No wonder Daniel Farke is loth to lose Emi Buendía or Todd Cantwell anytime soon. Cantwell capped a magical performance with a goal as Norwich City racked up a seventh victory in nine league games to open up an eight-point buffer to third-placed Bournemouth, who slipped up at home to Luton. Cardiff were outclassed but never gave up, pulling a goal back through Joe Ralls before Marlon Pack, who was walking a tightrope, was sent off.
Farke brimmed with pride as the Norwich juggernaut rolled on, despite the absence of nine first-team players through illness and injury. Striker Teemu Pukki was among those missing and is expected to return against Bristol City on Wednesday but Farke, whose side are two points better off than when they steamrollered to the Championship crown two seasons ago, knows there is work to do. “The table is not done after 24 games, we have to keep going,” he said. “We have to win many more points. We cannot feel too proud of ourselves. But so far so good, you have to say. We are happy with 50 points at this stage. We are more or less labelled as the favourites in every game so to deliver this consistency is outstanding, but we have to keep going.”
Farke’s side were fuelled by Cantwell and Buendía, while Oliver Skipp, the Tottenham loanee, was quietly assured. Cardiff started with a spurt but were floored inside just two-and-a-half minutes, when the Norwich captain, Grant Hanley, nodded in after Mario Vrancic glanced on Buendía’s corner unchallenged. Slack marking was a recurring theme and, having sent a delicious effort dipping wide moments earlier, Cantwell doubled Norwich’s lead after leaping on to the rebound of a strike from Jordan Hugill, who selflessly led the line in the absence of Pukki. Kenny McLean thought he added a third on the half-hour but steered his header against the side-netting.
Bournemouth missed the chance to move second in the Championship after a bruising 1-0 home defeat to Luton. The hosts’ task was made harder when Jefferson Lerma was sent off after 26 minutes for leading with an arm in an aerial challenge with Tom Lockyer – the Luton defender sustaining a cut that required heavy bandaging.
Luton’s winner came on 67 minutes when Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall curled a fine shot into the corner from 15 yards.
Watford returned to the play‑off places with a 2-0 win over Huddersfield. Tom Cleverley gave them a 54th-minute lead by capitalising on some indecisive defending and João Pedro made sure of the points 10 minutes later, tapping in at the far post from Kiko Femenia’s cross.
Sammy Ameobi struck twice as Nottingham Forest secured back-to-back wins with a 3-1 victory against Millwall. Forest, who pulled six points clear of the bottom three, took the lead after 34 minutes as Ameobi’s long-range strike found the bottom corner and he doubled their advantage 20 minutes from time with a superb strike from 25 yards. Ryan Yates made it 3-0 with seven minutes remaining, before Ben Thompson hit a consolation.
Aitor Karanka called Birmingham’s 1-0 victory at Middlesbrough “a real sign for the future”. The Spaniard, back at the Riverside where he spent four years in charge, enjoyed a first win in seven games thanks to Scott Hogan’s 26th-minute strike. “We played well for 45 minutes then had to defend,” he said. “We’ve shown we’re a good team with the ball and a good team without the ball: we hope this is a sign of what is to come.”
Stoke held on to draw 1-1 at Blackburn. Nick Powell’s 38th-minute header from Jordan Thompson’s corner put them in front at Ewood Park, but John Buckley fired in from close range on 76 minutes, and James Chester was sent off three minutes later.
Goals from Famara Diedhiou and Zak Vyner gave Bristol City a 2-0 win over Preston. It was Vyner’s first for City and helped ensure his side’s play-off bid remains on track. Second-placed Swansea, meanwhile, travelled to Barnsley in the day’s late kick-off.
For a Cardiff team languishing in 15th, 11 points off sixth-placed Reading, it is impossible to escape the magnitude of Wednesday’s game here against Queens Park Rangers. Manager Neil Harris has now lost six of his past seven matches in all competitions and a one-sided defeat against the leaders capped a miserable week. On Monday the Cardiff dressing room was rocked by defender Sol Bamba announcing to the squad he has started a course of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and, in a show of support, his teammates warmed up in T-shirts adorned with Bamba’s name and number. On the front of the tops read the message: “We fight with you”.
The gnawing thing from a Cardiff perspective is that this game could have taken a different path had Harry Wilson, on loan from Liverpool, shown greater poise after being slipped in on goal by Robert Glatzel with just 18 seconds on the clock. Wilson fluffed his lines, a poor first touch putting paid to his chances of beating, in effect, the fourth-choice Norwich goalkeeper, Daniel Barden, who spent last season on loan at eighth-tier Bury Town.
A hat-trick from Charlie Wyke fired Sunderland to a convincing 3-0 win over AFC Wimbledon. The visitors went ahead within seven minutes when Wyke bundled the ball in from close range. Wyke flicked home at the near post from Grant Leadbitter’s corner in the 87th minute before grabbing his third in stoppage time.
Fejiri Okenabirhie struck twice as Doncaster eased to a 2-1 victory at Swindon. Peterborough made light work of MK Dons as Jonson Clarke-Harris set them on their way to a 3-0 win, with Sammie Szmodics grabbing the other two goals.
Second-placed Hull did not make the most of leaders Lincoln having their match called off, only drawing 1-1 against Blackpool. Mallik Wilks gave the Tigers the lead but the Tangerines equalised soon after Reece Burke was dismissed for a professional foul through Jerry Yates.
In their previous two fixtures, Rochdale had drawn 3-3 and 4-4, making them the division’s entertainers, a reputation they lived up to in another 3-3 draw, this time against Wigan. Despite going down to 10 men before the break, Dale battled to a point thanks to a dramatic equaliser from Stephen Humphrys in the 95th minute.
One-nil away victories were in fashion on Saturday as Gillingham downed Accrington, Charlton edged past Bristol Rovers, Ipswich beat Burton and Portsmouth held off Fleetwood. An Oli Finney strike earned Crewe a point at Plymouth, who had taken the lead through a Luke Jephcott penalty.
There were only two victories in the fourth tier. Barrow leapfrogged Scunthorpe to move up to 20th in the table thanks to Josh Kay’s strike.
Leyton Orient left it late to down Morecambe 2-0; Nathaniel Knight-Percival put the ball into his own net in the 88th minute, before Lee Angol sealed the points in injury-time.
There were four 1-1 draws out of the 10 completed fixtures. Eoin Doyle’s equaliser earned a late point for Bolton against Cheltenham. Colchester and Cambridge ended even after Greg Taylor’s own goal cancelled out Harvey Knibbs’ opener. Forest Green and Port Vale shared the spoils, as did Walsall and Oldham.
The bottom two, Grimsby and Southend, played out a goalless draw, with 22nd placed Stevenage being held 0-0 at home by Tranmere.
Cardiff are keen to add defensive reinforcements, namely a right-back, but have bolstered their attack with the arrival of Max Watters from Crawley. The striker scored 16 goals in 19 games for the League Two side but Harris knows Cardiff require more if they are to trouble the top six. “We will continue to add in the transfer window and we will get better and better,” Harris said.
Cardiff spurned a golden opening in the first half when Will Vaulks slid in Leandro Bacuna, only for the full-back to send in a bumbling cross that dribbled into Barden’s hands. It was a travesty Cardiff failed to truly test a goalkeeper making his first league start but they earned a lifeline when Ralls powered in.
Pack’s dismissal after picking up a second yellow card made a tough task harder but the substitute Kieffer Moore enabled Curtis Nelson to send a tame header at goal. Norwich would have been kicking themselves had it gone in.