December 2005: SOUTHEND 1 (Gower 45) CITY 1 (Schumacher 33)

RICHARD O’Donnell joined a pretty limited club during City’s FA Cup exit at the hands of Oldham.

He became only the third Bantams keeper to reach three figures in appearances this century after Jon McLaughlin and Donovan Ricketts.

The “original” Don, signed by Colin Todd in 2004, played 118 times in City’s goal during a four-year stint at Valley Parade.

The big Jamaican was certainly a character with some of his eccentricities and a smile was never far from his face.

But this week’s nostalgia turns the clock back 15 years to an eventful afternoon in Essex when Ricketts was left in shock after receiving the only red card of his career.

He was sent off by referee Paul Armstrong for an “obscene gesture” at the Southend home fans after City had taken the lead.

Ricketts allegedly raised a middle finger at the crowd during the celebrations following Steven Schumacher’s opener.

It was something he vehemently denied and City took their appeal to the Football Association – even brandishing an interview with the goalkeeper in the Telegraph & Argus in their case.

“When we scored, someone shouted something and some sweet wrappers were thrown at me,” said Ricketts. “But I see guns where I come from so someone throwing a wrapper won't scare me!

"I just did a gesture back to show that we were winning and nothing else. And then the referee sent me off for what he said was an offensive gesture – but I would never do that with children in the crowd.”

Ricketts claimed that something racist had been shouted and a Southend supporter was arrested for a public order offence. Two months later, they wrote to the fan informing him that there was not enough evidence and the prosecution had been dropped.

City’s goalkeeper, meanwhile, found out that his appeal had failed just six hours before an FA Cup replay against Barnsley – which Todd’s team would lose in extra-time.

Todd said: "Donovan is such a mild-mannered man. I've never even heard Donovan swear in all the time he has been at the club.

"His reaction was no different to a goal-scorer celebrating a goal. It is totally unacceptable that he should be sent off.”

The Ricketts drama completely overshadowed an afternoon that City had been bossing up to his 34th-minute departure.

Southend were going well in fourth at the time, six places above the visitors, but had been distinctly second best.

After a couple of early shots, City took over and Dean Windass headed against the bar amid a flurry of chances.

Then Steve Schumacher, enjoying an influential game in midfield, rifled home his first goal of the season with a sweet left-footer.

The Bantams, fresh from beating Bristol City four days earlier, looked on course for a second away win in a week.

But as they celebrated, Armstrong’s attention was attracted by a flag-waving assistant. He had spotted Ricketts reacting at the other end – and raised it with the man in the middle.

To make matters worse, back-up keeper Russell Howarth was sat among the fans. He had travelled but was not included on the bench.

So, Windass was summoned to don the goalkeeping gloves for the first time since he was in fourth form.

A livid Todd was sent to the stand after a bust-up with the fourth official over the delay in bringing on substitute Lewis Emanuel.

And City’s day was fast disintegrating as Southend, lifted by the absence of Ricketts, levelled right on half-time.

Windass, almost a foot smaller than his team-mate, had no chance of reaching Mark Gower’s curling free-kick in the top corner.

City were right up against it – but responded with the type of gutsy, backs-to-the-wall effort that Stuart McCall would love to see from the current ranks.

Windass dealt enthusiastically with crosses and coped well under a couple of awkward corners. But the shot count stayed low as his team-mates – with Andrew Taylor moved to a third centre half - did him proud.

Windass was hardly tested and it was City’s 10 men who had the best chance to nick the win.

Danny Cadamarteri, playing as the lone frontman, laid off to a supporting Marc Bridge-Wilkinson whose fierce drive was well saved by Darryl Flahavan.

SOUTHEND: Flahavan, Hunt, Prior, Barrett, Wilson, Campbell-Ryce (Lawson 34), Smith (Bentley 67), Maher, Gower (Cole 78), Gray, Eastwood.

CITY: Ricketts, Edghill, Wetherall, Bower, Taylor, Muirhead (Kearney 57), Bridge-Wilkinson, Schumacher, Morrison (Emanuel 40), Cadamarteri (Cooke 82), Windass.