City 0, Peterborough 1
Just win without Andrew Davies; the task for City sounds straight forward enough. The execution of that challenge may prove rather more testing.
A team is more than one man. But if ever there’s a player whose name is etched in stone on the team sheet, it’s Davies.
Phil Parkinson was bullish after the game about his side’s chances of dealing with the absence of their lynchpin at the back.
After all, City have grown used to the big man’s absence over his time at the club.
Two years ago, as Parkinson was quick to point out, they made it to the Capital One Cup final with Davies reduced to cheerleading duties in the dressing room.
But rewind to last season and it was a very different tale. Knee surgery ruled him out for 17 games – of which City won just the once with only a single clean sheet.
So the eery hush that descended on Valley Parade when Davies lay on the ground spoke volumes. The fans are well aware how crucial a cog he is in the machine.
The fact that Peterborough then scored within two minutes of the defender leaving the fray just underlined that concern. Now City are likely to face up to two months without him anchoring the back four.
At least Davies, being a positive character, will look on a six to eight-week absence as a lot more palatable compared with the 18 he missed last time.
And with all due respect to past employees, Alan Sheehan is no Matthew Bates – who was self-deprecating enough to refer to himself as City’s 'Jonah' during that Davies-less drought.
Sheehan has played centrally on several occasions for Notts County and looked fine in the role at Morecambe.
Parkinson feels they can ride the blow but the City rearguard always looks at its most combative built around that axis of Davies and Rory McArdle.
The Northern Ireland international, who has looked very strong so far, was not the same player last season without his regular partner at his side.
The Davies injury happened almost out of nothing as he went to deal with a cross. Jordan Pickford came for it as well but did not shout and the pair collided, sending Davies tumbling in a heap. The break on his left arm happened on impact.
Losing Davies probably felt worse for the fans than losing the first game of the season.
After playing their part in an entertaining first half, City lost their way for chunks of the second. A shot from the industrious Billy Knott just before the break was really their only serious threat on the Posh goal.
It had looked like the perfect moment to play Darren Ferguson’s team. Seven players were missing through injury and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was added to the casualty list within 20 minutes.
Their starting line-up boasted an average age of under 22, with defender Shaun Brisley the outfield 'veteran' at 24.
Ben Alnwick, the keeper who began pre-season on trial with the Bantams, was positively ancient at three years older.
No wonder Posh owner Darragh MacAnthony was gushing in his praise afterwards, claiming that it was the best win in his eight years with the club.
There was no argument from Parkinson that Peterborough probably deserved it. Even depleted, they are a decent side.
Kyle Vassell, a striker plucked from non-league Bishops Stortford, curled home his fourth goal of the season and looks a talent.
But he did not win too many friends in West Yorkshire with his enthusiastic celebrations in front of the Kop or the lack of urgency he showed in leaving the pitch after taking a knock.
That was just one of those immensely frustrating moments when referee Graham Salisbury should have taken a grip.
Parkinson had proved game for a laugh on Friday by undertaking the ice bucket challenge. But it was the (non) performance of the Preston official that really left him cold.
If anyone needed a sub-zero shower to wake them up, it was Salisbury. “He seemed to be on his own wavelength at times,” was the City manager’s verdict.
Posh, as is the away side’s wont, were happy to slow things down once they had their noses in front. Unfortunately ,Salisbury seemed happy to let them.
The long injury breaks for Davies and Brisley, who suffered a head wound, further fragmented the play and prevented any sort of home rhythm being built up.
Salisbury’s patience finally reached its limit when Joe Newell took an age to be subbed but by that point he had let too much go.
Parkinson’s major beef was with Peterborough’s handling of James Hanson – and the way the referee consistently turned a blind eye.
Credit young Fergie for doing his homework and ensuring that everywhere Hanson went, two blue shirts followed.
The big man found himself in a constant Posh sandwich with man markers either side, limiting his aerial effectiveness.
But it was their methods of doing that which raised Parkinson’s ire. On more than one occasion, he could be seen with arms outstretched and pleading into the face of the fourth official as another borderline block on Hanson went unpunished.
It’s a familiar story for the City striker – unless, it seems, there is a Premier League referee in town.
Parkinson’s regular call for Hanson to get a fairer deal was joined by 13,000 character witnesses.
He said: “All our supporters, like me, are frustrated. Hanson is probably the fairest jumper I’ve ever seen. He never uses his arms or swings them up.
“He takes whack after whack and people grabbing hold of his shirt all over the pitch.
“We got a foul and the whole 13,000 crowd cheered – we can’t all be wrong. I don’t know what the ref was seeing in those particular incidents.
“He either isn’t fit enough because he couldn’t get close to them or he just called it wrong.”
With Leeds crossing the Pudsey divide 48 hours from now, supporters will be hoping that Parkinson’s claim that City life can carry on well enough without Davies proves a lot more accurate.