Norwich City 1 Bristol City 0
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City captain Jonny Howson sealed the Canaries first Championship home win of the season to warm up perfectly for this weekend's East Anglian derby trip to Ipswich.
Alex Neil's men ended the Robins unbeaten start to the new league campaign but Norwich were made to work for the three points with Howson superbly curlign a first half finish past Richard O'Donnell.
Norwich hit the post in each half but had to survive a tense finale to make it seven points from their opening three league games.
Michael McGovern replaced John Ruddy (groin) with Robbie Brady switched to left-back in the absence of Martin Olsson (hamstring) and Josh Murphy earned a first start of the new season. His twin Jacob (hamstring) remained on the sidelines, along with Alex Pritchard (muscular injury) and Graham Dorrans (groin) although the Scot is expected to step up his return to fitness in training later this week. Ruddy's absence earned a first call up to the senior ranks for ex-Portsmouth stopper Paul Jones and Kyle Lafferty returned on the bench after sitting out the goalless weekend draw against Sheffield Wednesday.
Former City midfielder Gary O'Neil was in the Robins' line up, with Lee Johnson making one change from the side that beat Burton 2-1 on Saturday - Marlon Pack replacing Josh Brownhill.
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Neil made it clear in his Sheffield Wednesday de-brief the Canaries defended too deeply against the Owls but a noticeably higher line in the early sparring almost proved their undoing, before Ryan Bennett halted Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham.
Callum O'Dowda then headed over at the back post after Kodjia had burst past Brady. Steven Naismith cut inside to collect the Irishman's quick throw but miscued a right-footed strike that veered wide of Richard O'Donnell's far post.
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Norwich's early attacking work still lacked the composure or assurance of that opening day romp at Blackburn - Murphy was forced across the face of the Robins' penalty area before carving another wayward shot over the top.
Norwich briefly threatened to shed some of that lethargy with Naismith dipping inside Mark Little but the Scot was crowded out by Aden Flint.
It proved a temporary interlude as McGovern beat away Kodjia's angled lash. Suitably stung into action, Norwich worked Brady into a promising position on the edge of the area before Alex Tettey crashed his cut-back against the post from 20 yards with O'Donnell well beaten.
Norwich's passing rhythm was still fitful as Robins withdrew all 10 outfield players deep into their own half to erect an impenetrable barrier at times.
Hoolahan carved a free kick out of play just past the half-hour mark, which triggered a murmur of discontent from the home fans and a look of bemusement from the Dubliner.
But as so often it was the club's long-serving Irishman who broke the impasse with an instinctive burst and first time flick for Howson to curl a 14-yard finish into the top corner.
The sense of relief was tangible - both in the celebrations on the pitch and the terraces - after building frustration, heaped on Saturday's goalless home offering.
Norwich surged forward in the aftermath with Josh Murphy running into clear air for the first time and Bennett lifting a lob onto the roof of the visitors' netting.
Naismith and Cameron Jerome then combined instinctively but O'Donnell gathered the tame shot, as that suffocating midfield press directed by the wily O'Neil starting to fray in the closing moments of the first period.
Norwich's commanding finish was matched by a sluggish start to the second half. Ivo Pinto's booking owed everything to Bennett's sloppy pass before Hoolahan showcased his defensive instincts to track back and clear Joe Bryan's low cross.
The Canaries' inability to retain possession was instilling a growing belief in the visitors and McGovern had to scramble across his line to palm away Flint's towering header.
Neil had seen enough and called for Sergi Canos who replaced Murphy to make his first competitive appearance against the club who were desperate to sign him in the summer from Liverpool.
¬¬The Spaniard wasted little time trying to create a favourable impression with his new employer when he brushed past two defenders but clipped a right-footed shot at O'Donnell.
Norwich continued to probe for the second, which would have quelled any Bristol uprising, and Hoolahan was desperately unlucky not to notch when his angled shot hit the base of O'Donnell's far post and rebounded to the keeper.
O'Donnell brilliantly foiled Jerome in the 79th minute when he contorted his body in mid-air to tip the striker's close range header over, although the striker was adjudged to have fouled Flint.
Neil introduced Youssouf Mulumbu for Hoolahan with a view to protection in the midst of the hunt for a decisive second.
Kyle Lafferty completed the set from the bench in the final minute of normal time with Jerome making way. The hosts survived a scare in stoppage time when O'Neil's bending free kick skipped through to McGovern.
• Norwich: McGovern, Pinto, Bennett, Klose, Brady, Howson, Tettey, Josh Murphy (Canos 60), Naismith, Hoolahan (Mulumbu 83), Jerome (Lafferty 89). Subs (not used): Jones, Martin, Bassong, Morris.
• Bookings: Pinto (foul on O'Dowda, 50); Tettey (dissent, 90)
• Goal: Howson (38)
• Bristol City: O'Donnell, Little (Matthews 73), Flint, Magnusson, Bryan, O'Neil, O'Dowda (Freeman 62), Pack (Reid 74), Tomlin, Abraham, Kodjia. Subs (not used): O'Leary, Golbourne, Brownhill, Wilbraham.
• Time added on: 3 minutes / 4 minutes
• Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warks)
• Attendance: 26,297