Fleetwood 1 City 2

THE setting may have been the same but it seemed a lifetime ago.

There was no sign of Edin Rahic and Stefan Rupp cavorting on the pitch in front of a sun-baked away end. No Wembley flags were passed around this time.

Eight months on, Highbury Stadium on New Year's Day felt like a very different place as the winter wind howled off the Irish Sea.

Yet the jubilation among the travelling army was just as obvious; the celebrations just as long and loud.

They may not have been lauding a trip to the play-off final yesterday but the joy at saluting a ninth away win seemed on a level.

City had put their Christmas misery well behind them by doubling up with back-to-back wins to see in the new year.

And they had done it the hard way on the west coast, coming from behind to win for the first time since March.

The sight of Charlie Wyke, clear to lead the frontline again, had set things up for a memorable New Year's Day.

Stuart McCall's men duly delivered with second-half strikes from Alex Gilliead, his first in the league this season, and Shay McCartan, his second in a couple of days.

City had pulled a rabbit out of the hat to get Wyke back on the field after his late red card in the Oxford game.

A concerted effort behind the scenes on New Year's Eve did the trick to convince the FA to reverse his ban – and ease the biggest selection headache for McCall.

Tony McMahon's return from sickness, although he was still not completely over it, also helped. But Tyrell Robinson had picked up the bug and could not make the trip.

Matt Kilgallon was given a rest, so Romain Vincelot renewed his partnership with Nathaniel Knight-Percival at centre half.

But the youthful bench, with Adam Thompson the only senior figure, revealed City's stretched options.

The visitors were under the cosh inside the first minute as former loan striker Jordy Hiwula slipped Kyle Dempsey into the box. Rouven Sattelmaier was out in a flash and did well to smother with his body.

Jack Sowerby and Hiwula had further chances as Fleetwood started strongly with the swirling wind in their favour.

Dempsey looked busy and slipped away from Timothee Dieng for a 25-yard drive that flew straight at Sattelmaier – but Fleetwood's early control earned the breakthrough after 21 minutes.

Hiwula won a 50-50 challenge with McMahon just inside City territory and set off on a menacing run as space opened up around him.

Leaving Dieng trailing in his slipstream, he laid a pass off to Sowerby, who drilled into the bottom corner from just inside the City box.

Hiwula and Devante Cole were again proving a real handful – just as they had done in Fleetwood's 3-0 win at Valley Parade in September.

Dieng responded with City's first shot in anger, forcing a routine save by Chris Neal from distance.

As the half went on, the Bantams were coming more into it, although Hiwula's pace had to be watched carefully.

Nicky Law, playing in a central role, had to track back into his own penalty area to see off another threatening moment from the Fleetwood striker.

Wyke had a half-chance from Paul Taylor's low cross, flicking past the near post. Then the striker found McCartan with room to fashion a shot but there was no repeat of his Saturday strike.

This time he got the radar wrong with an effort from outside the box that refused to curl and flew harmlessly off course.

City's efforts to try and keep passing were not helped going into the blustery wind – conditions were not suited to anything too intricate.

They had generally looked pedestrian against a Fleetwood side who had been quicker to the second ball and more lively in possession. At that point, you could not predict the transformation that would follow.

But there was more about them from the resumption as City attacked towards their own fans.

Wyke chased a long ball and used his strength to hold off Fleetwood skipper Cian Bolger. He managed to fashioned an opening for McCartan, whose drive was held by Neal.

That got the away end going but the home crowd were almost celebrating again as Ashley Hunter's angled cross just eluded the sliding Cole.

But City had found an extra gear – and levelled after 56 minutes with a cracking strike from Gilliead.

He caught Neal by surprise after taking the shot early and the power behind it saw the ball fly into the bottom corner.

The delighted fans behind the goal proceeded to poke fun at the Fleetwood stopper but it had been a great hit by Gilliead.

The momentum had shifted completely as Taylor tried a typically audacious 30-yarder that landed on top of the net as Neal back-pedalled nervously.

But a City second soon followed. McMahon's deep corner was nodded back into the mix by Wyke and McCartan struck again with an acrobatic finish through a crowd of players.

It was some turn-around but no more than the Bantams had deserved for grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck since half-time.

There was still plenty of time to see off as home boss Uwe Rosler surprisingly removed Hiwula in a double change.

The two substitutes gave City a fright with ten minutes left when Wes Burns had a shot deflected into the path of Conor McAleny well in the penalty area. But Luke Hendrie did enough to force him into a hurried effort over the bar.

Tom Field replaced the tiring McCartan for potentially his final City outing as McCall looked to bolster their resistance.

But as the game went into added time, Neal's miserable afternoon continued with a yellow card for racing out of goal to scythe down Wyke – and then received another dollop of stick from behind his net.

Those City fans were determined to enjoy their day at the seaside and the final whistle confirmed yet another memorable road trip.

News that teams around them had dropped points was the icing on the cake. Those extra days off that the manager has promised are well deserved.