City 3 Wimbledon 0

MIDWAY through the second half, Nicky Law fired wastefully over the bar from close range and there was barely a murmur of discontent.

Or if there was, it was drowned by the relentless chorus of "We're on our way" that washed over Valley Parade.

Any another time, general consternation might have ensued as Law fluffed the chance of putting City three up.

But the backing track supplied by the Kop was in full flow. Nothing as trivial as a snatched-at opportunity was going to put them off.

City are on their way – back to the play-offs anyway.

Eleven months after that half hour of horror against Millwall, the Bantams are ready for another go at the gut-wrenching Russian roulette that whittles four wannabes down to one promotion definite.

Four weeks from now, City could be a Championship club again for the first time since 2004. Imagine that…

The raised voices behind the goal certainly did with the cacophony of noise that accompanied the serene progress towards another play-off entry.

Of course, given the implosions elsewhere by Millwall and Southend, you could suggest that Saturday's result did not really matter. City would have been in the top six regardless.

But this was an important exercise in swiftly restoring confidence on and off the field after the painful loss at Sheffield United, as well as sending out a message to those around them.

While other contenders might be wobbling, City simply gave their heads a good shake to get Bramall Lane out of the system and then carried on in much the same way they have since August.

They also chalked up the honour of a first undefeated home league campaign for 40 years, tightening up a record that looked flabby with so many draws by reeling off five straight wins to finish. This is not a team limping over the line.

It is a widely-held belief that there will never be a better chance than now to end a second-tier exile dating back to the darkest days of the second administration.

Next season's League One is shaping up to be a stiffer proposition with some potentially big-hitters adding to the mix. Seize the opportunity to grab that final promotion ticket while you can.

The post-match lap of appreciation was warranted and fully reciprocated by the large percentage of fans who stayed behind. This is a team effort, as McCall will always say, with players and supporters feeding off the energy of each other.

It was an afternoon when everything fell into place.

As City paid their traditional respects to the fire victims at the final home game, Lincoln were fittingly celebrating their return to the Football League.

On the day that Tony McMahon wore a black armband to remember former team-mate and Middlesbrough mentor Ugo Ehiogu, who died so suddenly, the right back weighed in with two of the three goals in City's second biggest win of the season.

After the recriminations of south Yorkshire, it was business as usual at the back with a fourth clean sheet in five and third in a row at Valley Parade.

McCall is entitled to be proud of the play-off achievement – but he is still sore at what he viewed as the "over-reaction" to last Monday's loss.

"We were up against the champions who will probably end up with 100 points," he said again afterwards. "We know we under-performed but how many times can you say that?

"We gave the lads a couple of days off to recharge and refresh and we noticed the edge about them in training. We always bounce back after disappointments."

In fairness, City could not have hand-picked better opponents for the occasion.

Wimbledon's job for the year was done the moment they hit the 54-point survival target set by boss Neal Ardley. Beating hated rivals MK Dons last month was the cherry on the icing of the cake.

Ardley has bristled at suggestions his players have donned flip-flops ever since but they have now gone five games since scoring their last goal on March 28 – the equivalent of over eight hours of football. That form is less the Crazy Gang, more the Beach Boys.

What threat they might have possessed came, not surprisingly given their heritage, from height at set-pieces. Yet City mopped that up with the minimum of fuss and ensured Colin Doyle could enjoy the sunshine without any interruption.

Wimbledon's resistance was always likely to waver once the hosts could get their noses in front. That proved to be the case after McMahon broke the deadlock just before the half-hour mark.

The defender later spoke eloquently and emotionally about the impact England international Ehiogu had on his developing years with Boro.

Ehiogu was a hard but fair influence and helped instil good habits into McMahon – those strong leadership qualities were once again to the fore in a strong personal display.

Valley Parade nerves had been eased by news of Millwall collapsing at home to Oxford. But it was important City did it for themselves and McMahon showed the necessary conviction with a firm penalty into the corner after Josh Cullen had been bundled over by John Meades.

The decisive blow was delivered in the final minute of first-half stoppage time. Meades had just limped off to complete his wretched game but replacement Sean Kelly fared little better.

Mark Marshall teased him to the left, then the right, before finding half a yard of space to drill in a powerful cross that flew beyond a startled Jamie McDonnell in the Wimbledon goal.

Some wingers can get a bit precious if you suggest that was not what they intended – but Marshall held his hand up straight away in the dressing room.

"It was definitely a cross," smiled Charlie Wyke. "Marshy admitted it at half-time."

He was also acting under orders. Marshall has been encouraged to mix it up in training – crosses to the near post, deep, standing the ball up and whipping it over hard and low to keep keepers guessing.

The magic man can seemingly do no wrong and it will be no surprise if there is a growing list of suitors keen to pounce should City fail to nail him down in the summer. Charlton, the first to apparently break cover, may tick a lot of boxes but they won't be alone.

The play-off party continued the length of the second half and was crowned with a late third goal. McMahon, resembling Bishop Auckland's answer to Cafu, bombed 70 yards on the overlap to accept Marshall's invitation and slide in his second.

Exciting times are very much on their way.

Attendance: 18,615