A SPIRITED second half fightback was not enough for the Sky Blues as they slipped out of the League Cup courtesy of a 2-1 ‘home’ defeat at the hands of Cardiff City.
On a night that perhaps will be more remembered for a joint protest by both sets of fans over the current state of their respective clubs, Steven Pressley fielded a fairly inexperienced side, handing full debuts to Lee Burge, Jack Finch and on loan striker Josh McQuoid.
The visitors were heavy favourites going into Wednesday’s match at Sixfields and the Sky Blues seemed to pay Ole Gunnar Solskjaers’ side far too much respect in the opening period.
With former fan’s favourite Aron Gunnarson pulling the strings in midfield, Cardiff dominated proceedings without really having to step out of second gear.
It took just three minutes for the Bluebirds to take the lead. Nicky Maynard flicked the ball back to Guido Burgstaller just inside the area and a fortunate deflection allowed him time and space to beat Burge with a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
The hosts struggled to find a foothold in the match but did at times show flashes of quality especially in the heart of midfield with John Fleck impressing after being overseen for the season opener at Bradford.
And despite conceding early on, Burge grew into the match and pulled of a series of smart saves to keep Pressley’s side in the match at the break.
The match continued in a similar fashion following the re-start with Burge again on-hand to deny Joe Ralls.
It took almost an hour for the Sky Blues to enjoy their own period of possession and the chances soon followed.
Jordan Clarke headed a Jim O’Brien cross over the bar and Josh McQuoid volleyed wide after some good link up play with Danny Swanson.
O’Brien outwitted Kevin Theophile with a clever piece of skill before unleashing a powerful effort on goal which was gathered by Simon Moore before substitute Shaun Miller wasted a glorious chance after being put through on goal but his lob sailed wildly over the bar.
But during a period when the hosts were on top, Cardiff were able to double their advantage with 11 minutes remaining.
Mats Daehli broke free down the left and his dangerous low cross was stabbed home by Kadeem Harris who was able to get ahead of wing back Ryan Haynes at the back post.
With ten minutes remaining it looked as though it was game over. But Pressley’s young side showed courage and determination which was rewarded in the 83rd minute.
Adademy graduate Haynes made up for his earlier effort by sending an accurate cross into the six yard box and substitute Shaun Miller was on hand to fire home his first goal for the club.
A late flurry came in two minutes of added time and there was one final chance to take the game into extra time but Andy Webster’s header drifted just wide.