Lightweight Town produced an insipid performance in South Wales and Cardiff came away with 3 of the easiest points they will win this season.
Defensively fragile and offensively inoffensive, periods of lengthy, pretty possession which lacked any penetration and precious little invention, Town failed to worry a superbly disciplined Cardiff defence who allowed their opponents to fanny around in front of them for most of the night.
Showing five changes from the victory over Middlesbrough was perhaps something of an indication of Corberán’s confidence of victory in a city which has generally proved extremely tough over the years. Hamer’s return was expected and even had Bacuna’s hamstring hadn’t ruled him out, his negligent first half on Saturday deserved a benching. Campbell is bound to be rested during a brutal schedule.
It was, however, the reappearance of Schindler in place of the excellent Edmonds-Green and a season debut for Daly which provided the surprises. Neither proved particularly good changes, with Daly anonymous after 15 minutes and Schindler, despite a couple of good interventions in the second half, caught unawares for the opener which sealed Town’s fate relatively early.
The first 20 minutes were not too bad with Town getting some joy down the left with Toffolo and Daly combining well at times though the final ball was lacking and both disappeared somewhat as the whole team lost that half yard which, coupled with speedy passing and movement, can occasionally make them very watchable.
Untroubled at the back, Cardiff gradually imposed themselves on the game, locked Town in to increasingly futile passing and began pressing the ball hard. With a huge aerial threat in their armoury, the Bluebirds had Town’s defence on high alert from corners, free kicks and long throw ins. It wasn’t massively pleasing on the eye but far more effective than Town’s yawn inducing backwards and sideways slow march to nowhere.
The only attack of any credibility or note saw a good combination between Duhaney and Koroma free Town’s leading scorer to the byline only for Ward to tamely flick the ball in to Smithies’ arms from close in. On his return to South Wales, Ward was largely disappointing and wholly ineffectual.
That chance, the only genuine threat Town created in a first half which deteriorated fast for the visitors, preceded Cardiff’s opener when Duhaney was far too weak on the right and failed to prevent a near post cross which saw Moore easily beat the slumbering Schindler to the ball and an easy slot in for the lead.
The only consolation for the visitors was that Cardiff didn’t add to their lead in the rest of the half as Town’s composure wobbled badly and even the futile possession game broke down.
Mbenza replaced Daly at half time, a move as obvious as it was necessary, and Town started reasonably brightly but still without teeth. Koroma came in to the game a little more but was unable to find much space to create danger and the home side nonchalantly soaked up the puny punches thrown at them, knowing that their time would come.
Without ever really suggesting they would equalise, at just one goal down there was always a chance that something would work for the Terriers, and O’Brien’s probing and Eiting’s quality could conceivably have unlocked the door, but Naby Sarr, who had already had a pretty poor night, soon squashed that fading chimera.
Put in to a modicum of trouble by an ill-advised ball from Hamer while clearly in imminent trouble from a press, the Frenchman’s palpable panic induced him to try a turn only to tread on the ball allowing Junior Hoilett to square to Moore for his second gift of the evening.
Multiple substitutions failed to inspire a reaction from Town who were already skulking to defeat when Cardiff topped a very good few days for them with a third. At least this one had a genuine touch of quality about it as Ojo fed Glatzel in the box with a nicely judged ball. Edmonds-Green was caught on the wrong side of the substitute who smashed the ball past Hamer.
A consolation goal in the last 10 minutes was far less likely than Cardiff recording a consecutive 4-0 home win but, thankfully, further punishment was avoided and Corberán is left with some hard thinking to do about Saturday’s line up.
Hopefully, Pipa will return and perhaps the substitution of Hogg may signal our first view of Vallejo, but very few attained basic, acceptable levels on a night to forget.
It felt like a defeat redolent of a lower mid table side; not consistently good enough to beat an opposition who were simply superior in intensity, discipline and a clinical game plan. Even Toffolo, superb this season, was way below his best and the team simply didn’t function well enough either at the back or in the final third to knock Cardiff off their stride.
Frustratingly inconsistent, often during the game, Town will suffer setbacks like this until Corberán can truly make his mark in at least two transfer windows. The awkwardness which accompanies playing out from the back at times, coupled with some ridiculous lack of judgement (both on show here) will either improve with familiarity or, much more likely, players who can naturally and consistently execute the practice will emerge or be brought in.
A very poor night for all concerned.