Ten-man Wanderers succumbed to their second defeat on their travels inside a week after they lost to QPR at Loftus Road.
They had to play the majority of the second-half without Mark Little who was dismissed ten minutes after the restart for a challenge on Massimo Luongo.
Joel Lynch’s goal shortly afterwards and Matt Smith’s injury time header condemned Phil Parkinson’s men to the loss following Tuesday night’s reverse at Cardiff City.
Three changes were made to the side following the midweek defeat to Cardiff City as Bolton Wanderers made another long distance trip. David Wheater, Tyler Walker and Mark Little came in to replace Dorian Dervite, Adam Le Fondre and Filipe Morais, who were named among the substitutes.
Sammy Ameobi was fouled quite early into the contest as he turned and lost his marker to get a run on goal. Karl Henry, returning to Loftus Road, took the free kick, which caused a moment of mayhem in the QPR box. The hosts took several attempts to clear the ball – and survived a half-hearted penalty appeal – before the danger was negated.
At the other end, an unfortunate deflection culminated in a corner which caused a scramble before Ben Alnwick made a solid catch off Jack Robinson’s powerful volley.
Ameobi’s neat control and sophistry were very problematic for QPR’s’ defenders and again he won a free kick in a dangerous position. This resulted in the best chance of the game, which saw Alex Smithies make a wonderful save to thwart Derik’s near post glance from breaking the deadlock with barely ten minutes of the game elapsed.
Action switched once again to the other half of the pitch and Alnwick had to be wary to prevent Luke Freeman from opening the scoring after he latched onto a long throw. Alnwick’s legs came to the rescue immediately afterwards after a low ball was swung into the box.
Alnwick was certainly the busier of both keepers and he made a superlative save to keep out giant striker Matt Smith’s header from a left sided cross. The Wanderers keeper had to dive at full stretch to keep the parity.
Reece Burke spectacularly put the ball in his own net after Smith failed to connect with a low ball, but the assistant referee had earlier flagged for offside to spare the Wanderers’ defender’s blushes.
Smith was getting more into the game as the half wore on and he was making a nuisance of himself in the Wanderers box with his gargantuan presence.
Play had somewhat tempered after a frenetic opening period, but Tyler Walker had a chance from distance right on the half-hour mark but was unable to trouble Smithies with his tame shot.
Karl Henry received the game’s first caution for a high challenge on Josh Scowen in the QPR penalty area.
Alnwick was once alert to keep out a glanced header from Jake Bidwell who was to rise to Freeman’s in-swinging free-kick.
Right into injury time, Smith, again unmarked, headed high over the bar much to the relief of the defenders around him.
That Wanderers ended the half without conceding a goal was testament to the ability of Alnwick and the profligacy of Smith, who despite dominating the aerial battles, was unable to find a way beyond the Wanderers gloveman.
Jem Karacan replaced Josh Vela during the interval for his first appearance since September.
Wanderers almost took the lead after Wheater leaped at the far post to head Ameobi’s free-kick on target emphatically, but the impressive Smithies once again denied the visitors by pushing the ball away for a corner.
The visitors suffered a massive blow ten minutes after the restart when Little was shown a straight red for a late tackle on Massimo Luongo. Replays showed that although the challenge was clumsy it didn’t warrant a sending off
The numerical disadvantage on the field was countered by the thousand-strong traveling Wanderers fans who were chanting ‘We Are The One And Only Wanderers’ implacably. And they nearly turned the volume up a further notch when Walker went narrowly wide with an angled drive after breaking the offside trap.
Despite being a man down, the visitors enjoyed their best sustained period of play with Alnwick enjoying something of a respite from attacking hostilities.
The reprieve was only short-lived as he made another superlative save to tip over Freeman’s drive at the expense of a corner.
Phil Parkinson made a second substitution with twenty minutes remaining when he brought on Le Fondre for Walker.
The goal came just minutes later when Joel Lynch headed the ball home at the far post after Smith nodded into the danger area from a free kick.
It was a disappointing way for Wanderers to concede after they had shown so much resilience up until that moment.
Wanderers final substation saw Morais on for Derik with just less than ten mnutes to go.
The visitors had a strong penalty appeal turned down when Ameobi broke away after collecting Alnwick’s long thrown. The big Wanderers attacker slipped in Morais on the overlap, whose centre seemingly struck the hands of a QPR defender. The officials, thought, were having none of it and Wanderers had to settle for a corner.
Despite the attacking substitutions Wanderers didn’t trouble Smithies any further and Smith made sure of the victory deep into injury time when he nodded a right-sided centre beyond Alnwick.
Wanderers now face a crucial home match against Sunderland on Tuesday night and will be looking to maintain their superb home form after two successive frustrating performances on their travels.