AN ABJECT first-half display proved costly for Cherries as Jonathan Woodgate’s first game in permanent charge of the club ended in defeat to Cardiff City.

The Bluebirds led 2-0 at the break thanks to a Sean Morrison header and Kieffer Moore penalty.

Cherries showed some signs of life in the second period, mainly through Junior Stanislas, whose break led to Shane Long pulling a goal back.

But it was not enough to prevent a 2-1 loss, which also sees Cherries slip out of the play-off spots, having now been overtaken by the Bluebirds.

Woodgate, who stepped up from his role as caretaker boss to permanent head coach at the weekend, made three changes from Saturday’s defeat at QPR. Steve Cook returned from injury to slot in at the heart of the defence in place of Chris Mepham, while Diego Rico and Sam Surridge were preferred to Jack Wilshere and Long.

Cardiff, who came into the game on the back of five successive victories, were unchanged, which meant a start for former Cherries loanees Harry Wilson and Joe Bennett.

Chances were at a premium during the scrappy early exchanges, with Mick McCarthy’s men setting out their stall to get the ball into Cherries’ box.

Dillon Phillips was the first goalkeeper to be worked, parrying away a Junior Stanislas free-kick with seven minutes on the clock.

But that proved to be the last goalmouth action of note until Cardiff broke the deadlock.

After Philip Billing and Curtis Nelson had both been booked for an off-the-ball scrap, the Bluebirds got the ball forward and won a corner.

Wilson’s pinpoint delivery was powerfully met by Morrison, who darted from the centre of the box to the near post, leaping above both Surridge and Jefferson Lerma to nod home.

Cardiff had their tails up, pouncing on loose passes from Cherries and almost doubling their tally as Moore burst clear, but his shot was palmed to safety by Begovic.

A long throw was the next to cause chaos. Will Vaulks launched one into the box, which fell nicely for Moore, but the former Dorchester Town man was denied by an excellent stop from the legs of Asmir Begovic.

But the second goal was not far away. After a Wilson shot had been blocked, the ball spun kindly for wing-back Perry Ng, who burst past Rico only to be tripped by the Spaniard.

Referee Gavin Ward duly pointed to the penalty spot, allowing Moore to step up and slam emphatically into the top right corner, despite Begovic diving the correct way.

Cherries carved out their clearest opening so far just before the break. Rico, looking to make amends for his error at the other end, delivered a low cross for Surridge. The striker got in front of his man and turned goalwards, but Phillips was there to save well with his legs.

Woodgate turned to his bench at half-time, introducing some more attacking threat with Arnaut Danjuma and Long brought on in place of Rico and Lewis Cook.

Cherries almost found a route back into the contest around 10 minutes after the restart. Adam Smith got in down the right and delivered for Stanislas, who set himself and aimed towards the bottom corner, but he was denied by a smart Phillips stop, getting down well to tip away.

Stanislas tried his luck again soon after, floating a 25-yard free-kick up and over the wall, but Phillips was again there to turn his effort behind.

So it was no surprise to see Stanislas play a key role in Cherries pulling a goal back. The midfielder burst away from Marlon Pack before teeing up Danjuma. The Dutchman’s shot deflected up kindly for Long to nod home his second goal in as many games.

That goal seemed to further boost Cherries, earning a free-kick in a dangerous position, which Stanislas whistled narrowly over the crossbar.

And the former West Ham man was again heavily involved with 10 minutes to play, teeing up Danjuma, whose low strike was held by Phillips.

That would prove to be the final chance as Cardiff closed out a vital win.

Cherries: Begovic; Smith, Carter-Vickers, S Cook, Kelly, Rico (Danjuma, h-t); L Cook (Long, h-t), Lerma; Billing, Stanislas; Surridge.

Unused subs: Mepham, Zemura, Pearson, Wilshere, Riquelme, Anthony, Travers (g/k).

Booked: Billing, S Cook, Kelly.

Cardiff: Phillips; Ng, Morrison, Flint, Nelson, Bennett; Vaulks, Pack; Murphy (Ojo, 61), Wilson (Bacuna, 61); Moore.

Unused subs: Song, Harris, Brown, Bagan, Bacuna, Williams, Watters, Smithies (g/k).

Booked: Nelson, Ng, Moore, Flint.

Referee: Gavin Ward.