FIRST, the plusses from the latest instalment of Checkatrade Trophy action at Valley Parade.
Bradford City avoided setting a new record low attendance for the second time inside a month as 1,015 filed through the turnstiles.
But such is the apathy surrounding this mess of a competition that those hardy souls who did forsake an evening by the fireside watching Kim Tate’s return to Emmerdale were so small in number that any disgruntlement felt at a 4-1 defeat to League Two Oldham Athletic was rather lost on the evening air.
Then there was Kai Bruenker ending his long wait for a first goal in English football at the 17th attempt.
Those apart, however, this was another chastening night for the Bantams as those first-team players not rested with League One survival in mind did little to impress.
David Ball struggled up front, while captain Josh Wright – back after five weeks out through injury – also did little to suggest he is ready to be the catalyst for an upturn in fortunes for Bradford following a worrying start to the season.
Defeat to the Latics also means David Hopkin’s men have it all to do in terms of qualifying from Group F after slipping to third place with Barnsley and Everton Under-21s both having a game in hand.
Mind, there is a school of thought that bowing out of a competition with such silly rules as tagging a penalty shoot-out on to drawn games in the group stage would be a good thing.
Certainly the Trophy sits way down a list of priorities headed by the immediate need for league points and a plan for January that can help rectify the recruitment mistakes of a summer that saw 16 new faces brought in, but not enough quality.
Oldham went ahead last night in the tenth minute.
Callum Lang found the net despite the best efforts of Jordan Gibson on the line, the Latics striker taking advantage of some poor defending to collect a Sam Surridge pass inside the six yard box and then turn quickly enough that no one in claret and amber could get close.
Richard O’Donnell had little chance after being left so exposed by his defence.
The City goalkeeper, though, was culpable when the Latics doubled their advantage in the 26th minute.
The sting being taken out of a Dan Gardner shot by an outstretched Bantams leg was all the invitation O’Donnell needed to race from his line only for Chris O’Grady to claim possession comfortably.
He squared for Mohamed Maouche whose flick was sufficient to send the ball into the by now unguarded goal.
Bradford responded five minutes after the restart as Bruenker netted for the first time since joining from SC Freiburg’s reserve team last January.
The German has struggled to settle amid the hurly-burly nature of League One football so there was a genuine outpouring of happiness amid the celebrations.
Any hopes of a sustained fightback, however, were soon ended as Surridge met a quiet sublime left-wing cross from O’Grady to beat O’Donnell from close range.
The Bournemouth loanee netted again 14 minutes from the end after cutting inside and driving low past O’Donnell.
Alex Jones did come off the bench for a late cameo for his first competitive appearance since injuring his ankle in November last year.
As welcome as the 24-year-old’s return was, however, it did little to lift spirits after what had been a pretty one-sided encounter.
Doncaster Rovers enjoyed a happier evening than the Bantams as two goals from Alfie May clinched a 2-0 win over Grimsby Town.
His opener in front of a 1,420 crowd came midway through the first half via a 25-yard shot.
May then doubled the home side’s advantage from the penalty spot shortly after the restart following a collision with Mariners defender Paul Dixon.