We can't defend like that - City boss Lambert

David Cuffley Manager Paul Lambert lamented his side's sloppy defending as Norwich City's eagerly-awaited return to the Championship ended in defeat in front of the TV cameras.

David Cuffley

Manager Paul Lambert lamented his side's sloppy defending as Norwich City's eagerly-awaited return to the Championship ended in defeat in front of the TV cameras.

Danny Graham scored twice as Watford, managed by ex-Canary Malky Mackay, kicked off the new campaign with a well-deserved 3-2 win and wrecked a big night for Lambert's new-look team and an expectant crowd of more than 24,000 at Carrow Road.

Skipper John Eustace and striker Graham gave Watford a two-goal lead inside 24 minutes as they cashed in on some pedestrian defending.

“You can't defend the way we did for the first two goals. It gives you a hard task ahead,” said Lambert. “But in the second half I thought we came back strongly.

“You've got to defend set pieces. Football matches are littered with mistakes and it's the team that makes fewest mistakes that tends to come out on top.

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“You get punished quicker. The higher the level you go up the more you get punished and that was certainly the case.

“The disappointing thing was the goals. In the second half I thought we played pretty decent.”

Midfielder Andrew Crofts, one of six debutants on show in a much-changed line-up from that which won the League One title, gave the hosts hope when he reduced the arrears after 52 minutes with a splendidly-worked goal, but Graham effectively made the game safe with his second goal nine minutes from time - though City protested that acting skipper Michael Nelson had been fouled in the build-up.

Nelson pulled a goal back for City on the 90-minute mark after good work by Crofts, but too late to affect the outcome.

“The third goal took the wind out of our sails but I thought it was a free-kick for us,” said Lambert.

“Some you get, some you don't. You just pick yourself up and you go again.”

Lambert defended the introduction of six new faces for the first match and said unfamiliarity was not a factor in the defeat.

“I think at a club this size you've got to hit the ground running because of the amount of people who come and watch,” he said. “And if you're here, I believe you're good enough to play here - it's nothing to do with that.

“I thought in the second half we played well and had a lot of the ball, created some decent chances and got back into the game.

“I don't panic but they knew in no uncertain terms what I thought. I know if it is 2-0 and you get them into the dressing room at half-time, you regroup and you go again and, to be fair to the lads, they did.

“They got the goal and looked more threatening and on the ascendancy but I thought the third goal was a mistake by the referee.”

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 yesterday for a magistrates' court appearance, where he was convicted of a motoring offence in his absence, Holt was not considered fit enough to start, so new signing Simeon Jackson partnered Chris Martin in attack.

“He's not done any training as such. He's done little bits himself and with the physios and the fitness coach but whether he's fit enough to start at the minute I don't know,” said Lambert.

The City boss also defended goalkeeper John Ruddy, despite the soft nature of Watford's third goal.

“It looked as if it went right in the corner. He made a terrific save in the first half so I don't attach any blame to John at all,” he said.

Last night's defeat may have served as a rude awakening after City romped to the League One title by a nine-point margin.

But Lambert admitted: “Nothing really shocks me. You have to earn the right to win anything. Football owes you nothing and it's not going to come in your lap and say 'There you go'. You've got to go and get it and go and work at it and you give credit to Watford for beating us.

“They're an established Championship club and it's new to us.

“Last year's gone. You stress that to people - what you've done in the past stays in the past. You don't live on it.

“We will keep going and pick ourselves up and go again. You don't get time to dwell on things and if you're over-analytical all the time you start to believe the negativity. I'm not like that.”

City are in action again on Tuesday night when they entertain Gillingham in the Carling Cup first round.

“I want players to come out and they've got a chance to rectify it on Tuesday and that's what we'll try to do,” he said.