Norwich City 1 Cardiff City 0: Etuhu clips Bluebirds' wings

Leaders let it slipas chairman Hammam prepares to step down
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The Independent Online

Unsettling times at Cardiff. Not only did they suffer their second defeat of the season yesterday, but their chairman, Sam Hammam, is expected to stand down this week. The Cardiff manager, Dave Jones, insisted he knew "nothing" of a potential takeover, but reports suggest Hammam informed the board of his decision on Friday, and there have been rumours suggesting the former Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale will replace him.

Whether because of that uncertainty, because of the absence through suspension of their top scorer, Michael Chopra, or simply because, as Jones insisted, they had just "failed to get out of the traps", this was a performance of uncharacteristic flatness from the Championship leaders. Without Chopra they lacked the verve of recent performances, although Jones insisted it was "an insult to the other players" to suggest Cardiff are "a one-man team".

"I don't think Chopra playing today would have caused my back four or goalkeeper to play better," he said. "Just because we were missing one player doesn't give the others out on the pitch an excuse not to play well." The fact remains that they didn't, and that brings to the surface doubts about the depth of their squad.

Only when the rapid Malvin Kamara came on at half-time did Cardiff pose a threat, but even then the Norwich goalkeeper, Jamie Ashdown, had a relatively untroubled afternoon in his first appearance since joining on loan from Portsmouth. "We were camped in their half but never hurt them," Jones said. The second half degenerated into untidiness and then fractiousness, culminating in the dismissal of Paul McVeigh and Kerrea Gilbert as they clashed in injury-time, but before the break Norwich produced football of genuine quality.

Organisation was so much the forte of Peter Grant in his playing days that Celtic fans dubbed him "Peter the Pointer". The new manager appears to be pointing in the right direction at Norwich, his first home game bringing a second clean sheet in as many games and ending Cardiff's five-match winning run.

Grant himself was relatively downbeat. "The first half was 10 out of 10, the second two," he said. "The first half we created chances and played at a tempo we can; the second half we let a very good side dominate us. The players got a bit lazy in their minds." Others might have praised his side's doggedness in managing to prevent Cardiff from having a shot, but he worried about defenders being dragged out of position and Ashdown's lack of command of his box.

For all his grumbling, Grant's arrival has unleashed a wave of optimism. The hum of the standing ovation that greeted him had barely died away when Dickson Etuhu gave Norwich a seventh-minute lead. Bafflingly untended, he gathered Youssef Safri's pass and sent a curler into the top corner. Norwich had enjoyed enough chances to have had the game wrapped up by the break, even Gary Doherty at one point taking the ball down while back-pedalling before beating his man and attempting a chip with the outside of his right foot.

Change for Norwich has brought hope; but Cardiff will treat their revolution with circumspection.

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