THE banks of empty seats delivered a powerful message.

Officially, the Valley Parade attendance for the first home game after relegation was given as a laughable 15,686. In reality, it looked no more than about half that.

For some, season 2018-2019 is done; a year to be consigned to the bin after reaching its inevitable conclusion on Good Friday.

The significant number of stayaways chose to enjoy the Bank Holiday sunshine doing something far more pleasurable than watching any more of a side already condemned to the drop.

With 13,500 season-tickets sold already, they will be back for League Two. But for now, their absence makes the point.

For those who continue to turn up, maybe more out of habit than preference, there are only three more hours to endure.

But at least they saw City avoid a share of an unwanted club record.

The prospect of equalling a run of eight straight losses last achieved 86 years ago would have felt like the final nail.

The Bantams, though, at least partially stopped the rot with a first point since March 9 – even if only a second win in 14 games eluded them.

Gillingham and City have been constant companions in recent years. But that won’t be the case next time.

This was their 31st meeting since the turn of the century – more than any other opponent. They have shared the same division for the last nine seasons and came up together in 2013.

They will be heading their separate ways come August, Gillingham’s point maintaining a six-point buffer on the bottom four that will be enough given that several teams below them still have to face each other.

Gary Bowyer had once more rolled the dice with another four changes from Coventry, including a return for a fit-again Kelvin Mellor. The defender rewarded his old Blackpool boss with a welcome goal and a solid display.

Bowyer had described these last knockings of the campaign as the final job interviews for those wanting to stay part of the plans after the planned overhaul. For the likes of Billy Clarke and Jermaine Anderson, who were also both back in from the start, it’s a case of every minute counts.

The murmuring background noise felt more like day three of a county championship cricket game – but the volume did momentarily kick up when City grabbed a 10th-minute lead.

Mellor attacked Billy Clarke’s free-kick to power a header past Tomas Holy. Bowyer was no doubt thinking “if only” as the defender celebrated the breakthrough in his first outing for six weeks.

Lewis O’Brien’s deflected shot tested Holy but Gillingham’s pace on the break carried some menace and Brandon Hanlan and Tahvon Campbell both had decent opportunities.

You could clearly hear the shouts of the players in the testimonial atmosphere although Paudie O’Connor, again wearing the captain’s armband, created a stir with a couple of positive interventions.

There had been a few boos when the teams came out but too little too late or not, City’s commitment levels could not be knocked on this occasion.

A rare half-time lead even caught out the man on the mic who mistakenly announced it as 1-1 before hastily correcting himself.

Sean Scannell continued to enjoy his late-season run after such a long injury exile. Another teasing run at the start of the second half set up Jermaine Anderson for a stretching touch over the bar.

But City’s lead disappeared eight minutes in. Ben Wilson failed to hold Bradley Garmston’s cross under pressure from Hanlan and the Gills striker prodded home at the second attempt.

The keeper, again in for Richard O’Donnell, appeared to just drop the ball and there were no home appeals for a foul.

City tried to get going once more and Scannell was denied a first goal for the club by a sliding block in the six-yard box from Connor Ogilvie.

Gillingham had been surprisingly quiet in the 20 minutes after their equaliser but sprung to life when Regan Charles-Cook rattled the bar.

Eoin Doyle and Jacob Butterfield came on for the closing stages, as well as Calum Woods – like Mellor, getting his first outing since being injured in the first half of the manager’s first game against Peterborough.

But the game petered out into a draw and there were ironic cheers when an ambitious attempt from Anderson just about made it through to Holy.

The Kop got briefly excited for a stoppage-time corner but that too produced nothing. After what’s happened, it was all predictably tame.