Wales....0 Czech Republic....0. MARK Hughes' babes snuffed out the Czech Republic big guns at an eerie Millennium Stadium last night to raise hopes of a blazing Euro 2004 qualifying campaign.

Despite a blitzed squad - missing the likes of Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Gary Speed and eight significant others - Hughes' youngsters proved they can fill their boots on the road to Portugal.

Big success stories included 22-year-old Panteg-born Danny Gabbidon's dream debut at left back.

And Tranmere's 22-year-old star Jason Koumas also ended a traumatic day by giving a man-of-the-match display just hours after rejecting a £2.4million move to First Division West Brom.

That, coupled with another promising performance from 23-year-old midfielder Simon Davies and a dazzling 45-minute display from Nottingham Forest's Darren Ward, gave renewed hope that Hughes does have the strength in depth he so badly needs to mount a serious European campaign.

The Czechs were missing Juventus hero Pavel Nedved through 'flu and dangerous Borussia Dortmund striker Jan Koller was relegated to the bench in the first half. But among their glittering array of stars in the starting XI were big guns Vladimir Smicer, Karel Poborsky and Tomas Rosicky who all predictably caused Wales problems early on. The first scare arrived after just three minutes when Liverpool's Smicer cut inside and unleashed a stinging right-foot shot which was pawed out for a corner by 'keeper Ward. But the visitors, ranked 82 places above Wales in 15th, were put on the back foot after 19 minutes when Mark Delaney's corner was headed on by skipper Andy Melville into the danger zone.

With Blake looming, Czech full-back Milan Fukal was forced to clear the ball away for a corner as the sparse 15,000 crowd urged their team forward.

After a promising opening quarter, though, Wales found themselves relying more and more on the prowess of Ward who took the No.1 shirt from regular Paul Jones. Fukal's strong header from Rosicky's free-kick ended with him superbly tipping the ball around a post after 28 minutes.

And he again went to the rescue three minutes later when Jiri Stajner slipped past the Wales defence to tee up Vratislav Lokvenc.

The Kaiserslautern striker unleashed a low, powerful drive which Ward gallantly saved with his outstretched legs.

There were flashes of Wales' prowess at the other end and Koumas forced a spectacular save from Sparta Prague's Petr Cech who clawed away his volley from Hartson's head down.

Hughes, clearly eager to assess his goalkeeping options, sent on Grimsby No.1 Danny Coyne for Ward as the Czechs changed four of their personnel at half-time. Wales again survived by the skin of their teeth early on when first sub Libor Sionko headed just inches past Coyne's left post and Koller's headed goal was ruled offside by a linesman.

Skipper Melville marked his 50th cap for his country with a match-saving clearance after 72 minutes when he bravely threw his body in front of Koller's sure-fire strike.

Hughes continued to experiment late on when he handed a first cap to Oswestry-born Brentford midfielder Paul Evans in place of the outstanding Robbie Savage, and Burnley's Gareth Taylor replaced the hard-working Hartson.

Koumas, who showed throughout the 90 minutes exactly why he rates himself a Premiership player with Everton now the likely takers, dispatched a perfectly angled ball for Spurs' Davies to fire across the face of goal three minutes from time.

Wales rode their luck for a large portion of the second half but had the stamina and heart to hold out while creating a few problems of their own for the Czechs, who narrowly missed out on a place in the World Cup finals in Japan this summer.

Koller, though, made Welsh hearts flutter once again at the death when he flashed another stinging shot just past Coyne's goal, but Hughes' men held on in some style. Wales (4-4-3): Darren Ward (sub Coyne 45), Mark Delaney, Danny Gabbidon, Andy Melville, Robert Page, John Robinson, Jason Koumas, Robbie Savage (sub Evans 73), John Hartson (sub Taylor 74), Nathan Blake (sub Trollope 62), Simon Davies. Subs not used: Steve Jenkins Scott Young, Rhys Weston. Booking: Blake (15).

Czech Republic (4-4-3): Petr Cech (sub Vaniak 45), Milan Fukal, Tomas Galasek (sub Kolousek 60), Marek Jankulovski (sub Holenak 82), Jiri Novonty (sub Johana 45), Tomas Ujfalusi, Vladimir Smicer, Karel Poborsky, Vratislav Lokvenc (sub Koller 45), Tomas Rosicky (sub Schman 45), Jiri Stajner (sub Sionko 45). Subs not used: Tomas Hubschman.

*PICTURED: Nathan Blake takes on Milan Fukal