STUART McCall feels the absence of fans at football continues to hit City harder than most.

The Bantams matched high-flying Exeter to earn a 2-2 draw at an empty Valley Parade on Saturday.

McCall was encouraged by the performance against a side unbeaten in their last 12 games.

But he believes the ongoing ban on crowds because of the pandemic is working against City, who had boasted the highest attendances in League Two by far.

McCall said: “There are certain clubs at different levels being really affected.

“Everyone is saying that Sheffield United are missing it at Bramall Lane because that is a great atmosphere when it gets going. You could probably say the same at Leeds.

“I went to the Bolton and Salford game and was listening to the Millwall manager on the radio on the way home talking about it.

“No manager likes to go to Millwall at the best of times with their vociferous backing and it’s the same here at our level.

“You only have to listen to other managers before they come here. They are so pleased there aren’t 15,000 in the ground.

“To be able to get 15,000 fans and to not have them backing you is naturally a negative. It does make it a more level playing field.

“There are certain games this season when you see that because the atmosphere here when we get it going, especially when we’re playing attacking football, is so good.

“The sooner we get fans back in the better. Nobody has got the support like we get.”

Northern Ireland were allowed to let in 1,000 socially-distanced fans for their Euro 2020 qualifier against Slovakia last week.

City played at Forest Green in September when some home season-ticket holders could attend as part of the test events before the government put the block back on.

McCall added: “I know we’ve got to get over the pandemic and get the numbers down.

“But you go back to our game when we had fans in at Forest Green. There were less than 1,000 but you can still make a little bit of noise.

“I’m sure the Northern Ireland fans did the other night and that gives the players a bit of a lift.

“You get a corner and there’s a drum banging. I know it’s not a full crowd but any little bit of vocal encouragement is welcome.

“It would be nice to get some in even if it’s only 20 per cent (of the capacity) – but let’s get back to it being full. That would be brilliant and I just hope we can do it soon.”

Billy Clarke scored City’s opening goal against Exeter – his third in two games. He celebrated in front of a deserted Midland Road stand and admitted it did not feel the same.

Clarke said: “It’s unbelievable to score here and it’s just a shame there’s no fans to enjoy it with.

“I’m obviously happy that I scored but I’d be a lot happier if there were 15,000 people with us.”

Clarke came off before the end after his hamstring began to cramp up and Callum Cooke was taken off at half-time with a tight calf.

Bryce Hosannah faces three weeks out with a small hamstring tear but Gareth Evans will join Zeli Ismail and return to training today.

Levi Sutton is also back from suspension for City's free midweek.