Exeter City continued their fine form in pre-season with a 2-2 draw against Championship side Cardiff City.
Exeter City boss, Matt Taylor named a strong squad to compete with the high calibre opposition as he offered a return to the starting line-up for Joel Randall, who recovered from a slight injury that kept him out of our 3-2 win over Weymouth on Tuesday.
Exeter started the game with a composed fashion in their passing play. Their early pressure was telling as they forced a mistake from Cardiff man Will Vaulks, who gifted possession to Joel Randall but failed to capitalise.
However, the breakthrough arose after a slick Exeter combination between Sam Nombe and Joel Randall found the feet of Matt Jay, who continued his exceptional goalscoring form by leaving Cardiff goalkeeper Alex Smithies in no man’s land as his 22nd minute strike nestled in the back of the net.
Cardiff City almost recovered quickly as a sloppy loss of possession on Exeter’s behalf allowed Lee Tomlin to drive towards the Exeter 18-yard box but his eventual shot flew narrowly wide.
Exeter continued to attack well and nearly doubled their lead in the 35th minute. Matt Jay threaded through Jack Sparkes into a dangerous area on the left-hand side. However, his low testing cross fell just agonisingly short of Sam Nombe’s outstretched boot as he tried to guide the ball into the Cardiff net to make it two.
The Cardiff ship steadied as the half progressed, and they began to find a rhythm in their search for the much-needed equaliser. On the stroke of half time the Cardiff pressure told and a low cross into the corridor of uncertainty found the right boot of summer signing James Collins, who fired it past a helpless Scott Brown.
The late Cardiff strike sent both sides into half-time level, which based on the balance of play seemed fair. Exeter’s first half performance however showed a lot of promise, as they continued to express their intent to commit to a dynamic attacking philosophy of playing.
Exeter began the second half in the same vein as the first. In the 50th minute, a free-flowing attack between, Collins, Jay and Caprice down the right-hand side led to a corner which wasn’t dealt with by the Cardiff City defence. The Ball fell to Pierce Sweeney who was lingering at the back post and he fired home to put the Grecian’s back in the lead.
Yet again, as Cardiff hunted for an equaliser Lee Tomlin was at the heart of everything good. His surging run down the right and eventual cross tested the Exeter backline, but was cleared up well by a composed Alex Hartridge.
Just past the hour mark, a long ball into the space set Cardiff on the attack, George Ray made chase and hauled down Mark Harris in the box to give away a penalty. Harris then added insult to injury by stepping up and firing it into the side netting to level the scores once again.
Both sides continued to plug away in the closing stages of the game with Cardiff creating the better of the chances. Their sustained pressure on the Grecian’s backline showed the versatility of Matt Taylor’s favoured five at the back formation as It allowed City to absorb pressure and breakout quickly when necessary and cause real problems on the counterattack.
The game became cagey going into the final 5 minutes as neither side could find a way to unlock their opposing resolute defences.
As the final whistle came at The Welsh International Sports Campus, there are some real positives to come out of the Grecian’s camp as they looked very comfortable playing against higher calibre opposition. There was some very positive moments for Exeter and City fans can be hopeful for next season if they continue to perform at this level.
The Grecian’s are back in action on Saturday as they take on Bristol City at 1pm behind closed doors at the Cliff Hill Training Ground.
Exeter City XI: Scott Brown, Jake Caprice (Key ’73), Pierce Sweeney, George Ray (Dyer ’79), Alex Hartridge, Jack Sparkes (Rowe ’79), Nigel Atangana (Dodd ’79), Archie Collins (Kite ’73), Matt Jay (Seymour ’73), Joel Randall, Sam Nombe (Brown ’73)
Subs: Harry Lee, Callum Rowe, Josh Key, Jordan Dyer, Timothee Dieng, Harry Kite, James Dodd, Ben Seymour, Jack Veale.
Cardiff City XI: Alex Smithies, Perry NG, Mark Mcguinness, Aden Flint, Curtis Nelson, Tom Davies, Will Vaulks, Gavin Whyte, James Collins, Lee Tomlin
Subs: Dillon Phillips, Rohan Luthra, Joel Bagan, Ciaron Brown, Tavio D’Almeida, Sam Bowen, Taylor Jones, James Connolly, Marlon Pack, Oliver Denham, Keenan Patten, Ryan Giles