Wright-Phillips consigns Blues to home defeat
GARY Waddock says these pre-season games are about fitness; well, his team got a great work-out tonight.
Against a QPR side bulging with household names, Wanderers were made to chase shadows for long spells - but it's to their credit that they kept running to a man and eventually, after 90 minutes of hard toil, they dragged themselves off Adams Park with a creditable 3-0 defeat under their belts.
If the visitors had been a bit more clinical it would have been a landslide at Adams Park, but Blues earned their good fortune through effort alone and on another day might have snuck a consolation themselves.
Joel Grant and Stuart Beavon both had second-half sighters and for confidence alone a goal would have done the team good. But they'll have few complaints about a three-goal margin.
It might have been a home game geographically for Blues, but this fixture was all about QPR.
It was their only pre-season run-out in England and their fans travelled in droves to see it. Nearly 2,500 of them according to official figures and more than 3,000 according to some estimates, dwarfing the 1,000-odd Blues fans in, and the game had to be put back 15 minutes to allow them all through the logjam.
They'd travelled en masse from West London to catch a glimpse of their England internationals and big summer signings, and manager Mark Hughes didn't disappoint with Rob Green, Anton Ferdinand, Ji-Sung Park, Fabio, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Djibril Cisse all named in his starting XI.
The quality quickly told.
After ten minutes the gulf between the two teams had already stretched to a chasm and after 15 minutes Wanderers could have been three down.
Adel Taarabt, Jamie Mackie and Wright-Phillips had all gone close while Cisse had been denied a clear run at Nikki Bull by an expert saving tackle from Charles Dunne.
In centre midfield, the endless toil of Matt Bloomfield and Stuart Lewis was ineffective and when Bloomfield lost out to Park again Cisse really should have made Blues pay.
Marvin McCoy got the block in that time, but it was only a matter of time and with 30 minutes gone Mackie fired the first goal low past Bull.
Gary Doherty prevented Cisse tapping in a second two minutes later, while at the other end Wanderers' first real chance came after 37 minutes, when Joel Grant and Richard Logan nearly got a shot on target from McCoy's cross.
But having waited so long for a sniff of an opening, another presented itself just five minutes later when Clint Hill badly misjudged the bounce of the ball on the half-way line.
Grant burst in behind him and for a moment Blues had a two on one. Rangers got back the smother the threat, but Blues squeezed the ball out to Lee Angol and he drew the first notable save from England keeper Green.
Wanderers brought on Beavon, Matt Spring, Grant Basey and Matt McClure at the interval, and Spring and Beavon in particular brought some quality to Blues.
By then though, Rangers had gone into neutral and Grant nearly made them pay after an hour with a drive through the heart of their defence. But his shot lacked power and Green saved easily.
Rangers responded by bringing on Zamora and Johnson, but the loudest cheer was reserved for Wanderers' player/coach and former QPR star Gareth Ainsworth.
The 39-year-old was given 25 minutes against his old club, but there was little for the veteran to smile about as Wright-Phillips made it 2-0 after 70 minutes.
Johnson, Zamora and Wright-Phillips all missed sitters after that before Nedum Onouha made it 3-0 five minutes from time.