LEE Novak kept up his unbeaten scoring run for City as they finally took a step forward again.

Novak has never finished on the losing side when he has scored – and that’s still the case after a hard-fought point in West Sussex.

It was a gritty result the Bantams desperately needed under the caretaker leadership of Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars to stop the rot after six straight defeats.

They deserved to make the long trip home with something.

It may have been a new partnership in the first-team dug-out but Trueman and Sellars have worked together for the last six years at academy level.

Chief executive Ryan Sparks claimed neither had gone to bed on Sunday night because they were buzzing so much about getting the opportunity.

Their line-up for the first game post-Stuart McCall showed a change of system as well as personnel.

Ben Richards-Everton, whose Oldham blunders hastened his manager’s demise, was conspicuous by his absence.

Instead, City reverted to a back four with Finn Cousin-Dawson getting the nod from his academy bosses to play right back.

Austin Samuels was wide right of the midfield five supporting Novak. Clayton Donaldson was afforded a much-needed breather on the bench alongside teenagers Jorge Sikora, Kian Scales and Connor Shanks.

Celebrity-spotters might have been disappointed not to see TOWIE star Mark Wright in the Crawley ranks after signing on non-contract terms.

But City were more concerned with the presence of Max Watters, the frontman whose lethal form is attracting attention from West Brom and Watford.

As it turned out, the 15-goal hitman was restricted to just one shot wide on the turn.

It was only the second game this season when City had played in front of fans – and the crowd was far more boisterous than it had been for the test event at Forest Green three months ago.

There was plenty of noise from behind the goal the grey shirts were attacking in the first half, although there seemed precious little social-distancing going on.

They were soon shouting and screaming as City shocked the home fans by grabbing the lead on 11 minutes.

The assistant referee was the target of home ire as Samuels timed his run to pick up Connor Wood’s long ball behind a Crawley defence furiously claiming offside.

The flag stayed down and Samuels drilled in a low cross that keeper Glenn Morris fumbled straight into the path of Novak to finish from five yards.

The striker soaked up the jeers as he celebrated his first goal since the end of September.

Paudie O’Connor and Samuels both needed to change shirts after taking a whack in the face. But after so many questions about their attitude this season, City were looking up for the fight.

But the feelgood factor was punctured as Crawley wiped out their advantage 15 minutes later – with a helping head from the Bantams.

Sam Matthews whipped a free-kick into the box where Harry Pritchard inadvertently flicked it past Richard O’Donnell.

The City midfielder looked to make amends at the other end but Jake Hessenthaler produced a superb interception to cut out Novak’s tempting ball into the six-yard box.

The crowd were up demanding a penalty when Tom Nichols’ twisting run ended up in a heap under Paudie O’Connor but referee Sam Purkiss was unmoved by the howling from the terraces.

The London official was equally unimpressed as Samuels was pulled down by his shirt in the Crawley box soon after the restart. At least he was consistent.

The Wolves loanee almost had a first league goal but was denied by a fine save by Morris, fingering his cross-shot past the post after good build-up play from Callum Cooke and Novak.

The Crawley keeper then frustrated City once again as Levi Sutton threaded a ball through for Pritchard one on one with Morris.

He got the shot off but was thwarted by a strong left arm - and clutched his head in frustration.

Morris was keeping Crawley in it and followed up with third save from Novak. Pritchard then saw another effort blocked as the visitors maintained the attacking momentum.

The struggle to turn chances into goals was a familiar failing, especially as Crawley came on stronger as the game wore on.

There was a scare when Nathan Ferguson’s shot took a deflection to wrong-foot O’Donnell – who watched anxiously as the ball bounced just past the far post almost in slow motion.

It would have been a really cruel blow at the end of a battling night which restored some spirit.

CRAWLEY: Morris 8, Davies 6, Craig 7, Tunnicliffe 6, Dallison 6 (Nadesan 62min), Tsaroulla 7, Powell 6, Hessenthaler 6, Matthews 6 (Ferguson 62min), Watters 6, Nichols 7 (Ashford 80min). Subs: Nelson, McNerney, Sesay, Galach.

CITY: O’Donnell 6, Cousin-Dawson 6, P O’Connor 7, A O’Connor 7, Wood 6, Sutton 8, Watt 6, Samuels 6 (Scales 69min), Cooke 7, Pritchard 6 (French 78min), Novak 7 (Donaldson 78min). Subs: Longridge, Sikora, Shanks, Hornby.