Oxford United 1 Cardiff City 2
OXFORD United produced an encouraging performance as they were edged out by Cardiff City to suffer their first defeat in pre-season.
There was little to choose between the two sides before the break, but a free kick of real quality from Peter Whittingham put the Championship club in front.
Filip Kiss made it 2-0 just after the hour, a scoreline which was harsh on the U’s, who looked bright for most of the afternoon.
Alfie Potter deservedly reduced the deficit with a smart finish and for the final 15 minutes United swarmed all over the visitors.
They came within an inch of an equaliser with the final kick of the game, when a Tom Craddock set piece hit the woodwork.
Adam Chapman returned to the United starting line-up after missing the club’s US tour. Simon Heslop made way, sitting out the game with a sore back.
They began brightly, with Sean Rigg and Potter particularly impressive.
Rigg almost opened the scoring on three minutes when Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall kicked a clearance straight to the winger, whose snap shot went wide.
The summer signing caught his next effort from 25 yards much sweeter, but Marshall watched it skid just past the post.
James Constable also spun and fired wide in an encouraging opening 15 minutes for the hosts.
Cardiff boss Malky Mackay named a strong side, which included new signing Heidar Helguson and six of the team which began the Carling Cup final against Liverpool in February.
The Championship side had barely been in United’s half by the time they took the lead in the 17th minute.
A rash challenge from Chapman gave Whittingham a shooting chance 20 yards out and the ex-Aston Villa winger produced a stunning effort which flew in off the post.
Potter continued to probe and drew a smart save from Marshall from a curling shot, before Cardiff enjoyed their best spell of the half.
Whittingham almost replicated his goal after Lee Cox, making his home U’s debut, conceded a free kick, but this time the set piece curled just over.
On the half hour Helguson leapt above Ryan Clarke to nod just wide of an empty net, but the goalkeeper quickly made amends to save Etien Velikonja’s cushioned volley.
United came back into the game in the final ten minutes of the half.
Jake Forster-Caskey, who was again inventive in possession, went into the box after a one-two with Potter. The midfielder had a shooting chance, but he attempted a cross which missed Constable.
The home side remained in the ascendancy after the break.
Constable came close to an equaliser with a ferocious low drive which Marshall did well to parry.
Chapman also had a clear sight of goal from just outside the box after good work from Cox, but his shot was wild.
As in the first half, Cardiff sprung off the back foot to score on 63 minutes.
A low cross was stabbed goalwards by Velikonja and although Clarke did well to keep it out, the ball fell to Kiss, who made no mistake with the rebound.
Forster-Caskey volleyed narrowly over from 20 yards a minute later.
Deane Smalley and Craddock were introduced as United switched from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 for the final 25 minutes.
Rigg almost pulled a goal back instantly, running from deep on to a great ball from Forster-Caskey, only to clip his finish just wide.
United deservedly pulled a goal back 15 minutes from time. The ball fell to Potter 15 yards out and he showed great composure to swivel and finish low past Marshall.
It should have been 2-2 with ten minutes remaining.
Smalley found Pittman unmarked in the area, but the striker’s powerful shot was too close to the goalkeeper, who blocked.
Cardiff were suddenly struggling to protect their lead, as United finished the game strongly.
Craddock skimmed the crossbar from long range and triallist Alex Evans had a volley cleared off the line at a corner.
Their best effort came with the final kick of the game, when Craddock beat Marshall with a free kick, but the ball hit the post.
Attendance: 1,809 (436 away)
United: Clarke, Batt (Evans 77), Raynes, Wright (Tafazoli 77), Capaldi (McGinty 77), Cox, Chapman (Craddock 65), Forster-Caskey (Harris 77), Constable (Smalley 65), Potter, Rigg (Pittman 77)
Unused subs: Brown
Cardiff: Marshall (Parrish 75), McNaughton (Blake 46), Hudson (Keinan 70), Turner (Oshilaja 75), Taylor (Nugent 70), Cowie (Ralls 46), Kiss (O’Sullivan 79), Whittingham (Wharton 75), Conway (Sainte-Luce 70), Velikonja (Jarvis 79), Helguson (Earnshaw 46)
Referee: Andrew Woolmer