A WONDERFUL goal from reigning player of the year Tom Cairney ensured Rovers kick started the Championship campaign with a point against the title favourites at Ewood Park.

Cardiff, relegated from the Premier League last season but tipped to go straight back up, broke the deadlock in the 18th minute through the fired-up Kenwyne Jones.

But Cairney, thanks to some tireless closing down from Jordan Rhodes, restored parity in the 40th minute when he beat David Marshall from 25 yards.

Rovers, who are now unbeaten in their last 13 competitive matches, had all of the ball in the second half, like they had for much of the first.

But they were unable to break down a well-drilled Bluebirds side who were happy to head back to the Welsh capital with a point in their back pockets.

The result means Rovers, who were watched from the stands by owners Venky's, have failed to win any of their opening games of a campaign since their 1-0 home triumph over Everton back in August 2010.

It did, though, stop a run of three successive defeats to Cardiff.

Rovers suffered a blow before kick off when left back Tommy Spurr was ruled out with a groin injury he sustained in training and was replaced in the starting line-up by Markus Olsson.

But there was better news when it was confirmed that Rudy Gestede – like winger Craig Conway going up against his former club for the first time – had overcome illness to take his place up front alongside Rhodes.

And Gestede was straight into the thick of the action.

There was just 42 seconds gone on the clock when Rovers should have been awarded the first penalty of the Football League season.

Corry Evans swung over a cross from the right toward Gestede whose header – intended for strike-partner Rhodes – hit the hand of Bluebirds captain Mark Hudson just inside the box.

However referee Andrew Madley, who was given no help from his assistants, ruled the offence had taken place a yard outside of the area and disappointingly the resulting free kick from Cairney – starting out on the right but constantly cutting inside looking for the ball – did not beat the wall.

Recently retired World Cup final referee Howard Webb, watching on from the directors’ seats, would not have been impressed.

And salt was rubbed into the wounds in the 18th minute when Hudson created the match’s opening goal.

The hosts could not say they had not been warned.

Moments earlier Peter Whittingham had displayed his expertise from dead-ball situations by swinging over three inviting corner in succession, the first of which resulted in Paul Robinson tipping over from Jones and the third of which saw Matt Connolly head over when he should have troubled the former England international.

But, after Rhodes volleyed over from 20 yards when he had Conway better placed to his left, Jones escaped Alex Baptiste and headed home from close range after Hudson had flicked on Whittingham’s inswinging free kick.

Jones almost inadvertently gifted Rovers an equaliser two minutes later when he headed Conway’s free kick into the path of captain Grant Hanley, whose poked effort was gathered by Marshall.

Jones, who was proving a real handful, then curled a weak shot straight at Robinson after he worked a smart one-two with Nicky Maynard following a long throw down the line.

It proved a costly miss as, after a sustained period of possession, Rovers levelled matters.

Rhodes did brilliantly to rob the ball off Whittingham with a sliding challenge 25 yards from goal and Cairney did the rest with a curling shot that Marshall could only push into the side of the net.

Rovers boss Gary Bowyer, who is fast running out of defensive options, was forced to replace centre back Matt Kilgallon with suspension-free midfielder Lee Williamson at half-time.

But, with debutant Baptiste switching to centre back and Jason Lowe dropping to right back, it failed to knock his side out of their stride and in the 51st minute the towering Gestede looped a header inches past the post after Conway made something out of nothing.

And, despite again dominating the ball after the break, that was the closest Rovers went as Bowyer opted against bringing on any of his attacking options off the bench.

Conway did, however, fizz a free kick over in the dying stages.

Bowyer said: “I thought we deserved a bit more.

“We had a lot of the ball against a team who have just come down from the Premier League.

“Cardiff changed their shape, a compliment to us, and we can take a lot of confidence.

“For all of our possession, perhaps the disappointment is we didn’t create many chances.”

Cairney said of his goal: “It fell to me and the back four dropped, I got a yard and luckily it went in.”

Of the match itself the star midfielder said: “It was a hard-fought game and maybe a fair result.

“We know they have got Premiership quality.”

Cardiff boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: "We defended our goal well.

“I was pleased with the performance and the attitude of the lads, particularly defensively.

“We have come away against a good team and dug out a good result.”