Down-at-heel following a torrid autumn in what has long since metamorphosed into an annus horribilis, Bradford City are experiencing the sort of dire predicament where you freely take inspiration from wherever it comes.
Ahead of last night’s meeting, a spot did arrive from an unlikely source, courtesy of the previous experiences of opponents Barnsley.
Rewind the clock almost exactly three years to the day and the ravaged Reds were similarly unable to buy a win with their reservoirs of confidence having tanked following a crippling run of losses.
A cathartic, season-changing moment famously arrived in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at a sparsely-populated Oakwell when a moment of majesty from prodigal son Adam Hammill earned them a precious victory over Yorkshire rivals York City on November 10, 2015 – ending a run of six debilitating defeats.
The Bantams may have stopped their own atrocious sequence of setbacks amid a rain deluge in Aldershot at the weekend, but what they would have given for a Hammill-type game-changer last night.
Barnsley never looked back from that moment in a chalk-and-cheese season which ended in promotion and JPT glory – although Bradford would take something far, far less grand, as it stands.
On a day which was designated as World Kindness Day, only the stone-hearted would have begrudged a bit of benevolence towards the Bantams, given events in 2018.
Unfortunately, the footballing gods were not particularly kind once again against a side who chalked up their fourth victory in a run of five successive Oakwell appointments, with the other being drawn.
Application and spirit was there from those in visiting jerseys, but most of the assuredness came from the those in red, even if the night was slightly soured by the second-half dismissal of captain-for-the-night Adam Jackson for a second bookable offence.
City must continue to be stoic, by contrast.
Tantalisingly, almost cruelly, the early signs were promising for the visitors, with David Ball – a one-time Barnsley trialist – producing a moment of quality which he has periodically produced from his locker during his career.
Afforded space on eight minutes following neat work on the left from Sherwin Seedorf, Ball’s curler to open his account for the club was a quality episode not in keeping with recent events.
Barnsley have grown used to having much of their own way and certainly not losing at Oakwell for a good while and despite making 11 changes to the side who eviscerated sorry Notts County with four second-half strikes, last night’s starting cast were not lacking in dash either.
Needing a point to assure qualification to the next stages of the competition – one that they won in their last foray in 2015-16 – the Reds were not passive or inhibited in their attempts to do just that.
Watched on intently by Daniel Stendel, someone who clearly takes any lack of intensity from his side as a personal affront, Barnsley’s players were wise to the dangers.
Tempo was regained after Ball’s opener and after Anthony O’Connor made a timely goalline clearance to clear Jacob Brown’s glancing header, order was restored just before the half-hour.
A cross from Daniel Pinillos, who enjoyed his marauding brief on the left, found George Moncur – and he was unlikely to pass up such a promising position from 10 yards out.
Ball showed more evidence of his technique when his well-struck free-kick was kept out by Jack Walton, but in the main, as many may have suspected beforehand, the action was mainly towards the visiting goal.
Bradford did go close with a deflected strike from Josh Wright yielding a timely save from Walton and an offside flag denying the non-plussed Kai Brunker – but the aplomb arrived from those in home shirts. That was crystallised when Moncur fired his second of the game following a high-class counter-attack – and the midfielder soon almost secured rights to the matchball, when he fired just wide.
City’s grim fortune was then summed up when Jack Payne’s close-range free-kick shuddered the woodwork, with home goalkeeper Walton then denying the same player.
When it rains, it pours.