Bradford City 1 Manchester City Under-21s 2

IT was a numbers game at Valley Parade last night.

Manchester City under-21s’ starting line-up's combined squad numbers totalled an astonishing 728, including a number 96. The Bantams was a mere 190.

The attendance was so disappointing it was not even announced over the PA system during the game, with only the West Stand having a healthy smattering of supporters.

There may have been no Pep and no Aguero - they were at Preston in the Carabao Cup - but it still meant something to play Manchester for Bradford; a tale of two cities.

The last time these two sides played each other was in the same competition, at the same venue, on October 24, 2017, when the Bantams won 2-1.

However, there would be a reversal of this score two years later. In truth there wasn’t that much between the teams, a fringe home side just missing out to a tap-in from a young and confident Manchester City outfit.

It was skipper Tommy Doyle who proved the difference following good work on the left.

This was a sickener for the hosts after they started the second period brightly, with striker Aramide Oteh proving a lively presence up front.

He was one of the hosts’ plus points. Others were the continually commanding presence of centre-back Ben Richards-Everton, directing traffic at the back.

Up the other end of the pitch, Zeli Ismail is looking the part on the wing, albeit only getting a 45-minute showing here.

He showed his class and may have only come off at the interval with this weekend in mind.

Wingers seem to be the order of the day at Valley Parade and he could prove a pivotal member of the squad this season.

The Trophy is not the most glamorous of competitions, which may have led to a modest crowd, but it does eventually dangle the carrot of a Wembley final come the spring.

Despite this, the hosts decided to ring the changes for this Northern Group F clash.

Gary Bowyer gave youth a chance, making 10 alterations from Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Carlisle in League Two. In came the likes of goalkeeper George Sykes-Kenworthy, rewarded for an impressive early season loan spell at neighbours Guiseley.

Richards-Everton was the sole City survivor from Saturday. This was despite seeing red and earning a three-match ban, which didn’t count in this competition.

His towering presence was best displayed in the first half when his voice boomed around the ground as he directed his team-mates, proving he is an impressive leader.

The trio of Hope Akpan (captain for the night), Ismail and Shay McCartan were also given the nod, as they aim to make the league starting 11 in the coming games.

The Bantams young guns also got a look-in, with substitute spots for under-18s Reece Staunton, Jorge Sikora, Connor Morris and Finn Cousin-Dawson.

After a sluggish start to the tie, the Bantams took control. McCartan had the first chance of note, hitting the post with a low drive across goal after 18 minutes.

This buoyed City as they took the lead two minutes later. Akpan, in and out of the League Two team this season, took his opportunity to shine, heading home an Ismail cross.

It was the least City deserved at this stage as they upped the tempo, even getting the subdued and small crowd to test their vocal cords.

But the young guns from Manchester were soon firing as left winger Morgan Rogers showed his fledgling class with an effort which beat the otherwise assured Sykes-Kenworthy.

The blues had enough to see out the game, despite a decent rallying effort from the hosts. They played with confidence, a swagger and calmness. Jayden Braaf and Morgan Rogers were particularly impressive.

But back to the Bantams and it will only prove in time if last night’s line-up proved to be one with fringe benefits for Bowyer.

Bradford City: Sykes-Kenworthy 7, Longridge 7, Richards-Everton 8, Ismail 7 (Staunton 6), McCartan 7 (Sikora), French 6, Patrick 6, Akpan (c) 7, Henley 6, Devine 7, Oteh 7 (Morris 6). Subs not used: Hornby, Cousin-Dawson.

Manchester City Under-21s: Grimshaw 6, Amankwah 7, Dele-Bashiru 7, Ogbeta 6, McDonald 6, Pozo La Rosa 7, Doyle (c) 7, Rogers 7 (Palmer 5), Braaf 8, Robinson 6, Knight 7 (Touaizi). Subs not used: Bazunu, Wilson, Garre, Ogunby, Fiorini.

Man of the match: Zeli Ismail – He may have only played during the first half, but he continually looked City’s best threat, culminating in his assist for Akpan’s header.