Joe Rothwell used to say the one question mark next to his name was his end product.

Yet a third goal of the season to add to his eight assists is only four goal contributions shy of his tally from his previous three years campaigned.

There is a new question now Joe, ‘what will it take for you to sign a new deal?’

His moment of magic lit up an otherwise scrappy encounter, a trademark burst from the centre of the park ending with an expert curling effort that started outside the post to squeeze inside it and out of the reach of Alex Smithies.

Rothwell is a unique talent. His ability to travel with the ball at speed is a Premier League level attribute.

His skillset, alongside the left foot of Scott Wharton in the back three, are two facets that help make the 3-4-1-2 system work so well.

Off the ball, Rothwell is stepping up his workload, as after only completing 90 minutes in five of the opening 19 matches he’s done it five times in the last nine and a couple of late lung-bursting breaks showed him pushing to the end.

Any concerns about the out-of-contract players’ heads being on matters elsewhere have proved to be unfounded.

Aside from Rothwell’s piece of individual quality, it was 90 minutes of hard graft for Rovers, the last 14 of which were spent with a man light after Ryan Nyambe’s red card.

This is a Rovers side made of strong stuff.

They restricted Cardiff to just two shots on target, and none since they went down to 10 men, with Thomas Kaminski coming up with one key save to deny Curtis Nelson at the midway point of the second half.

Rovers repelled the Cardiff set piece threat, their seven corners were added to by countless free kicks due to an overly fussy official and numerous long throws. All were hurled into the Rovers box, but benefiting from the added height of a third centre half and later the arrivals of Daniel Ayala, Bradley Johnson and Sam Gallagher, they saw the game out with relative comfort.

The defensive statistics are quite staggering. This was a seventh clean sheet in eight matches, only three goals conceded in 10 games, while Scott Wharton extended his run of league starts without defeat to 16.

Some of those lucky enough to be in the stadium, with the game played behind closed doors due to Covid regulations in Wales, were surprised to see the red card brandished for Nyambe when he caught Perry Ng with a late tackle.

The right back had earlier been booked for the softest of pushes on Ng in retaliation to a poor challenge from the Cardiff wing-back on captain Darragh Lenihan.

Mowbray turned to Ayala off the bench knowing that Cardiff’s only real threat of breaking through a resolute Rovers defensive line was from set pieces, and that added height proved invaluable.

The contrasts to last season are quite stark but impressively so.

Only goal difference keeps Rovers outside of the automatic promotion spots having moved to 49 points from their 26th game, while they have the third most clean sheets in the division.

The biggest shift in approach from last season is going from averaging the second most possession in the division last season to the least this season. Nyambe’s red card also means they have the worst disciplinary record in the league as the cards continue to rack up, even if that feels disproportionate to the number of infringements.

The impact of behind closed doors football appeared to have an influence on referee Donohue, he who shouted loudest tended to get the decision. The stop-start nature of the game suited the hosts.

Rovers struggled to find a level of quality to bring what would have been a killer second goal, Tony Mowbray often cut a frustrated figure on the touchline.

Yet there was a real source of pride come the final whistle, the manager affording himself a small fist-pump at the final whistle.

The manager is holding his emotions together, knowing there is still 20 games to go of which several tough tests lie in wait around the corner.

Rovers need to find different ways of winning if they are to maintain this run of form, the Championship will throw up a number of different tests and this was the latest one to overcome.

Mowbray was equally right to point how nothing has been achieved yet, but even the manager can afford himself a moment of satisfaction of how far his side have come.

Rovers look a disciplined, organised team unit, and that is credit to Mowbray and his coaching staff.

They settled quickly at the Cardiff City Stadium and scored a fine opener as Rothwell took on a neat Reda Khadra touch to curl in the opener.

Cardiff’s rare threatening moments in the first half saw Curtis Nelson head wide a left wing corner, while Ng’s low shot was comfortably dealt with by Kaminski.

John Buckley opted to shoot from distance, his effort straight at Smithies, from a Rovers counter-attack moments before the half time whistle with Rovers leading thanks to the standout piece of quality.

The second half was of the same theme, Rovers turning to Gallagher off the bench to replace the ineffective Khadra.

Kaminski saved well to deny a Nelson header, diving away to his right to bravely palm the ball away as James Collins swung his boot towards the ball, but that was a rare first contact won by the hosts as Rovers defended manfully.

Chances on the break were there, yet not taken advantage of, but the feeling with this Rovers side is that one goal can be enough without any trepidation.

A first creak in the side came with the injury to Harry Pickering and now the suspension to Ryan Nyambe.

Everyone fit made the trip to Cardiff and numbers are stretched. Everyone in the squad knows they will need to play their part, yet small numbers is something Rovers have used as a positive.

They can and will need to better, but knowing that is in there is more than encouraging.

Another win, another clean sheet and Rovers march on.