A rejuvenated Cardiff City side were unable to extend their winning streak to seven games as they were held to a 1-1 draw away to Middlesbrough.
Skipper Sean Morrison fired his side into the lead not long before the interval, effortlessly heading the ball into the back of the net after a Will Vaulks long throw.
Though eight minutes from time, Boro midfielder Paddy McNair denied the visitors from departing Teeside with three points, equalising from close range following Aden Flint’s failed clearance.
Coupled with Bournemouth’s 1-0 victory over Watford earlier this afternoon, the Bluebirds have now dropped down to eighth, hallmarking Tuesday’s clash with Derby County as a significant one.
Boro meanwhile, are the current occupants of ninth place and will be looking to reinvigorate their playoff push against Coventry City in midweek.
Here, I will be providing my analysis on how each Cardiff player fared across the afternoon.
Dillon Phillips- 7
Yet another encouraging display from the City stopper, who stood firm throughout the encounter. Phillips commanded his area excellently and pulled off a series of fine saves to keep the hosts at bay for much of the game.
Additionally, Phillips’ distribution came up trumps for Mick McCarthy’s side, as it was this that subsequently led to Morrison’s opener.
Could not be attributed with any blame in relation to Middlesbrough’s late equaliser and is quickly emerging as one of Cardiff’s most impressive performers.
Sean Morrison- 7
Once again, Morrison exhibited his fine goalscoring prowess by netting his side’s opener, glancing home a towering header despite being swarmed by red jerseys.
For much of the game, Morrison sculpted a figure of solidity and resoluteness.
However, the skipper nearly afforded Middlesbrough a goal when tricky forward Duncan Watmore skinned him with ease.
Overall, Morrison’s performance could accumulate scarce flaws, but one severe detriment could have proved fatal.
Aden Flint- 6
Despite enjoying a vast upturn in fortunes married with his side’s resurgence, Flint’s culpable clearance ultimately cost Cardiff their advantage.
It was far from a horrific day at the office for the hulking defender, who utilised his physical superiority and defensive know-how to give his former employers a difficult afternoon in the final third.
Though at the end of the day, Flint will be reflecting in frustration at briefly, and calamitously, letting his guard down.
Curtis Nelson- 8
A player who had fallen under an air of critique not so long ago, Nelson is now mirroring last season’s colossal performances that saw him earn a wide range of plaudits in the Welsh Capital.
Cool, composed and assured on the ball, the former Oxford United man stood out from his peers and a series of crucial sacrificial blocks proved pivotal for the Bluebirds.
Perry Ng- 7
Although Ng only ventured into the Championship in January, the former Crewe skipper is already becoming a model of consistency for his side.
Unsurprisingly, the 24-year old was a calming, comfortable presence down the right flank. Ng’s positional awareness is, for a player of his age and lack of second-tier experience, truly ahead of the curve.
He always seems to anticipate and sniff out danger before his colleagues and again, that was showcased at the Riverside.
Along with this, a string of powerful challenges limited the opposition to few chances down his side.
Will Vaulks- 4
Given the evident escalation of Vaulks’ performances as of late, it was uncharacteristic of the Welsh International to struggle so significantly.
Especially in the opening forty-five minutes, Vaulks thoroughly struggled to control the midfield, nearly landing his side in trouble on two occasions after releasing severely misjudged backpasses.
The 27-year old midfielder was also brandished yellow after a reckless challenge in the middle of the park and was rightly substituted in the second half.
Marlon Pack- 6
Throughout the affair, Cardiff’s Marlon Pack failed to implant his rhythm-dictating influence on the game.
A key embodiment of the plaguing fatigue issue currently, Pack is someone who may benefit from a rest against Derby County.
Joe Bennett- 7
Tasked with nullifying former City dynamo Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Bennett harried and tussled with the attacker to create a captivating battle between the two.
And, for large parts, Bennett did a sublime job of countermanding his opposite number.
In spite of beholding physical inferiority in contrast to Mendez-Laing, Bennett kept up with the speedster to subject him to chances at a premium.
Only once was Bennett found wanting, picking up a yellow card in the second half after scything the winger down.
Harry Wilson- 6
After embracing a wealth of success during Cardiff’s emphatic winning run, Harry Wilson really would have liked to conjure a more impacting sway on the match.
The Bluebirds maintained only 38% possession, restricting inventive-minded operators such as Wilson to a somewhat peripheral afternoon.
Wilson had troubled Boro stopper Marcus Bettinelli early on with an enticing, low-hit free kick from just outside the area.
Other than that though, Wilson did not see as much of the ball as he craves and was hooked not long after the hour mark for Leandro Bacuna.
Josh Murphy- 6
Similarly to Wilson, Cardiff’s lack of possession and attacking fruition in the final third meant that Josh Murphy was unable to exert his expertise.
At times, the fleet-footed forward appeared a lively figure and made a variety of encouraging runs, often adding an extra dynamic dimension to the side.
However, Murphy was often found second best when competing for physical duels, repeatedly being outmuscled by a stern Middlesbrough defence.
Having enjoyed a renowned run of games which has kickstarted a sense of revival by all accounts, it seems Murphy is another individual who may benefit from a rest.
Kieffer Moore- 7
Although Moore was unable to engrave his name on the scoresheet, his presence was still firmly felt throughout the fixture.
Time after time, Moore’s hungry endeavour was exemplified to great extent as he relentlessly dropped deep into various avenues of the pitch in order to see as much of the ball as possible.
And once again, Moore’s combative nature came to the forefront, regularly contesting and triumphing in his duels, winning a match-high eighteen of them.
You could argue that the heartened hitman was, quite simply, a victim of his side’s creative invisibility. Cardiff only registered two shots on goal all afternoon, an illustration of their lack of craft and exuberance in the final third.
Sheyi Ojo (brought on for Murphy, 61’)- 6
Many hoped that Ojo’s craftsmanship and panache would serve as a great aid for the Bluebirds to gain a grip on proceedings and develop an increased lease of creativity.
Frustratingly though, the Liverpool loanee was unable to imprint his quality in his cameo and largely looked anonymous.
Joe Ralls (brought on for Vaulks 67’)- 6
Seeing Joe Ralls back in action was a thoroughly refreshing sight for the Bluebirds faithful and, during his time on the pitch, showed lively signs of sharpness.
Hopefully, the stalwart will be back in full swing for the Welsh side before long.