Despite a valiant fight, the Bluebirds fell to a 3-1 defeat at promotion-chasing Ipswich Town on Tuesday night.
The Bluebirds defence will have already been aware of the threat posed by in-form Tractor Boys forward Freddie Sears with the former West Ham man having netted at Cardiff City Stadium in an F.A. Cup clash for Colchester United in January. Sears added his eighth Ipswich goal on the eighth minute, latching onto a lofted pass from Christophe Berra to trouble Bruno Ecuele Manga before getting a shot away. The strikers effort deflected off the Gabon defender and past Marshall to give Town an early advantage.
City refused to let this early set back hurt them and they levelled the game five minutes later. Peter Whittingham's initial free kick was blocked by the Town back line with Cardiff playing patient possession football in an attempt to find the best route to goal. This eventually came down the left side as Joe Ralls found Scott Malone. The former Millwall left back's exquisite cross was met perfectly by Eoin Doyle to equalise for Russell Slade's side.
Both teams were showing will to this battle but it was a bolt out of the blue that changed the match on 29 minutes. Bruno Ecuele Manga's attempted clearance fell to former Bristol City man Cole Skuse 35-yards from goal, and the midfielder fired an unstoppable strike past the diving David Marshall and into the back of the net off the inside of the goal post. A quite incredible goal by Skuse to give the Tractor Boys an advantage.
City should have arguably entered the interval level once more. Fabio began this match in a more advanced role on the right hand side of midfield, and the Brazilian met Joe Mason's superb cross on 42 minutes in two minds; whether to supply Eoin Doyle or shoot at goal. The eventual effort evaded both Doyle, and the far post - a let off for Mick McCarthy's men going in at the break.
Second half battle
The second half saw both teams up their work rates, with a number of debatable challenges flying in. This resulted in bookings for both teams, while the biggest altercation came after 63 minutes. Fabio and his opposing No. 3 Tyrone Mings almost coming to blows following a tackle by the former Manchester United defender. Referee Gavin Ward settled the situation with bookings for each man.
Bluebirds captain David Marshall kept Slade's men in the match on 77 minutes, diving to his left and somehow denying the bullet header of fellow Scottish international Christophe Berra. This save looked like it could be crucial with five minutes remaining as City had a key opportunity to equalise. Whittingham and substitute Craig Noone combining down the right side, Noone dancing past two defenders before playing the ball through to Aron Gunnarsson in the area. The Iceland captain stabbed the ball towards goal but inches wide.
Sky Bet Championship top goal-scorer Daryl Murphy was lively all evening, and put the game to bed for Town deep in added time as Russell Slade's men pushed for a second goal. Murphy slotting the ball under David Marshall from close range to secure all three points for his team.
FINAL SCORE: IPSWICH TOWN 3-1 CARDIFF CITY (Sears, 8, Skuse, 31, Murphy, 90; Doyle, 13)
Ipswich Town: Bialkowski, Parr (Anderson, 74), Mings, Chambers, Smith, Berra, Skuse, Murphy, Hunt (Tabb, 58), Sears, Bishop (Fryers, 87). Subs Not Used: Gerken, Chaplow, Wood, Williams.
Cardiff City: Marshall, Peltier, Malone, Morrison, Ecuele Manga, Gunnarsson, Whittingham, Ralls (Pilkington, 74), Fabio (Noone, 64), Doyle (Harris, 85), Mason. Subs Not Used: Moore, Adeyemi, O'Keefe, Kennedy.
Attendance: 17,722 (197 Away)