A TENACIOUS and spirited Swindon Town performance went unrewarded at Norwich City this evening as they suffered a narrow defeat in the Carabao Cup first round.

Town were always likely to be up against it to claim victory at Carrow Road but there was no shortage of endeavour on display and no huge disparity between the teams as they went toe-to-toe with quality Championship opposition.

Although the result hands David Flitcroft a first defeat of his tenure, the new Swindon manager can take plenty of encouragement to go alongside that which had been gained in Saturday’s triumphant League Two opener at Carlisle United.

After showing plenty of combative qualities early on, Swindon broke the deadlock midway through the first half when skipper Olly Lancashire headed home Chris Hussey’s free-kick.

However, that only served to kick the Canaries into life and they swiftly turned the game around before the break with three goals from Cameron Jerome, Wes Hoolahan and James Maddison.

Town came out fired up after the break and Paul Mullin reduced the arrears to a single goal on the hour, again rising to meet another whipped free-kick from Hussey.

The visitors threw everything at the Canaries in their efforts to force an equaliser in the dying minutes but Mullin, James Dunne and Harry Smith all saw efforts turned away as the home side held on.

Town were not overawed by their illustrious hosts early on and showed plenty of encouraging signs, although it was Norwich who fashioned out the first real chance when Maddison blazed over the top after six minutes.

Swindon’s play was tenacious in the opening exchanges as they hassled and harried the Canaries and that led to a glorious chance to break the deadlock on 11 minutes.

Norwich made one too many pass in their own box, with Conor Thomas’ persistence resulting in an interception that sent Smith in on goal. However, his first touch took him wide before his attempted lob over goalkeeper Angus Gunn was hooked away by Maddison on the line.

Town had their tails up and another good chance came their way midway through the half when a pinpoint cross from James Brophy was met by Mullin in the box but his header went straight at Gunn.

That was the catalyst for the game suddenly sparking into life and Lawrence Vigouroux did well to deny Jerome after he raced in on the Town keeper before Dunne got enough of a deflection to divert Josh Murphy’s effort over the top after he gathered the loose ball.

Murphy then sent another curling effort narrowly wide via a deflection but just as the atmosphere in Carrow Road began to rise, Town silenced it with the opening goal after 25 minutes.

Brophy was brought down on edge of the box, Hussey whipped in a perfectly-flighted free-kick and Swindon skipper Lancashire lost his man to firmly plant home a header from six yards.

Unfortunately, the visitors’ lead lasted just three minutes as Norwich drew level in fortuitous circumstances. Jerome threaded Maddison into the box and although Town quickly closed around him, the ball ricocheted back to Jerome, who beat Vigouroux from close range.

The equaliser galvanised the home side and the floodgates swiftly opened, with two more goals arriving before the break.

Norwich sent a warning sign when Murphy darted to meet a quick lofted free-kick from Hoolahan but Lancashire did enough to put him off clean shot.

However, the Canaries did not take long to get in front, with Hoolahan smashing past Vigouroux after a lovely exchange of passes with Maddison.

Town were opened up again two minutes before the break, with Hoolahan this time repaying the favour to Maddison, who swivelled in the box before lashing home.

Things could have been even worse for the visitors had Vigouroux not pulled off a fine fingertip save from Maddison in first-half stoppage time.

Town were not going to go down without a fight and had the first chance of the opening second-half skirmishes when Dunne drove forward powerfully after winning the ball on halfway before releasing Mullin but the home defence recovered just as he looked to pull the trigger.

The Canaries had been warned and Mullin hauled Town back into the game on the hour as the deficit was cut to one. Another corking Hussey free-kick from the left created the goal as Mullin rose beautifully to flick a header into the top corner.

Nerves were jangling in the visiting dugout with 12 minutes to play when Vigouroux rushed from his line as Jerome bore down on goal, with the Swindon stopper only succeeding in bringing down the Norwich forward.

Fortunately, the incident occurred just outside the box and Vigouroux escaped with just a yellow card so was back on his line to see Maddison’s free-kick sail harmlessly over the bar.

Town thought they had an equaliser five minutes from time when Mullin pounced on Smith’s knockdown from Hussey’s cross but Canaries keeper Gunn made a stunning reaction stop to keep him at bay.

The visitors threw caution to the wind in the dying stages and Dunne pounced on a loose pass in the Norwich box but was also thwarted by Gunn before Smith’s follow-up was deflected wide as Town could just not force the game into extra time.

NORWICH CITY: Gunn; Pinto (Martin 78), Zimmermann, Franke, Husband; Reed (Tettey 78); Hoolahan (c) (Watkins 88), Maddison, Vrancic, Murphy; Jerome. Subs not used: McGovern, Wildschut, Stiepermann, Godfrey.

SWINDON TOWN: Vigouroux; Purkiss, Robertson, Lancashire (capt) Hussey; Brophy, Thomas, Dunne, T Smith (Iandolo 49), Mullin; H Smith. Subs not used: Henry, Young, Twine.

Referee: Geoff Eltringham

Attendance: 13,166