FIRST the good news: Valley Parade has finally staged its first fixture in just over a month.
But given last night’s bitter stoppage-time Roses defeat, a fourth successive home postponement may have been infinitely preferable for City’s fans, who have still not seen their heroes win on home soil this year.
A lack of adequate drainage may be a much-publicised and pertinent issue at BD8 – which has left home games exposed to the perils of the recent inclement weather – but one thing in grave danger of seeping away are City’s play-off hopes as their winless streak extended to ten games.
After a 31-day wait to be introduced to Bradford supporters and take charge of a home game, there was further frustration last night for manager Simon Grayson.
By the final whistle his relief at finally being able to direct operations from the home dug-out will have been massively superseded by his crushing sense of disappointment after Michael Jacobs’s cruel late winner for the promotion-chasing visitors.
It proved an unfulfilling result in City’s first home appointment since February 10, with the battling hosts’ work ethic, organisation and attitude having placed the hosts on the cusp of chiselling out a deserved and hard-earned point.
Granted, City created little on a tough night, but their application in testing circumstances was fully appreciated by the home support.
Without the presence up top of the suspended Charlie Wyke, the hosts were posed major questions of character on a night when the City top-scorer’s targetman qualities and attacking nous would have been invaluable.
A makeshift, if lightweight, forward line of Alex Gilliead and Shay McCartan grafted as did City to a man against a Latics line-up who soon assumed the box seat.
Alongside the pockmarked playing surface, a stiff wind represented an additional hazard for City, who already had enough on their plate competing against opponents whose squad riches are the envy of most in the division.
Some pre-match conjecture suggested that some of Wigan’s players may, subconsciously, have one eye on Sunday’s pressing FA Cup quarter-final with Southampton and that it may be a good time to catch them.
Given a run of one league win in their previous five league outings and the incentive of jumping up to second spot with victory – allied to gaining a spot of revenge for City’s late win in Lancashire – shrewd observers perhaps thought otherwise.
An early scare arrived with City surviving a strong penalty call after Jacobs tumbled in full flight when Lewis Guy appeared to catch him and they had another let-off when James Vaughan diverted Jacobs’s centre onto a post.
Straightaway Colin Doyle had to scramble back to tip over Nathan Byrne’s wind-assisted cross that was arrowing towards goal with Nick Powell then heading over as the pressure continued.
City gamely hung in and early assertion in the second period provided optimism with Wigan’s back four finally forced into some meaningful defensive work in front of the Kop.
Opportunites were hard to come by at both ends although the intent was there.
It increasingly started to look as if one goal would do the job for either side and it almost arrived with 20 minutes remaining after Sam Morsy fed Jacobs, who fired low into the side-netting after a driving run.
Grayson soon threw on some attacking ballast in the shape of German Kai Breunker as the hosts spied the aerial route while Wigan played their final attacking card in sending on ex-Bradford striker Devante Cole, who was greeted with boos.
Cole almost had the last laugh with only some desperate last-ditch defending – in keeping with an attentive and iron-clad back-four performance – clearing his header off the line in a congested box.
At the other end City desperately sought that one precious chance to drop in front of goal.
But it came to Wigan with Jacobs drilling the ball home low past Doyle following good work by fellow substitutes Ryan Colclough and Will Grigg.
Bradford City: Doyle; Vincelot, Kilgallon, Knight-Percival; McMahon, Lund, Guy, Dieng (Law 87), Robinson; Gilliead (Breunker 72), McCartan (Poleon 82). Unused substitutes: Raeder, Chicksen, Warnock, A Jones.
Wigan Athletic: Walton; Bryne, Dunkley, Burn, Elder; Power, Morsy; Massey (Colclough 72), Powell (Grigg 58), Jacobs; Vaughan (Cole 82). Unused substitutes: J Jones, Perkins, Bruce, Roberts.
Referee: M Heywood (Cheshire).