Exeter City’s seventh pre-season victory of the summer was overshadowed by ankle injuries to Lee Holmes and Jordan Moore-Taylor following hefty challenges from Cardiff City players.
The Grecians won the match 3-0, but the result will be of little consolation to manager Paul Tisdale who waits to hear on the damage done to two of his key players eight days before their opening game of the season at Blackpool on Saturday, August 6.
Tisdale named a strong starting XI for the match with that fixture at Bloomfield Road in mind. There were two changes from the side that beat Championship team Burton Albion at St James Park six days earlier as Troy Archibald-Henville dropped out of the squad through injury and David Wheeler took a place on the substitutes bench.
That meant a return to the starting XI for new signing Pierce Sweeney, who agreed a permanent deal at the club on the day of the match, and Ryan Harley.
City deservedly led 1-0 at the break, with Cardiff City’s youthful side only looking dangerous on one occasion in the first half when Jamie Bird’s shot deflected onto the crossbar. Other than that City keeper Bobby Olejnik was not troubled, but at the other end it was a different story for Oliver Byrne. He had to dive full stretch to his left to tip a Robbie Simpson volley around the post after 10 minutes before saving a header from Moore-Taylor from the resulting corner and then a well-struck shot from Ryan Harley.
Ollie Watkins thought he had given the Grecians the lead in the 17th minute when he crashed a volley against the inside of the post following good link-up play with Holmes.
However, it was Holmes who was to break the deadlock on 27 minutes when Ryan Harley played him in on goal and he side-footed a cool left-foot finish into the bottom corner.
Bird fired an early warning shot for Cardiff just wide at the start of the second half, but City were back on top as Jake Taylor warmed the gloves of Oliver Byrne again with an angled drive. From the resulting corner, Taylor then pulled the ball back for Simpson to fire into the roof of the net for his third goal of pre-season.
Watkins should have had his third goal of pre-season on 62 minutes, but after turning neatly on the ball in the box he scuffed his shot towards goal and Oliver Byrne saved comfortably.
However, there a big blow for City a minute later as captain Moore-Taylor was injured by a tackle from Bird and had to be helped down the tunnel by the medical staff. The Cardiff striker was substituted moments later having received a yellow card from referee Brendan Malone. A minute later and City were 3-0 up as Holmes crossed for Simpson to head home at the back post, but moments later Holmes was injured by a challenge from Robbie Patten, forcing a meeting between both sets of coaching staff and the match officials on the touchline.
Rhys Healey came close to pulling a goal back for Cardiff with a quarter of an hour left, but after nut-megging Olejnik he saw his shot cannon off the woodwork and the game ended with another clean sheet and another victory for City.
Exeter City: Olejnik (Pym, 82); McCready (Riley-Lowe, 78), Sweeney (Ampadu, 60), Brown (Storey, 78), Moore-Taylor (Woodman, 65); Taylor (Wheeler, 60), James (Jay, 74), Harley (Tillson, 74), Holmes (McAlinden, 70); Watkins (Byrne, 74), Simpson (Egan, 78). Subs not used: Pym, Egan, Storey, Jay, A Byrne, Tillson, Riley-Lowe, Grimes, Smallcombe.
Cardiff City: O Byrne; Rees, Menayese, Bauer, Abbruzzese; Blaise, Patten, Weymans (Humphries, 69), O’Sullivan; Healey, Bird (Harris, 65). Subs not used: Humphries, Coughlan, Coxe, Harris.
Attendance: 1,166 (132, away)
Booked: Patten, Bird.