Knocked out of both cups at first blood last season, Kevin Keegan was taking no chances here. No rest for the well paid - the Carling Cup represents a trophy they can win, according to the Manchester City manager, and it would be "crazy" not to take it seriously. A dose of realism from the eternal dreamer. Not that he could stop himself dreaming. "I told the lads, 'Three wins and you are at the Millennium Stadium'," he said afterwards.
It was a good time to play Queen's Park Rangers - no win in three games and a recent cup pedigree as mongrel as City's. There was plenty of bark but only a little bite from the Second Division side. An upset remained remote, with two well struck goals by Shaun Wright-Phillips easing any residual concern.
City went ahead in lame circumstances - literally. As Kevin McLeod, caught in a challenge with Sun Jihai, slowly limped along the touchline, he played Wright-Phillips on-side. The midfielder collected Joey Barton's through ball and, from the point of the penalty area, thumped it low across a bewildered Chris Day in goal.
The strike provoked fury that did not subside. The atmosphere grew ugly. In truth the error was McLeod's, although his manager, Ian Holloway, said: "It was a foul to us - never mind the poxy offside or whatever."
A sense of injustice was fuelled but City clearly had the edge. It was their strongest available XI and that meant including 40-year-old David Seaman who, remarkably, was involved in his first League Cup tie for four years. He was also back, of course, where he played before joining Arsenal many blue moons ago.
Seaman was booed throughout. Trevor Sinclair, another returnee, was cheered. After 30 minutes his drive was spilled by Day and, somehow, Robbie Fowler shot wide. Without Paul Furlong and with Tony Thorpe ineligible, QPR lacked conviction, despite Kevin Gallen's guile. Marc Bircham - with his dyed Mohican - carried the fight.
They pushed on. Possession gave them a platform and McLeod used it. A header wide and an eye-catching run renewed hope. It was extinguished soon enough. After Bircham had again shot weakly, City struck. Robbie Fowler's square pass created space for Barton, who saw there was even more acreage to his right. He rolled the ball to Wright-Phillips who, again, shot powerfully.
Then, as QPR's defence collapsed, it was three. The substitute Jon Macken was found, unmarked, by Sun Jihai. He took the ball in his stride to finish with confidence. Wright-Phillips hit the post and Gareth Ainsworth, who was through on goal, hit Seaman's legs. There was no consolation - except in Keegan's words. "Three-nil flattered us," he said.
Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Day; Edghill, Forbes, Carlisle, Padulla; Ainsworth, Bircham, Rowlands, McLeod; Gallen, Pacquette (Sabin, 61). Substitutes not used: Culkin (gk), Palmer, Sabin, Bean, Oli.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Seaman; Tarnat, Distin, Dunne, Jihai; Wright-Phillips, Barton, Bosvelt, Sinclair (Sibierski, 84); Anelka (Macken, 72), Fowler (Berkovic, 84). Substitutes not used: Ellegaard (gk), Wiekens.
Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).Reuse content