ON family fun day at the Macron Stadium, Wanderers fans were left to go home empty-handed after watching their side fail to hit the target against Vitesse Arnhem.
Everybody likes the thrill of a funfair ride like the ones on offer outside Wanderers’ home yesterday but, friendly or not, the fayre on offer on the pitch inside in the final fixture of pre-season hardly got the adrenalin flowing.
Of course, it is all about fitness and being ready for Saturday’s Championship opener at Watford.
But unless manager Dougie Freedman can find a sharp-shooting frontline addition soon, you sense it could be another roller-coaster campaign for those loyal supporters.
Freedman named a strong line-up from the start for the only home friendly with that league start just six days away.
With Adam Bogdan still injured, Andy Lonergan was between the sticks again behind an experienced back four of Kevin McNaughton, Matt Mills, Tim Ream and Dean Moxey.
New club captain Jay Spearing was joined in a holding midfield role by Medo Kamara with Darren Pratley, Liam Feeney – on the right – and Neil Danns supporting lone front man Jermaine Beckford.
The visitors included Chelsea loanees Bertrand Traore and Wallace after going down 3-1 to the Blues, who they have a link-up with, in midweek.
Freedman stated in his first programme notes of the new campaign he expected Vitesse, who competed in last season’s Europa League, to provide a stern test and so it proved.
Wanderers began brightly and had the first real chance on six minutes when Beckford cut in from the right to fire low but into the side-netting.
A few minutes later, he turned provider when he crossed from the opposite flank to find an unmarked Pratley in the box but he headed into the ground and straight at keeper Piet Velthuizen.
The signs were promising for the Whites but the visitors, backed by a vocal band of 100 or so fans, continued to play the type of passing football associated with Dutch sides.
And after a few brief sighters at goal, they took the lead on 16 minutes.
Medo conceded a needless foul just 20 yards out on the right side of the box and up stepped Marko Vejinovic to curl a delightful strike over the Wanderers wall and into the side of the goal despite Lonergan’s best efforts diving to his left.
It gave the visitors even more belief, if they lacked any, and Traore fired a low left-footer wide midway through the half.
Wanderers were not playing badly but the formation did not seem to suit personnel with Medo and Spearing doing virtually the same job.
It meant the onus was very much on the advanced trio to support and feed Beckford and they could not do it often enough.
And it could have been a greater advantage for Peter Bosz’s side at the break but for a fine interception from McNaughton in the box to deny Kelvin Leerdam and a super full-stretch save from Lonergan to thwart Valeri Qazaishvili.
The fans may have hoped for changes at half time but the only difference came in the attire as Wanderers emerged from the dressing room in their new away strip for the second period.
Maybe, like Manchester United famously in defeat at Southampton several years ago, they thought a half-time kit change may bring about better luck. It would not.
The half started following the same path and Lonergan again had to react to turn behind a shot from Davy Propper.
If that was good from the keeper, he almost blotted his copybook from the resulting corner when he let the ball slip out of his grasp onto the head of the impressive Leerdam but the Vitesse man squandered the chance and headed wide.
Wanderers needed some fresh ideas and a double substitution on 64 minutes was aimed at providing that as Conor Wilkinson, who has impressed in pre-season, and Chung-Yong Lee replaced Beckford and Pratley.
But it continued to be a struggle to break down a solid Vitesse rearguard.
In fact, one of the best chances for the Whites came when Spearing advanced to send a powerful drive flying just too high.
On 80 minutes, they finally forced Velthuizen into real action when he had to dive to push out a far=post header from Danns after he met McNaughton’s well-timed cross.
But on the whole, chances were as rare as a successful dart throw on the fairground stalls outside.
If Wanderers are to be in with a chance of winning any prizes of their own this year, Freedman will need to try and hook in some attacking reinforcements before next week’s big kick off or else the Whites’ Championship carousel will continue to go round in ever-frustrating circles.
Wanderers (4-2-3-1): Lonergan 7, McNaughton 8, Mills 7, Ream 7, Moxey 7; Spearing 7, Medo 6; Feeney 7, Danns 6, Pratley 6; Beckford 7. Subs: Wilkinson 64 (Beckford) 6, Chung-Yong 65 (Pratley) 6. Not used: Fitzsimons, Dervite, Trotter, Threlkeld, Hall, Clough, Wheater, Bolger, Youngs, C Davies.
Vitesse: Velthuizen, Wallace, Leerdam, Vejinovic, Qazaishvili, Propper, Oliinyk, Kruswijk, van der Heijden, Traore, Kashia. Subs: Diks 46 (Wallace), Labyad 46 (Traore), Djurdjevic 61 (Kruiswijk), Achenteh 61 (Qazaishvili), Bosz 77 (Leerdam), Duada 77 (Oliinyk). Not used: Pedersen, Klein-Holte, Room.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Manchester).
Attendance: 5,399 (111 away).