City 0 Wigan 1

NEW manager, new hope – but sadly the same old result at Valley Parade last night.

City's ninth defeat on home soil this season could not have been delivered in crueller fashion as Wigan plunged the knife with an injury-time winner.

A draw would not have been the best result for either team, given their end-of-season ambitions.

Yet to finish empty-handed was hard to take for Simon Grayson and his battlers, who had slogged away to end with nothing.

The wait for another victory – and a clean sheet – goes on. It's now 73 days and counting.

The League One world had seemed a very different place at the time of City's last win at Valley Parade.

A scintillating first-half display against Oxford set up a victory to see out 2017 that appeared to put Stuart McCall's men firmly back on track after a wobble over Christmas.

The comeback victory at Fleetwood two days later appeared to confirm that all was well again.

Two and a half months on, City – now with Grayson at the reins – were looking for their first three points since.

It has been a wretchedly barren period, made worse by the weather interventions delaying the manager's first appearance in Valley Parade's home dugout.

After two false starts against Portsmouth and MK Dons, Grayson finally made his 'debut' last night.

But hopes of emulating one of McCall's best results, the last-gasp win at the DW Stadium in November, were always going to be a huge challenge.

There was a real element of surprise about Grayson's line-up, with no out-and-out striker named.

As Charlie Wyke belatedly began his three-game ban, Alex Jones made a welcome return to the bench alongside Dominic Poleon.

Attacking duties were left to Shay McCartan and Alex Gilliead in front of a five-man midfield with wing-backs. Tyrell Robinson, hero of that victory at Wigan, added pace on the left, Tony McMahon the guile and nous on City's right.

The manager's walk towards the dugout was accompanied by a booming chorus of "Simon Grayson's Bradford army".

But it could have been a nightmare start as Wigan appealed for a third-minute penalty when Michael Jacobs vociferously claimed he had been clipped by Callum Guy. It looked a fair shout, despite the derision of the Kop at the prone winger.

The surface was understandably bereft of grass but at least the dry weather in the lead-up ensured City got a game on at long last.

Throw in a swirling wind and it was not a night for niceties. McCartan looked to get in behind Chey Dunkley, whose agricultural lunge earned an early yellow card.

City survived again on 15 minutes after Nick Powell got away from Romain Vincelot, playing as the third central defender.

His cross was flicked goalwards by James Vaughan – a player Grayson had signed for Sunderland in the summer – but clipped off the far post.

Nathan Byrne's follow-up cross had Bantams keeper Colin Doyle back-pedalling to turn away.

City had to hang in there as Wigan continued to do the pressing. Powell headed over from Gavin Massey's centre and then Vaughan completely lost his bearings when found unmarked in front of goal by Byrne.

Vaughan shot into the ground from Callum Elder's pass as Wigan looked to add an end product to their control of the game.

For all the territorial advantage, they had still not troubled Doyle with a shot on target.

City had stuck at it in the face of the increasing away pressure, Guy typifying the graft being put in throughout the team to keep the visitors at bay.

The Bantams fashioned their first half-chance as half-time approached.

Gilliead, who had shown some nice touches on the minefield pitch, worked it wide to Robinson.

McMahon was on the end of his deep cross – but the volley cleared the roof of the Bradford end.

The Kop picked up the volume for the resumption and Robinson was instantly tearing their way before whipping in a probing cross that Burn turned away from McCartan in the six-yard box.

Robinson was warming to his task but another promising burst past Massey was ended by a bobble out of play as he charged into Wigan territory.

Matt Kilgallon was caught offside from City's first corner but there was more oomph about their approach and the fans responded. Grayson's team were trying to have a go.

Powell limped off to be replaced by Will Grigg, before Doyle was called into proper action after 63 minutes – but it was a routine save from Massey's header.

Wigan were not the same threat as earlier and City's growing confidence was evident, closing down quickly and not allowing their opponents time. The ball was spending far more time in the away half than it had done before.

Chances remained at an absolute premium but Sam Morsy fed Jacobs for a first-time jab into the City side-netting. The Wigan man wanted more for McMahon's robust challenge but the referee was unmoved.

Grayson changed tack with 20 minutes left and threw on Kai Bruenker for Gilliead, the big German looking to provide that physicality that City lacked without Wyke.

It was the first sight of Bruenker since his debut against Wimbledon – he had not even made the bench in Grayson's previous two games.

He went down inside the box on the back of Byrne's heel but again referee Martin Coy did not budge as the shout came from behind the goal.

A bout of head tennis in the City box ended with a weak nod from Morsy straight at Doyle, who continued to be well protected.

Boos signalled Devante Cole's belated appearance from the Wigan bench. He had been on the opposing side when City last won at Fleetwood.

But the pantomime villain had scored at Valley Parade for the Cod army in September – and instantly caused panic with a header that was blocked in front of the line in a congested box.

Worse followed, though, as the game went into the first of four added minutes.

Ryan Colclough played a pass in to fellow sub Grigg, who turned the ball into the path of Jacobs and his low finish was precise as it flew past Doyle.

The first clean sheet since November 25 had been wrenched from City's grasp – and the chance of gaining any ground on the play-off pack.