Mistakes cost Town dearly at the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday afternoon, with visitors Cardiff City continuing their recent impressive record over the Terriers in the Sky Bet Championship.
A poor first half showing led to Peter Whittingham giving the visitors a lead from Anthony Pilkington’s cross, but David Wagner’s side did respond through top scorer Nahki Wells to go in level at the interval.
Town improved in the second 45 minutes to create a number of chances before a mistake in possession was punished with a Lex Immers goal before Whittingham got his second with a typically excellent free kick.
Harry Bunn gave Town hope of a comeback in added time, but it was a case of ‘too little, too late’ for Wagner’s men.
With Joe Lolley missing through illness alongside Scannell, Miller (both injured), Hudson and Smith (both suspended), Karim Matmour was handed his home debut and impressed with some good runs and crosses in the early stages before understandably running out of gas later in the match.
Russell Slade’s Cardiff side obviously planned to press the Terriers high up the pitch as they looked to start the passing play out of defence and neither side got command of the fixture in the opening half hour, which was played in a myriad of weather conditions ranging from glorious sunshine to torrential snow!
On a few occasions Town probed, only for the offside flag to deny them at the final hurdle.
Kyle Dempsey – playing at right back again in Smith’s absence – drove well wide from range after Emyr Huws played a short corner into his path, but it was Cardiff who took the lead with the first genuine chance of the game in the 37th minute.
Former Town man Pilkington – playing as an out-and-out striker – received a pass inside the Town area and did well to squeeze the ball past Martin Cranie and back to the penalty spot from the dead ball line, where Whittingham strode onto it and placed past Jed Steer with his right foot.
However Town responded well and equalised within three minutes through Bermudian Wells. After receiving a pass from Paterson on the edge of the Cardiff box, Nahki used Matmour’s run down the right as a decoy before turning onto his left foot and firing past David Marshall on his left foot from 20 yards out.
Town’s best period of the game came in the opening 15 minutes of the second half, but Wagner’s side couldn’t capitalise on one of a few opportunities created. The biggest came just six minutes in when Dempsey found Bunn with a perfect pull back, but the former Man City player placed his shot disappointingly wide of target.
Another chance fell to Wells soon after, but he took too long to pull the trigger on his left foot and defender Bruno Ecuele Manga got back to dispossess him.
Huws picked up a knock from a challenge by Stuart O’Keefe on the hour mark and was replaced by Dean Whitehead, but within two minutes Town found themselves behind again.
Town tried to play the ball out of defence, but Bunn didn’t do enough to shield the ball when receiving a pass from Jason Davidson. Right back Fabio nipped in and played a one-two to set Sammy Ameobi away into the area and the former Newcastle man showed great unselfishness to slide a pass left to Lex Immers, who swept the ball into the net. Although Town made the initial error, the Bluebirds took full advantage.
Nahki Wells hit the wall with a couple of well-placed free kicks after the second goal before referee David Webb became the centre of attention by denying Town would looked a clear handball in the 66th minute as the ball kicked up and struck Immers on the arm.
Another chance fell Town’s way in the 74th minute after Whitehead chipped a free kick into the area and Lynch nodded it down into Wells’ path, but his acrobatic volley was turned away by Marshall.
At the other end Jed Steer pulled off a superb one-handed save to turn Joe Ralls’ 25 yard drive onto the bar, but with 10 minutes left Cardiff did score a third. After Davidson conceded a foul right 18 yards out, Whittingham stepped up and whipped the ball expertly past Steer and into the top corner.
Town made it interesting in the 92nd minute after Wells played Harry Bunn through on goal – the attacker expertly smashing past Marshall for his fifth of the season after a nice first touch – but Cardiff saw out the game for three away points.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Jed Steer; Jason Davidson, Joel Lynch (c), Martin Cranie, Kyle Dempsey (Flo Bojaj, 86); Emyr Huws (Dean Whitehead, 60), Jonathan Hogg; Harry Bunn, Jamie Paterson, Karim Matmour; Nahki Wells
Joe Murphy, James Husband, Duane Holmes, Philip Billing, William Boyle
Joel Lynch (51); Nahki Wells (76)