OCTOBER was when the wheels started to fall for City – and it started in front of the nation watching them.
Sky cameras were at Valley Parade for a first league meeting between the Bantams and Harrogate.
With a two-week hiatus behind them thanks to Grimsby’s Covid failures, Stuart McCall’s men were set to impress on television.
But it didn’t work that way.
They were by far the second best in a 1-0 loss to combative and enthusiastic opposition, whose previous appearance at City had been for a West Riding Cup final against Eccleshill.
McCall felt the criticism that followed was an overreaction – even more so when the Bantams rebounded five days later to comfortably win at Mansfield.
It was a defining moment as City claimed their first away win in 371 days since Gary Bowyer’s side triumphed under the sun at Morecambe just over a year earlier.
McCall had refused to do business on the deadline day in the transfer window. He was happy to leave around a fifth of the £ 1.5million salary cap untouched for a planned madness in January.
That big call would hasten his fall when the wounds bite.
There was no hint of a problem to come when City scored a convincing Field Mill victory, although it was followed by a much more difficult point at home against Walsall.
Then came a visit from Michael Flynn’s Newport – and the former Bantams skipper did his old friend a disservice.
A ruthless 3-0 win for the Exiles highlighted City’s shortcomings; even more so when Lee Novak suffered a calf injury. The forward would miss the next seven weeks – returning for what would be McCall’s swan song at Oldham.
It was City’s heaviest home loss since March 2019, but Flynn offered McCall some sympathy.
He said: “It’s never nice, but I’ve seen enough quality in this Bradford side and I know Stuart has enough quality. They will be fine.
Young Wolves Austin Samuels had arrived on loan after scoring for their Under-21s at Valley Parade as part of the Football League trophy.
McCall claimed his capture as the “last piece of the puzzle” – but such a raw and unproven attacker rarely looked like an attack that would now rest heavily on the experienced shoulders of Clayton Donaldson.
This decision to keep the powder dry at the end of the window was already biting.
City fired again as they returned to the University of Bolton stadium, the scene of their impressive Carabao Cup victory on opening day.
They fell behind on a comedic goal after Elliot Watt sliced a clearance against his own bar. There was no turning back despite the domination of the second half.
Billy Clarke had recovered from a draw at the penalty spot against Walsall a week earlier, but missed the opportunity to do it again with a weak kick that was easily saved.
The Irishman raised his hand as he walked back empty-handed to the Pennines.
“I said in the preseason that if it doesn’t go well and the fans want to stick someone, then I’ll take it if that means freeing the other guys.
“The way the game was going, I scored and I’m sure we would have continued to win. I have to bear the weight of it on my shoulders. ”
More daytime misery outside followed four days later as the pressure began to mount.
A first visit to Barrow in more than half a century saw City suffer another one-goal setback after Levi Sutton, who had just returned from an injury, was sent off for a reckless challenge down the center line .
“Nobody feels bad right now,” his manager said.
“Levi knows he let himself down and that he let us down, but it’s something he will have to overcome.
The Cumbrians celebrated their first home win since returning to the league, while their victims worried about another toothless outing.
McCall remained defiant as criticism grew online from an increasingly fractured fan base.
“I looked everyone in the eye in the locker room and there are guys in there who had the disappointment of relegation,” he said following the Holker Street loss.
“I don’t look at them thinking we’re at that point where you get used to losing. But what we have to do is get three points, without a doubt, and put in a performance.
It had been a heartwarming month.
HIGH POINT: City claimed their first away league victory in over a year by beating Mansfield.
LOW POINT: A heavy home loss to Newport was made worse by Lee Novak’s calf injury.
LEAGUE TWO: Harrogate H 0-1, Mansfield A 3-1, Walsall H 1-1, Newport H 0-3, Bolton A 0-1, Barrow A 0-1.
EFL TROPHY: Wolves H 1-1 (lost 5-3 to pens)