Report: Cardiff City 1 Rovers 0
Rovers kicked off 2016 in disappointing fashion as they slipped to a 1-0 loss at the hands of Cardiff City.
It was a third consecutive defeat on the road and a single goal was again the difference as Joe Mason's second half strike settled the match in the Bluebird's favour.
Cardiff threatened early on as Jason Steele saved well from Anthony Pilkington, before Joe Ralls was narrowly over with a curling effort from the edge of the box.
Craig Conway went close with a free-kick that flashed just past the post, David Marshall denied Jordan Rhodes, before Hope Akpan was booked for diving when it looked like was pulled down in the box.
There were less goalmouth opportunities in the second half, but when they came it was Cardiff who had the better of them.
After Shane Duffy saw a header saved, the hosts went up the other end to open the scoring on 58 minutes, Noone denied by a goal-line clearance from the Irishman but Mason was on hand to fire home the rebound.
Fellow striker Tony Watt could have stretched Cardiff's advantage in the closing stages but he was twice denied by Steele. Marshall in the opposing goal rarely worked as the home side claimed all three points.
Boss Paul Lambert made two changes to the side that tasted defeat against Bolton, Lee Williamson returning to the centre of midfield along with Tom Lawrence, with Adam Henley and Danny Guthrie making way.
Those changes meant a return to right back for Ben Marshall, with Lawrence at the tip of a midfield diamond. The Welshman looking lively early on taking advantage of the space afforded to him to win a free-kick in a promising position, however it came to nothing.
Grant Hanley blocked a Craig Noone effort from the edge of the box before goalkeeper Jason Steele got down well to deny Anthony Pilkington. The former Rovers youngster letting fly from distance from outside the box but the Rovers stopper claimed low to his left.
Then a Lawrence interception saw Rovers go back on the attack, but as Hope Akpan teed up the on-loan Rover he fired well over the bar. Joe Ralls would go closer for the home side with a curling shot, but his shot just cleared the corner of post and bar.
As the half wore on it was the visitors in red who started to have more of a say in the attacking third.
Craig Conway was off target after play opened up for him, before his free-kick into the area saw Shane Duffy head into the path of Jordan Rhodes, but from a tight angle David Marshall saved at his near post shot.
After Duffy had nodded wide at the back post, a ball over the top from Lawrence saw Rhodes race in on goal, but with the ball slow to drop, defender Bruno Ecuele Manga was able to step in and clear the danger.
Rovers continued to press in the closing stages of the half, Conway with a free-kick that saw Duffy distract Marshall as the ball flashed inches wide, before Akpan had appeals for a penalty waved away when he was tugged back in the box. Instead referee Andy Woolmer issued the midfielder with a yellow card for simulation.
Neither side made a change as the rain started to come down heavier as play resumed in the second half. Aron Gunnarson with an early threat with a ball that flashed across goal, before Rovers responded with a quick break but Conway was wide of goal.
Then a Williamson ball out wide to Marshall saw the ball stood up to the edge of the six-yard box but Duffy could only head straight into the arms of Marshall.
The deadlock was eventually broken two minutes before the hour mark, and it was a series of bad decisions from the Rovers that lead to the hosts grabbing the goal.
Steele chose to square the ball to Duffy instead of clearing his lines, then the Irishman failed to get any decent purchase on his ball out of defence. Quickly Cardiff went onto the attack with Olsson showing Noone inside to shoot which he needed no second invitation to do so. Duffy did well to clear off the line but the ball went straight to Joe Mason and he made no mistake from six-yards out.
Boosted by the opening goal Cardiff went searching for a second. Noone was wide with a free-kick from the edge of the box, then Steele saved well as Tony Watt let fly.
The closing stages saw Rovers huff and puff but without ever threatening the Cardiff goal. Duffy appealed for a penalty after going to ground from a corner kick, but it was more in hope than expectation.
Instead it was the Bluebirds who should have scored further, Watt in on goal but Steele saved well with his legs.
Rovers return to South Wales in seven days time when they face Newport County in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup. They'll need to perform better than on show in Cardiff if they are to progress in the competition.
CARDIFF: Marshall (c), Peltier (sub Da Silva 77 mins), Ecuele Manga, Ralls, Mason (sub O'Keefe 80 mins), Noone, Pilkington, Connolly, Gunnarsson, Malone, Watt (sub Ameobi 87 mins).
Subs not used: Moore (GK), Whittingham, Macheda, Dikgacoi.
Goals: Mason 58 mins.
ROVERS: Steele, Marshall, Duffy, Hanley (c), Olsson, Lawrence, Williamson (sub Lenihan 70 mins), Akpan, Conway, Koita (sub Delfouneso 59 mins), Rhodes.
Subs not used: Raya (GK), Spurr, Kilgallon, Guthrie, Evans.
Booked: Akpan, Duffy.
Attendance: 14,385 (including 514 Rovers fans).