REPORT: TOWN 0-3 CARDIFF CITYThe final game of the regular season ended in a disappointing fashion as visitor Cardiff City ran out 3-0 winners thanks to goals from Kenneth Zohore and Joe Bennett (2).
The defeat saw the Terriers finish the campaign in a league position of 5th; the highest in 45 years. That position will see Sheffield Wednesday be the opponent over two legs in the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final, beginning at noon on Sunday 14 May.
Town made a total of nine changes to the side that endured defeat at St Andrew's last Saturday, with Collin Quaner and Tommy Smith the only survivors. Elias Kachunga didn't play a part in the fixture, in light of the upcoming Play-Off campaign.
In a game where the visitors had only pride to play for, they did however pose an evidential attacking threat from the off.
Canadian international Junior Hoilett took up some menacing positions in and around the Town penalty area, only to be denied by tenacious defensive work from Christopher Schindler.
However, Hoilett would turn provider shortly after providing Town with the presence of mind to take sharp notice of the forward. Bluebirds talisman Kenneth Zohore latched on to a delicately weighted through ball before expertly finishing past Danny Ward into the far corner, giving the away side an early lead in West Yorkshire.
Cardiff's two front-men reversed roles minutes after the opener; Zohore worked some space before finding Hoilett in the area, with Danny Ward this time managing to claw away an effort at the second time of asking.
Instead of Town taking a tough stance on proceedings, it was Neil Warnock's men who continued to assert their dominance; Icelandic international Aron Gunnarsson the next player in red to see an effort thwarted by Town's own Welsh custodian who's smart reactions were matched by an impressive Christopher Schindler to clear the ball away from any possible danger.
That chance somewhat sparked 'The Yorkshire Club' into life; Ward's route one pass found an advancing Izzy Brown who had a clear run on goal, only to find a determined Joe Ralls make up many yards to dispossess the on-loan Chelsea man just as the trigger was about to be pulled.
Following Izzy's denial, Collin Quaner used his long levers to almost block a pass-back from reaching Cardiff 'keeper Brian Murphy, with the big-man missing only by inches.
Then came the moment that turned this game; a poor back-pass from Aaron Mooy this time released Kenneth Zohore to meet an on-rushing Danny Ward.
Ward managed to block the Danish forward from rounding and putting into an empty net, but the referee deemed that the Town number one had handled outside the area and produced a red card.
Town responded well to the sending-off; van La Parra and Brown had consecutive attempts blocked from a reinstated calmness in possession.
However, danger-man Zohore this time worked an opening down the Town right to side across for Joe Bennett to slam home, doubling the South Wales outfit's lead; a very steep hill for the Terriers to get anything from the game from this point.
Ex-Terrier Lee Peltier's strong tackle on van La Parra set Hoilett on his way down the right before pulling back to another ex-Town man Anthony Pilkington who, on this occasion, could only blaze over the target.
Izzy Brown wouldn’t let the lead slow the home side down nonetheless; a positive drive led to the loanee curling a delightful ball into Collin Quaner's path who was denied spectacularly by Brian Murphy's strong wrists.
Goal-scorer Zohore was himself determined to extend the comfort that the away side could maintain; the Dane had a powerful header saved by substitute Joel Coleman, before the lively Hoilett squeezed an effort just wide before the interval.
The second period had a somewhat end-of-season feel to it; Cardiff in fact continued to ensure that it left West Yorkshire with maximum points.
Pilkington wasted yet another chance to get on the scoresheet, before Rajiv van La Parra's creative lob cleared a relieved Murphy's cross-bar by a whisker.
Brief chances for both outfits came and went throughout the latter half; left-back Bennett fired straight at Joel Coleman for starters, before Zohore's surge to the edge of the Town box resulted in Junior Hoilett curling way over into the away following.
Hard-working Quaner showed a silky touch to his play by flicking in Tommy Smith on the hour-mark, but yet again Town found a resilient Lee Peltier in the way to deny any offensive advances of getting back into the contest.
In truth, the encounter fizzled out into a typical end-of-season match-up, and, with one eye on the Play-Off clashes to come, it was a case of ensuring that the risk of injury was minimal.
City added a deserved gloss to the score-line late on in the shape of Joe Bennett; the impressive left-back found himself in the right place at the right time following Zohore's pull-back after a lightning counter-attack from their own half of the field.
Aron Gunnarsson's stood-up cross evaded ex-England international Rickie Lambert by inches following a confident punch from Coleman, before Quaner at the other end somehow managed to slide off target.
Quaner's miss summed up a performance which uncharacteristically lacked any sort of end product; an anomaly performance in a season which has produced an unbelievable amount of positives with a chapter still to come as Town begins its Play-Off campaign a week today.
Town’s line-up (4-2-3-1):
Danny Ward; Chris Loewe, Christopher Schindler, Michael Hefele, Tommy Smith (c); Jonathan Hogg (Dean Whitehead, 79’), Aaron Mooy; Rajiv van La Parra, Isaiah Brown (Nahki Wells, 67’), Sean Scannell (Joel Coleman, 21’); Collin Quaner
Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, Martin Cranie, Jack Payne, Joe Lolley
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