IF THIS was Simon Grayson’s final appearance in the home dug-out, it was a somewhat fitting result.

The draw meant much more to Walsall, securing the point they needed to ensure they will remain in League One next season.

But for City, it was neither one thing nor the other – which sort of sums up the season as a whole as well as Grayson’s three months in the hot-seat.

A much improved second half ensured parity but there was a hollow feel at the end.

The players set out on their lap of appreciation after the final whistle but it was done with a sense of duty rather than any celebration.

The emptying stands waiting for them spoke volumes. Valley Parade has become much more of chore than a pleasure for the fans after a season when the team have ultimately come up well short.

Many of those who had been there to wave off a poor home campaign were not hanging about afterwards.

The focus will now switch to whether the manager will be sticking around. That’s the bigger issue and talks are scheduled for the coming days.

Stefan Rupp flew over to attend his first home game since December last night and Grayson will sit down with both owners to see whether they can reach common ground within the next week.

They are well aware that a speedy resolution is needed, whether it is Grayson pressing ahead or launching another search for a replacement, with plenty of work to be done in remoulding a squad that failed when it came to the crunch.

After several seasons of continued progress, the club are approaching a crossroads. They cannot afford any delays with protracted discussions on the managerial situation with so many other issues hinging from it.

The pre-match minute’s silence to remember the victims of the fire disaster did put a proper perspective on the moans at missing out on the play-offs.

Rupp and Edin Rahic had also privately laid a wreath on the memorial behind the main stand.

The traditional poignancy of the home game nearest to May 11 should have added an extra incentive for Grayson’s men to at least sign off at Valley Parade in a more positive way.

But it wasn’t until they were attacking the Kop in the second half – and the introduction of livewire Jordan Gibson – that you really witnessed any zip about City’s play.

Kai Bruenker’s ankle ligament injury had meant a move away from the rigid 4-4-2 that Grayson had stuck with post-Blackpool. Shay McCartan got the nod as Charlie Wyke’s partner while Romain Vincelot came in at centre half for Matt Kilgallon, who had picked up a knock.

The atmosphere was low key in the early stages as Walsall carved the first chance. George Dobson tried to replicate his late winner from the weekend but drove straight at Colin Doyle after beating three tackles.

Given their greater urgency for the points, it was not surprising that the visitors did most of the pressing in the opening quarter.

And they got their reward with a 23rd-minute header from the diminutive talent they call the Turkish Messi. Erhun Oztumer is expected to move on to bigger things in the summer.

But he has played a huge part in keeping Walsall afloat and came up with his 17th goal in a move he started and finished.

City failed to clear their lines from his initial cross and Dobson picked up the loose ball, his cross-shot being blocked towards the diving Oztumer to finish.

While the travelling fans enjoyed their evening, the rest of the ground felt flat and disinterested. It had the air of a pre-season friendly.

The team had given them little worth stirring for, a Tony McMahon cross scrambled away from Matty Lund early on being the only hint of a threat on the Walsall goal in the first half hour.

The front two had seen little of the ball and without Bruenker’s physicality to share the load, Wyke found himself crowded out by two centre-halves.

As half-time approached, he did get a head on Stephen Warnock’s early ball and flicked it past the post.

But the visitors had hardly faced a barrage against a plodding City side as they appeared to be comfortably putting any relegation worries to bed.

Oztumer’s precocious talent shone out in such average surroundings and he met a long ball over the top on the volley but it ran through to Doyle.

But just as it seemed Walsall would cruise to the break in front, City found a leveller with ten seconds left.

Warnock might be on the eve of hanging up his boots but his enthusiasm doesn’t waver.

And he got forward to whip in another decent cross for Lund to time his run and plant a simple header past Liam Roberts. It had hardly been coming but ensured the Bantams went in on equal terms.

City looked to up it when the game resumed and McCartan sprayed a neat crossfield ball to Alex Gilliead, whose cross was firmly headed into the keeper’s arms by Wyke.

The winger then made way for Gibson – who almost made a dream start as he cut past Dobson from McCartan’s pass before firing across goal and narrowly wide.

The crowd stood in tribute after 56 minutes as City raised their tempo and Timothee Dieng’s volley was blocked right in front of goal.

Gibson’s arrival had injected fresh enthusiasm and McCartan, too, posed more of a threat switching to the right side.

The Irishman had Roberts at full stretch to beat away a fierce drive before McMahon side-footed the rebound over the bar.

As the Kop came to life in response to City’s greater intent, Callum Guy’s evening was cut short by injury.

He hobbled off to a standing ovation as Grayson handed a senior debut to teenager Cameron Hawkes in his place.

The applause was even louder when Warnock followed ten minutes later, typically charging upfield to whip in one more cross before he went off. “Thank you Stephen” flashed the message on the scoreboard as he made his exit.

It’s the last Valley Parade will see of him. The question now is how many others will have made last night their swansong.

Player ratings

CITY: Doyle 6, McMahon 6, Vincelot 6, Knight-Percival 6, Warnock 8 (Chicksen 77min), Gilliead 6 (Gibson 55min, 8), Dieng 7, Guy 7 (Hawkes 67min), Lund 6, McCartan 6, Wyke 6. Subs (not used): Law, Devine, Patrick, Raeder.

WALSALL: L Roberts 7, K Roberts 7, Guthrie 6, Fitzwater 7, Leahy 6, Devlin 6, Dobson 7, Chambers 7, Morris 7, Oztumer 7 (Cuvelier 87min), Bakayoko 7. Subs (not used): Kinsella, Flanagan, Ngoy, Kouhyar, Candlin, Gillespie.