Cardiff manager Neil Harris promised there is more to come from his side after Leandro Bacuna's strike earned a 1-0 victory over Stoke in his first home game in charge.
The only goal of the game came in the 11th minute after Lee Peltier's long throw fell at the feet of striker Gary Madine.
Bacuna raced on to his deft flick in behind Stoke defender Bruno Martins Indi and powered a shot into past goalkeeper Jack Butland into the roof of the net.
Harris admitted: "It wasn't a classic, it was a typical scrappy Tuesday night football match.
"We played open and expansive football on the weekend. It was exciting, but it's not always going to be like that.
"I thought we were more structured tonight and more shape about them.
"I'm delighted for the players. We'll be better than that, I promise you that. If we have to roll our sleeves up and battle like that then we can do so.
"We limited Stoke's opportunities. Sometimes you need that one moment. I'm delighted with the end product of a clean sheet.
"Time on the grass has been very limited since coming into the club. I'm trying to get defensive responsibilities into them but it's hard work for them.
"It's about action and application. A desire to play for this great club. With a new manager they have to prove they have the determination to play in this team.
"I'm not going to have easy selection decisions to make if the players continue to show the right attitude."
After Bacuna's opener Tom Ince went within a yard of levelling with a curling free-kick after being tripped by Lee Tomlin.
But moments later the Bluebirds playmaker was having an impact at the other end of the pitch.
He battled with Joe Allen into the area and sent a low cross along the six-yard box to tee up Madine.
The striker looked certain to net his first Cardiff goal, but Butland was in the right place at the right time to deny him to keep it at 1-0.
Ince curled a free-kick agonisingly wide before going close to an equaliser again after half-time, but Cardiff held on to secure their first win under Harris.
Michael O'Neill suffered his first defeat as Stoke manager after back-to-back victories over Barnsley and Wigan and he has urged his players to be braver on the ball.
"We're disappointed to lose the game given the nature of the goal we gave away," said O'Neill.
"It was poor, it came from a throw-in. We had a lot of possession but possession without a lot of purpose.
"The biggest disappointment was that we didn't play with the same purpose in the final third. We turned down the opportunity to cross the ball so often in the game, and the quality of the ball was poor. That's the most disappointing thing.
"They have to play with more belief. We have to be braver, in terms of our decision making and we have to be less concerned about making mistakes.
"That's not something we saw in the opening two games. In the opening two games, we've scored six goals, created a number of chances, so it was disappointing tonight given the level of possession we had that we didn't see that translate into better opportunities."