Relegation from the Football League will mean the end of the club.
That was the stark warning from passionate interim manager Peter Jackson, ironically at ‘the club that would not die’.
With three games to play, City are just four points clear of the drop zone.
Performances like the one at Accrington and they will not collect another.
Perhaps the City players thought the job had been done in midweek when a draw at home to Burton took them to 48 points, which is generally enough for survival in the basement division.
Saturday’s insipid display combined with virtually all other results going against them, however, means their position on the pitch remains as shaky as it does off it.
Jackson was almost as distraught as the 700 fans who had made the trip to a club which essentially remains a non-league set-up but one which is now in the play-offs.
“If we go down, this club will go out of business. It really will and the players have to realise that jobs are on the line, livelihoods are on the line,” said Jackson, who led City to the Division Three title in 1985 as the youngest captain in the club’s history.
The fans rightly vented their fury at the final whistle and Jackson continued: “That first-half display was quite embarrassing really. The fans summed it up saying ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt.’ That must really hurt the players because it hurts me and I’m not even playing.
“For a group of fans to sing that, there is probably no bigger insult. All they want is effort, commitment and desire for a club that is fighting for its life and I mean fighting for its life.
“Players have to turn up and fight for their lives. I work all hours, I do the best I can and I am passionate about my job and I want my players to be passionate about playing for this club but there was nothing there in that first-half performance.
“I told them after Burton that we still needed a win. I had been telling them all week we needed another win. Simple as that. Who would have thought Gillingham would have got beat at home against Barnet?”
Looking ahead to today’s important home game, Jackson continued: “Aldershot have three defeats in 21 games so it is going to be difficult for us. Make no mistake about that but all I ask and all the fans want and all the people behind the scenes want from the team is to go out and give it a go. Just have a go and be passionate about playing football, be passionate about playing for a really good club that this is.”
Jackson remains committed to the cause after garnering 11 points from 11 games in charge following the departure of former England Under-21 coach Peter Taylor, whose ill-fated reign began at Accrington with a 2-0 defeat in February, 2010.
Jackson knows that even if survival is secured, then next season will be equally testing especially if the club uproot from Valley Parade and move to share Odsal with Bradford Bulls – talks, as exclusively revealed by the Yorkshire Post, having already been held with the Football League.
Having to pay £1.25m annual overheads before a ball is kicked is proving unmanageable and if they cannot renegotiate the rent paid to ground owners Flamingo Land and office block owners Prupim then the move could be on this summer.
That would almost certainly result in City entering administration and being docked 10 points in order to end their deals and would also throw open to question if Julian Rhodes could remain as joint-chairman with Mark Lawn after having taken the club down the same road in 2002 and 2004.
The imminent problem is securing league safety but there was no hint of the players being concerned as they surrendered to an Accrington side, led since 1999 by John Coleman – a period which has seen City having had 13 managers in charge.
In contrast, Accrington’s desire was epitomised by a row between Jimmy Ryan and Joseph Jacobson over slack marking on Omar Daley when the game was already won.
It was game over by the break, Luke Joyce curling the opener into the top corner before captain Andrew Procter made it 2-0 inside 16 minutes with a right-footer inside Lenny Pidgeley’s right-hand post.
City centre-back Luke Oliver could then only head a long throw back across his own area to give Sean McConville a simple tap-in on the stroke of half-time.
City’s response was poor, their best effort coming from right-back Lewis Hunt, who saw his drive from outside the area tipped over by Alex Cisak.
With the game up, target man James Hanson was rested for today, having won his fair share of headers only to have no support around him, including Jake Speight, who was rewarded for his midweek equaliser with a starting role.
City also lost central defender Steve Williams with a stomach bug but it is going to take more than a few aspirins to help them recover in time for today’s encounter.
Accrington Stanley: Cisak, Winnard, Hessey, Edwards, Jacobson; Joyce, Procter; Ryan (Boulding 82),Craney (Barnett 55), McConville (Lindfield 72); Gornell. Unused substitutes: Dunbavin, Long, Parkinson, Murphy.
Bradford City: Pidgeley, Hunt, Williams (Bullock 46), Oliver, Threlfall; Syers, Worthington, Flynn, Daley (Dobie 80); Speight, Hanson (Chilaka 67). Unused substitutes: McLaughlin, O’Brien,Evans, Dean.
Referee: M Naylor (S Yorkshire).