Bantams prospects make most of their Trophy opportunity

IT was just under two decades ago that Manchester City's classic '˜We're not really here' chant was first ingrained into footballing culture.

It was a song of denial at the club’s inglorious descent into the third tier of English football in 1998-99, with stoic and long-suffering Blues supporters claiming that ‘just like the fans of the invisible man’, they were not really there at venues such as Colchester, Wycombe and Macclesfield.

The pre-match talk ahead of last night’s game was also of a near-invisible presence in the away end, with the Blues selling just nine tickets in advance.

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In the event, a hardy enclave of just over 50 supporters was present in a thinly-populated away section to at least surpass expectations in that regard.

Most of a Blues persuasion clearly preferred the attractions of home as Pep Guardiola’s moneybags side took on Wolves in the Carabao Cup, hoping for an ‘I was there’ moment as witness to Sergio Aguero becoming the club’s all-time record goalscorer after drawing level on 178 goals with Mexborough-born Eric Brook on Saturday.

But for both sets of fans among the sparse 1,260 crowd, there were at least elements of quality on view for the discerning eye.

More especially for the home contingent, with Bradford City afforded progression into the next round of the competition, if not in entirely straightforward fashion given second-half events, when the visitors came on strong in a chirpy final half-hour.

For home players Tyrell Robinson and Jordan Gibson, it was a particularly wholesome evening that they will recollect with fondness in the years to come after making their full debuts. Brought on for his league bow from the bench on Saturday, one-time Arsenal winger Robinson – who displayed some electrifying bursts of pace on occasions – saw his right-wing corner emphatically dispatched by the head of Adam Thompson on 18 minutes to forge the breakthrough.

Gibson was involved in a sweet move down the right that saw the Bantams double their tally courtesy of Alex Jones ten minutes before the break – to crown another enterprising display.

He adeptly supplied Luke Hendrie, whose low cross found Jones, who turned smartly before steering the ball past City goalkeeper Arijant Muric, with the Swiss having made a brilliant one-handed early save to deny Shay McCartan.

For Muric’s rival at the other end of the pitch, it was also an evening that was not without meaning, with third-choice Lukas Raeder handed his long-awaited first senior appearance in 21 months.

He was denied a clean sheet when Rabbi Matondo rounded him to reduce the arrears on 57 minutes and, while he was not kept overly busy, getting back to the day job as such will have provided him with satisfaction – with progress in the competition likely to hand him a further opportunity.

The much-derided Checkatrade Trophy may continue to have its knockers, but it assumed a fair degree of importance for other squad players and the Bantams’ emerging talents who did their level best to make an impression.

Several fresh-faced colts in sky blue also did their cause no harm either, following a vibrant second half.

For Jones, this competition has provided a welcome source of nourishment in the goalscoring stakes, with the striker taking his tally to three in the competition so far this term after netting a brace in Bradford’s 4-2 win in their Group F opener at Chesterfield.

It could have been more, with the striker denied by an alert save by Muric early in the second half on an evening when he reminded everyone that he was still around. Others too.

Bradford City: Raeder; Hendrie (Hudson 45), Thompson, Knight-Percival, Hanson (Laird 77); Gibson (Patrick 84), Pybus, Devine, Robinson, McCartan, Jones. Substitutes unused: Sattelmaier, Reeves, Dieng, Hefele.

Manchester City: Muric; Duhaney, Oliver, Francis, Wilson; Matondo, Smith, Dele-Bashiru, Richards, Garre; Gonzalez (Pozo 77). Substitutes unused: Sokol, Diallo, Kigbu, Ogunby.

Referee: S Oldham (Lancashire).