Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge is back in action and played 90 minutes in Cardiff City’s Professional Development Under-23 League match at Sheffield Wednesday.
Etheridge has been out for six weeks after suffering a hamstring injury during a Championship clash with Wigan Athletic on August 3rd.
The Philippines international, who made several big saves at Bracken Moor, is ready to challenge first-team regular Alex Smithies for the City starting role.
Cardiff coach Andy Legg made six changes to the starting line-up from the 1-0 win against Bolton Wanderers a week ago, with first team squad members Curtis Nelson, Isaac Vassell, Gary Madine and Etheridge bolstering the young side on the road.
Madine, Vassell and Aaron Bolger scored Cardiff’s goals in their first away win of the season.
Etheridge made three early saves to deny Wednesday, who started brightly and went for shots from long range and close in.
Cardiff started to dominate during the 15 minutes before half-time and Vassell showed creativity in attack, firstly with a cross that almost picked out Cameron Coxe in the penalty area.
Vassell then set up Madine to put the Bluebirds ahead from just inside the penalty area after 40 minutes. Madine took a neat feed from Vassell into his stride and drilled an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
The breakthrough gave Cardiff new confidence and they almost doubled their lead just before half-time, but goalkeeper Josh Render made an outstanding save to keep out Vassell’s header.
City made it 2-0 when Vassell doubled their lead after 49 minutes when Madine turned provider, setting up the dangerous Vassell to extend the advantage from close range.
Two minutes later Wednesday scored following a spell of intense pressure. Etheridge made a series of fantastic saves before O’Brien’s curling shot left the ‘keeper helpless.
Captain Bolger made it 3-1 just before the hour mark. Owls goalkeeper Render made a superb block to prevent Madine doubling his tally, only to see the loose ball land at the feet of Bolger, who slotted home.
Wednesday netted a second goal after 73 minutes after Liam Shaw was fouled by Tavio D’Almeida in the penalty area. Shaw took the resulting spot-kick, sending Etheridge the wrong way.
That set up a big finish as the Owls pressed for an equaliser, but resolute Cardiff kept their composure and made sure of the victory.
Liam Shaw reduced the deficit to 3-2 to City with a penalty kick, after he was brought down inside the area with less than 20 minutes of the match remaining.
Madine and Vassell both looked sharp and confident, while Etheridge was man of the match.
Wednesday’s Academy manager Steven Haslam said: “It was an even game.”
“Our back three overall defended well for large parts of it, but their two senior players (Madine and Vassell) showed why they have played at a really good level.
“You want to put your young players in situations that stress them and challenge them. That was the case against Cardiff.
“They played against two senior strikers and that is great for the likes of Jack Lee and Osaze Uroghide, who may not have come up against that calibre of opponent too often before.”
Cardiff City: Neil Etheridge, Cameron Coxe, Sang, Jones, Curtis Nelson, Joel Bagan, James Waite, Tavio d’Almeida (Laurence Wootton 75), Gary Madine, Aaron Bolger, capt (Jake Evans 80), Isaac Vassell (Danny Williams 83). Subs not used: Davies, Burwood.
Sheffield Wednesday: Josh Render, Ash Baker (Ben Hughes 41), Osaze Uroghide, Alex Hunt, Jordan Thorniley, Jack Lee, Liam Shaw, Liam Waldock, Jordan O’Brien (Joe West 85), Conor Grant, Preston. Subs not used: Luke Jackson (gk), Isaac Rice, Preslav Borukov.