Blues left St. Andrew’s empty handed on New Year’s Day despite more than matching top-of-the-table Cardiff City.
Lee Clark’s youthful side did themselves proud against the league leaders, but were undone by a solitary first-half goal that was conceded in bizarre circumstances.
Clark made three changes to his starting line-up. Mitch Hancox and Chris Burke were dropped to the substitutes’ bench, whilst striker Nikola Zigic missed out because of suspension.
Will Packwood and Ravel Morrison returned from illness and injury respectively and Nathan Redmond and Wade Elliott were promoted from the bench.
Hayden Mullins had been due to start, but such is Blues’ luck at the moment he was injured in the warm-up meaning a last minute start for Callum Reilly. Eighteen-year-old striker Marcel Henry-Francis took Reilly’s place alongside the other substitutes, just a day after the former QPR trainee was given a first team squad number.
The first opening fell to Blues, as good play between Morrison and Rob Hall resulted in the ball dropping to Elliott on the edge of the visitors’ box. Unfortunately the midfielder sidefooted his low shot just wide of David Marshall’s right hand post.
Blues were dominating the opening stages and Cardiff were struggling to pose any threat to the home side.
On 20 minutes Cardiff keeper Marshall was forced to save Redmond’s shot at his near post. Rob Hall then tried his luck with a curling effort that flew a couple of yards over the bar.
Blues’ burgeoning injury list was added to just after the half-hour mark when teenager Reilly limped off and was replaced by Morgaro Gomis in the centre of midfield.
Just minutes before the break, Cardiff took the lead in extremely fortunate circumstances.
Craig Conway shot from distance. Jack Butland dived and got a glove to the ball, but it appeared to spin back and hit the Blues stopper on the heel before falling directly to Joe Mason. With an empty net beckoning, the Cardiff man had the simple task of firing home into an empty net.
Half-time: Blues 0 Cardiff 1
Within seconds of the restart Butland was forced to dive at the feet of Mason and prevent a second goal for The Bluebirds.
Then two minutes later Curtis Davies saved his side as he cleared Matthew Connolly’s shot off his own line with Butland beaten.
Paul Robinson became the first player to enter the referee’s notebook when he was cautioned for a crunching challenge on Conway.
Ex-Blues midfielder Jordon Mutch saw his afternoon brought to a premature end on 51 minutes when he was replaced by Don Cowie.
Blues began to push further forward in search of an equaliser but were finding themselves crowded out by a well-marshalled Cardiff defence.
Striker Jake Jervis became Blues’ second substitution of the afternoon when he was introduced in place of Wade Elliott.
Blues then suffered a further injury blow after 77 minutes when Packwood appeared to pick up a hamstring injury and Mitch Hancox replaced him.
Despite throwing everything forward in the closing stages, Blues were unable to break the visitors’ defensive resolve and were left pointless. Clark’s players now take a short break from league action when they travel up to Leeds United on Saturday for an FA Cup third round tie against The Whites.
Full-time: Blues 0 Cardiff 1
Blues: Jack Butland, Steven Caldwell, Curtis Davies, Callum Reilly (Morgaro Gomis, 32), Ravel Morrison, Wade Elliott (Jake Jervis, 70), Nathan Redmond, Jonathan Spector, Will Packwood (Mitch Hancox, 77), Rob Hall, Raul Robinson.
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, Pablo Ibanez, Chris Burke, Marcel Henry-Francis.
Bookings: Robinson (51), Jervis (83), Gomis (86).
Cardiff: David Marshall, Mark Hudson, Ben Turner, Craig Conway, Matthew Connolly, Kim Bo-Kyung (Craig Noone, 67), Arron Gunnarsson, Jordon Mutch (Don Cowie, 51), Joe Mason, Simon Lappin, Craig Bellamy.
Subs not used: Joe Lewis, Kevin McNaughton, Rudy Gestede, Joe Ralls, Heidar Helguson.
Goals: Mason (41).
Referee: Robert Madley.
Attendance: 17, 493 (2, 270Cardiff fans)