MIDDLESBROUGH manager Tony Mowbray shrugged off his side’s first defeat in 10 matches.
The Teessiders were unlucky to go down to Cardiff and the Boro boss was pleased with his team’s display.
“I thought we played pretty well,” he said. “There is a long way to go in the rest of the season and if we perform like we did today for long spells then we will be okay.
“Cardiff are a resilient side who defended well and put their bodies on the line. They had to do that. But they got their noses in front.
“the longer the game went on the chances came and went for us and, ultimately, we didn’t manage to stick one in the net.”
In a frantic opening, recalled Boro midfielder Seb Hines was booked for a rash challenge on Craig Noone.
The home side edged ahead just before the 20-minute mark when former Arsenal man Matthew Connolly found space at the back post to head home his fourth goal of the season from Whittingham’s right-wing cross.
Boro captain Grant Leadbitter tested Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall from long range before Boro were pressed into a substitution on the half-hour mark when Richard Smallwood replaced injured Belgian midfielder Faris Haroun.
And Mowbray’s men were almost on level terms moments after the switch.
Cardiff substitute Ralls fouled Emanuel Ledesma 18-yards from goal and the Argentinian midfielder picked himself up to strike a powerful, dipping drive which cannoned off the crossbar with goalkeeper Marshall beaten.
The visitors had another good opportunity to restore parity on the stroke of half-time. Lukas Jutkiewicz’s blocked shot rebounded into the path of Scott McDonald but the Australian striker fired over from inside the Bluebirds’ six-yard box.
Boro made the stronger start to the second half and McDonald was again in the thick of the action driving straight at Marshall before heading wide from 12 yards.
Cardiff hit back and almost doubled their advantage when Whittingham’s low free-kick from the right travelled through a crowded penalty area and almost caught out Boro keeper Jason Steele.
Mowbray introduced Marvin Emnes on the hour-mark as his side continued to search for an equaliser while Cardiff threw on Craig Bellamy in place of the injured Aron Gunnarsson.
Nicky Bailey then replaced injured Boro full-back George Friend before Emnes pressed Marshall into action with a snapshot which was tipped past the post.
The away side continued to dominate the second period without making their superiority count and Jutkiewicz blazed over when clean through as the Bluebirds hung on for victory.
Cardiff: Marshall, Taylor (Ralls 26), Hudson, Turner (Nugent 14), Connolly, Whittingham, Kim, Noone, Gunnarsson (Bellamy 61), Mason, Helguson. Subs Not Used: Lewis, Conway, Gestede, Frei. Booked: Whittingham. Goals: Connolly 19.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Bikey, Friend (Bailey 71), Hines, Leadbitter, Ledesma, McEachran, Haroun (Smallwood 30), Jutkiewicz (Emnes 60), McDonald. Subs Not Used: Leutwiler, Thomson, Luke Williams, Miller. Booked: Hines, Leadbitter.
Att: 21, 578 Ref: Oliver Langford (W Midlands).