Norwich City 2, Watford 3

Norwich City’s eagerly-awaited return to the Championship ended in disappointment as they crashed to defeat at the hands of Watford.

Danny Graham scored twice as the Hornets, managed by ex-Canary Malky Mackay, wrecked the big night for Paul Lambert and his new-look side.

Skipper John Eustace and Graham gave Watford a two-goal lead inside 24 minutes, and although new signing Andrew Crofts gave City hope when he reduced the gap after 52 minutes with a splendidly-worked goal, Graham effectively made the game safe with his second goal nine minutes from time.

Michael Nelson, captain on the night, pulled a goal back for City on 90 minutes, but too late to affect the outcome.

It was a frustrating night for a crowd of more than 24,000 at Carrow Road, but there could be few real complaints despite an element of dispute over Watford's third goal.

Skipper Grant Holt had to settle for a place on the substitutes' bench and did not appear until 18 minutes from time.

Despite not travelling to Shropshire for a magistrates' court appearance, where he was convicted of a motoring offence in his absence, Holt was left out of the starting line-up with Simeon Jackson partnering Chris Martin in attack.

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Jackson was one of six summer signings included in the eleven, which was unchanged from the friendly at home to Everton six days earlier.

Watford began brightly and had the first shot at goal in the fourth minute when John Eustace fired over from outside the area from Will Buckley's pass.

City replied with Chris Martin nodding down Michael Nelson's cross to Jackson, but he was unable to make clean contact as Martin Taylor challenged, keeper Scott Loach making a comfortable save.

City keeper John Ruddy did well to grab a cross from Don Cowie at full stretch, then Danny Graham volleyed off target from a tight angle.

Watford took the lead from their first corner in the 14th minute. The ball was played short to Cowie and his cross was chested down by skipper John Eustace, who rifled a left-foot shot past Ruddy with the help of a deflection off Elliott Ward.

Cowie was booked in the 21st minute for breaking from the wall to block Chris Martin's free-kick, and from the retaken kick, City produced their best effort with Loach diving to the right to keep out Andrew Surman's effort.

It was 2-0 in the 24th minute as Graham produced an excellent finish after a neat one-two with Marvin Sordell, who hooked the ball perfectly into his path.

Ruddy had to make a vital save from Will Buckley after 29 minutes, diving to his right to palm away the shot after Sordell again got the better of the home defence.

Simeon Jackson fired into the side netting after a flick from Chris Martin five minutes before the break.

HALF-TIME: Norwich City 0, Watford 2

City eventually reduced the deficit seven minutes after the break.

Wes Hoolahan made good headway before picking out Jackson, whose neat backheel fell perfectly for Crofts to drill a low right-foot shot past Loach.

There was a lucky escape for City after 58 minutes when Ruddy spilled a cross from Buckley but defender Adrian Mariappa headed wide of an empty net.

David Fox brought Loach into action with a shot from the edge of the area as heavy rain began to sweep across the ground.

City made their first change with 18 minutes left when Holt replaced Jackson.

With 10 minutes left, Holt headed wide from Hoolahan's cross at the end of a flowing City move.

Watford made the game safe, however, nine minutes from time but there was an element of controversy as Graham made it 3-1.

City protested about a shove on Nelson in the build-up to the goal before Graham threaded a low shot just inside the post for his second goal of the night.

Nelson pulled a goal back as the clock passed 90 minutes, shooting home from close range after good work by Chris Martin.

RESULT: Norwich City 2, Watford 3