorer had also tested home keeper Allan McGregor but one goal was enough.
Two desperate penalty claims from the hosts were survived and Ruddy made a vital save to thwart Craig Noone after the substitute's weaving run left Dijks and Klose in his wake, as City held on.
When these Norwich players match the opposition's desire and physicality, they have the quality to beat anyone in the division. This time, they did.
It wasn't pretty but it was a third win on the spin which meant so much, epitomised by the response from the travelling fans as Russell Martin punched the air in satisfied delight at full-time.
Much more work is needed before promotion can genuinely be considered again but just what would another scrappy 1-0 away win mean to Neil at Wigan tomorrow night? If it was offered to him, he wouldn't just snap your hand off, you'd need stitches to reattach your arm.