Bantams defender Rory McArdle made a successful return from injury for the reserves this Tuesday as City fought back from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw away at Wigan Athletic in the Final Third Development League.
Playing his first game since dislocating his shoulder at the start of last month, McArdle appeared to show no signs of the old injury as he played the full ninety minutes at Wigan's Christopher Park training ground.
Led by former City defender Peter Atherton, Wigan's reserve/development side moved into a two-goal lead in the first period thanks to strikes from James Barrigan and Sam Cosgrove.
A brilliant free-kick from Mark Marshall shortly before the break got City back into the contest before they deservedly equalised in the second period thanks to a header from Wes Thomas.
The returning McArdle was joined in central defence by Greg Leigh, who was also given the full game, while Josh Morris featured at left back for the entire match. Marshall was another to go the full distance against Latics.
Thomas, Paul Anderson and Filipe Morais also started the reserves fixture.
Despite the undoubted quality in City's starting XI though, it was the hosts who started the contest brightly.
Danny O'Brien forced Joe Cracknell to tip over with a strike from outside the box following a short corner routine by Wigan.
Cracknell then gave an example of his great reflexes roughly ten minutes later when he denied Cosgrove from close range with a fine save low to his left after the Latics striker had connected with Barrigan's cross into the box.
The Bantams shot-stopper was able to watch a curling free-kick from outside the box by O'Brien go past his near post later in the half but there was nothing he could do to prevent Wigan taking the lead shortly afterwards.
Just a couple of minutes after Thomas had seen a looped effort on goal cleared by a watchful Kevin McNaughton, the Latics netted the opener through Barrigan.
A driving run from O'Brien caused the initial damage for City, the winger skipping past a couple of challenges before playing his team-mate into space. Barrigan's angled drive across goal took a deflection off McArdle on its way past Cracknell and into the far bottom corner.
Wigan doubled their lead just before the half hour mark though Cosgrove. After Cracknell had turned a low drive from Matty Hamilton around the post, Wigan eventually worked the resulting corner out to Barrigan.
The midfielder passed forward to Hamilton, who in turn flicked the ball neatly into the path of Cosgrove and the imposed forward finished well with a low strike into the corner from just inside the box.
Two goals down and facing a potentially difficult afternoon on their hands, City began to enjoy a greater say in the match towards the end of the first half.
Marshall halved the Bantams' deficit seven minutes before the break with a superb free-kick curled straight into the top corner from roughly twenty-five yards out after he'd been nudged in the back by Arnie Baxendale.
City, with Bantams boss Phil Parkinson watching from the sidelines, carried the momentum gained from their promising end to the first half into the second period.
Marshall, who looked a particular threat for City down the left wing after the restart, fired narrowly wide of Owen Evans' far post with a low angled drive across goal from inside the box in the 55th minute.
The Bantams winger was involved again just two minutes later when his cross-come-shot was repelled by Evans at his near post.
Another teasing delivery by Marshall from City's next attack then had to be hacked away by Alex Lingard from inside his own six yard box with Thomas and James King looking to pounce from close range.
City were threatening from the opposite wing in their next meaningful attack when Anderson was found in space but his low cross into the middle from the right flank was put over by Thomas.
The loanee striker ensured he didn't miss out a second time, however, when he pounced with his next opportunity to head City level.
Morais' free-kick delivery into the box from wide was met by King and the defender, who had fired wide by the near post from a similar set-piece just a minute or so earlier, headed across goal for Thomas to power past Evans' despairing dive.
Anderson, who fell awkwardly on his ankle at the start of the second half, was then replaced by apprentice Sumaili Cissa directly after Thomas' leveller.
Given the fact that Anderson was able to continue after treatment for his ankle problem, it would seem his withdrawal was precautionary at worst though.
Now sensing a victory that perhaps looked unlikely earlier in the match, City continue to push forward.
Morais and Thomas were substituted for City in the 71st and 75th minute respectively but Morris was still on the pitch and the left back for the day saw his rising drive pushed around the near post by Evans following an overlapping run twelve minutes from the end.
City nearly completed a commendable turnaround in injury time when Morris played Marshall into space deep inside Wigan's penalty area. Marshall drove for goal from his wide position but the winger's close range effort was bravely blocked by the frame of Evans before bouncing clear.
1. Joe Cracknell
2. James King
3. Josh Morris
4. Sam Wright
5. Rory McArdle
6. Greg Leigh
7. Filipe Morais
8. Daniel Devine
9. Wes Thomas
10. Paul Anderson
11. Mark Marshall
12. Chandler Hallwood (GK)
14. Sumaili Cissa
15. Reece Webb-Foster
16. Ellis Hudson
17. Kesi Omolokun
Marshall (38), Thomas (68)
Cissa for Anderson (68), Hudson for Morais (71), Webb-Foster for Thomas (75)