Valley Parade will feel like a different place for City this afternoon.

As welcome as it will be to walk back through those familiar doors, something has changed.

The Coral Windows Stadium is not the same arena they left a fortnight ago.

Then, smiles were broad and hopes high. Play-off chasers Oxford had been banished by a performance far more convincing than the 2-1 score might imply.

The Bantams had stretched their advantage on the bottom two to seven points. Eyes were firmly fixed ahead, not behind.

Preparations for an eight-day road trip, incorporating three away games, were carried out with an extra spring in the step.

Heck, it even looked like City were going to break out of the bottom seven for the first time in near on 12 months.

Well now they are back on home soil but the ground beneath them has shifted.

They are not in the 18th spot that has become the regular base camp in recent times. Instead City will kick off a place lower, now trailing Northampton.

One less opponent currently cushions their fall. More importantly, the gap to the fatal 23rd-place trap door is down to four points.

And an unbeaten home record that Phil Parkinson and his players have become quite proud of will find itself under intense scrutiny.

Gillingham and Tuesday’s visitors Crawley pose formidable opposition but then those are the sort of games when City usually excel.

Remember nine more points from their tally of 39 have been gleaned from the top dozen in the table compared with the bottom.

It’s 11 games since Rotherham were the last away side to take three points from Valley Parade.

There may have been too many draws in that sequence but it does suggest that City are developing a backbone in their own backyard.

That will certainly be put to the test over the next four days. While other results are scrutinised and calculated, they must concentrate solely on getting their own job done.

Parkinson admitted that all of the last three away defeats told their own story. Each had its subtext; penalty decisions, red cards, big chances missed. But the bottom line is that City start this afternoon on the same total as they finished after beating Oxford.

Nearly 1,200 miles of travelling failed to edge them any nearer the 50-point target that is widely regarded as the ultimate safety mark.

Forty-eight, possibly even 47, is more likely to be the break-off point but nobody can afford to take chances.

The catastrophic consequences of relegation, as we are all well aware, do not need spelling out.

It is a time to be brave on and off the pitch. For fans to sing their hearts out and players to respond in kind.

It’s crucial that everyone leaves today with the same level of satisfaction as their last visit.