City u18s went down 3-2 in their final pre-season friendly after QPR came from behind to claim victory at Platt Lane.
Jason Wilcox’s men had took an early lead through Zackarias Faour, but the visitors responded with two goals before half time.
A late equaliser looked to have given City the draw they deserved, but Rangers hit back within a minute to regain the advantage and come out on top.
After pre-season engagements against Croatian, Scottish and Welsh opposition, this was the first test for City’s youngsters against a fellow English side, and a last chance for Wilcox to experiment with a large squad ahead of Saturday’s Premier League kick off away to Blackburn.
With that in mind, there were five changes from the starting XI that triumphed over Wrexham last time out. On that occasion, goals from Isaac Buckley and Manu Garcia were enough to slay the Dragons as City took a happy trip the other side of the Welsh border.
This time, Buckley was replaced by Faour, back from his exertions at the Nordic Tournament, while Tosin Adarabioyo, Tom Holland, Aaron Nemane and Marcus Wood all returned to the starting line-up.
Skipper Adarabioyo was partnered by Nathaniel Oseni at centre back, while Cameron Humphreys moved to right back after his impressive showing in Wales.
City burst out of the blocks and were ahead within three minutes – the first chance of a game that started with a high tempo that belied the friendly nature of this encounter.
Faour was sandwiched between two defenders when running in on goal, and he took the free kick himself, placing the ball into the furthest corner of the net from a central position outside the box.
Wilcox’s young charges dominated possession in the early stages and looked dangerous going forward, and Aaron Nemane was unlucky to see his cross blocked after excellent work to beat two defenders against the odds.
QPR began to grow into the game, but Albinson wasn’t tested inside the first 25 minutes. Rangers sent a free kick some way over the top, while Adarabioyo did extremely well to get back and cover just when it looked like the opposing striker had run past the last line of defence.
However, City failed to heed the warnings and conceded the equaliser just after the half hour mark – the visitors used a free kick to their advantage this time and Albinson was left grasping at air as the Rs man curled it beyond the reach of his fingertips and into the top corner.
City barely had time to respond before Rangers were ahead, seizing on a poor pass and chipping Albinson from 30 yards out.
Hardy and Faour both had shots blocked by the limbs of the opposing defenders as City sought to restore parity before the break, but the half time whistle arrived with QPR still holding their slender advantage.
With the main object of pre-season experimentation and fitness the second half witnessed a raft of changes by both sides, and Javairo Dilrosun was a constant threat for City on the left wing, sending in two crosses that fizzed across the six yard box begging for the slightest of touches.
Oseni’s header flew just past the post and a trialist cut in well from the right but his shot was inches the wrong side of the post.
Isaac Buckley, who replaced Faour not long after the restart, came close to the equaliser twice – but on each occasion found the gloves of the Rs keeper in the way.
The momentum was with the boy Blues however, and the pressure finally paid off in the 82nd minute when a free kick on the right from the trialist bypassed everyone in the centre and snuck into the far corner to level the scores.
However, parity lasted barely a minute before QPR put the ball past Albinson once more.
City immediately set out in search of a third themselves, but the game was concluded a few minutes early due to a bad injury to one of the visiting players.
Wilcox will have been pleased with the fighting spirit shown by his charges, and will hope that can be turned into a winning result when the league kicks off next weekend.