GARY Bowyer had lamented after the Salford game that there would be afternoons when City would play far worse and win.

Eight days on and this was exactly what he was talking about.

The Bantams signed off 2019 with a much-needed home win to send them into the new year very well placed in their bid for an instant return to League One.

But it was hardly a swashbuckling showing to suggest they are poised to take the division by storm over the second half of the season.

Instead it was a case of getting the job done – and hats off to a defence who claimed a fourth clean sheet in five games from a generally underwhelming team display.

But after the proliferation of draws of late, these were three big points going into another home date to see in 2020 on Wednesday against Morecambe.

Father Christmas could not have delivered a kinder list of festive fixtures. In the last month, City have been paired against a succession of teams in absolutely no form whatsoever.

From Macclesfield onwards, not one of the six opponents had won for at least four games going into their meeting with the Bantams.

Forget the talk of no easy games, it has been a run that offered up a potential feast of points to take into the new year promotion push.

Another win on Wednesday would make it 13 points from seven and ease worries of the recent stalemates coming back to bite them on the bum. Crisis, what crisis?

Mansfield’s form going into their first Valley Parade visit in 11 years mirrored that of City’s other December foes.

They last won in the league on October 26 – a flimsy record that saw John Dempster replaced by former Bristol Rovers boss Graham Coughlan the week before Christmas.

Bowyer had made four changes from the Boxing Day stalemate at Carlisle, including a start for Shay McCartan – his first in the league in City colours since May 2018.

James Vaughan had recovered sufficiently from the sickness bug to take his place up front and Jake Reeves was fit enough to return in midfield as Aramide Oteh and Callum Cooke dropped to the bench.

Kelvin Mellor was out altogether, after suffering an injury in training yesterday, so Adam Henley was recalled.

City needed to make a fast start after the crowd discontent of Brunton Park but it was the visitors first out the blocks with Alex MacDonald testing Richard O’Donnell from 20 yards.

CJ Hamilton then looked to tee up Andy Cook in the box but the ball stuck under the striker’s feet.

But having been under the cosh in the opening skirmishes, it was City who struck the first blow on 14 minutes.

Dylan Connolly cut inside Mal Benning and laid a pass back for Matty Palmer, who was bundled over from behind by MacDonald. Ref Ross Joyce pointed straight to the spot – and Vaughan slammed an emphatic spot-kick into the roof of the net.

It had come against the run of play but helped settle Valley Parade before any grumbles could surface.

Mansfield’s travelling support remained vocal as their team continued to push, although the home fans were shouting for a second penalty as Ben Richards-Everton had his shirt tugged from Connor Wood’s cross – but the flag was up for offside.

The Stags could feel hard done by with the score line having camped in City territory for most of the opening half hour of a scrappy encounter.

The pitch was showing signs of wear and tear which did not make for easy-on-the-eye football.

Defensively, City were looking solid with Richards-Everton weighing in with a couple of key interceptions to prevent Mansfield getting a sniff.

Connolly’s pace was the most effective attacking outlet and he latched on to a Vaughan flick-on to take on three teal shirts in the box before Willem Tomlinson made a sliding block from the cross.

The visitors lost skipper Ryan Sweeney to injury seven minutes before the break. But that did not check their momentum and Henley had to be alert to intercept Otis Khan’s pass as Cook prepared to pull the trigger from 10 yards out.

Bowyer had urged the crowd to get behind the team in their “hour of need” and the response at half-time was a positive one.

City had spent much of the half on the back foot as Mansfield continued to have a go. The quality of the game was summed up with the Opta stats saying there had been 52 aerial duels – a figure usually for a full game.

At least the Bantams went in ahead and, given the recent run of draws, that was all that mattered.

But Mansfield came back out with the same determination and subject the hosts to a spell of heavy pressure.

Danny Rose angled a header narrowly over before seeing his shot and then another by Khan blocked by a busy backline.

A chorus of “attack, attack, attack” broke out from the Kop but it was Mansfield who were still looking to have a go.

Reeves was crowded out with his back to goal in the box but the threat to keeper Conrad Logan remained minimal. Vaughan’s biggest contribution since the break was clearing a Mansfield free-kick from his own penalty area.

Connolly lifted the crowd as he led a City charge deep into Mansfield territory. Swapping passes with Henley, the winger went down in the box – and was yellow-carded for diving.

There looked to be a slight clip on him but the exaggerated way the Wimbledon man went down convinced the official to point the other way.

McCartan had not really made an impression in his role behind the front two and was replaced by Chris Taylor midway through the half.

Still the game was played predominantly towards City’s end making it a grim watch for the fans. Their team could not keep hold of the ball and offer anything going forward.

At least the defence stood firm mopping up pretty much everything that Mansfield could throw into the box.

City needed a break to avoid an uncomfortable finish – and got it seven minutes from the end when Joyce pointed once again to the spot.

This time the contact on Connolly from Matt Preston was without doubt in the official’s eyes. Once more up stepped Vaughan to blast the penalty one way as Logan was sent the other.

It was the first time since November 2 that City had scored twice in a game, even if both had come from the spot. Stodgy stuff but a win’s a win.