WALKING through the Horsfall Stadium gates on October 1, it was hard to predict how the already late starting 2020-21 season would unfold for Bradford (Park Avenue).

Will supporters be allowed back in at some point? Would results follow a similar fate of its predecessor? Could it even last the distance?

These were all questions people could only ponder, nobody in their right mind would even tempt to provide bulletproof answers.

As it turned out, the one slap bang in the middle was the sole surprising query.

The sinking ship Mark Bower inherited upon his return to the hotseat in September 2019 was a shadow of the hungry, heroic bunch who completed 16 fixtures in this now-abandoned campaign.

A blend of youth and experience made Avenue the Vanarama National League North entertainers, netting 26 times, incredibly one more than in their previous 33-fixture points-per-game league term, and conceding 30 goals, the second-most this time out.

All this cumulated in a 15th-placed positioning before the National League's declaration of null and void occurred due to the financially redundant situation Step Two clubs were left in; risk your future to get to May where, other than the small few, most will feel deflated.

A resounding 15 out of 22 commendably refused to bite the bullet, rightly favouring the long game rather than a mere short-term fix.

It came as a real shame for this ever-improving Bradford side though who will certainly take plenty of positives from this unprecedented time, not only on the pitch but off it too.

Last April, director of football Martin Knight's appointment left supporters more hopeful than expectant that he would be the man to lift spirits after a truly awful past 12 months.

Many bemoaned his lack of football experience while some thought he would bring a professional approach which had been lacking.

Knight's intentions were one of modernisation to turn Avenue into a club feared on the regional stage.

The 3G pitch has helped him with his remit, and kudos to chairman Gareth Roberts for ensuring the instillation was completed in such desperate times.

The academy was rebuilt, revenue has come from hiring it out and the club is back on the map with the additional branches it has to offer.

Knight said: "Off the field, I would give us a 9/10. Calum (Cullen, football operations manager) and Thomas (McStravick, academy manager) have been excellent.

"Next year, the club is going to be in a substantially better position because of the work we have done behind the scenes in terms of the operation and the academy."

Knight ended the first ever piece we did with him, by saying: "We have to be competitive on the pitch too, because ultimately Bradford (Park Avenue) will be judged on their men’s first team results.”

Four wins, six draws and six defeats may not mind-blowingly support this, but it represents progress.

Knight recently said "You want to be proud of your club. As a fan, you want to turn up and believe you can win.

"Who wants to turn up feeling you have no chance which is where we were at last year. The makeup of the squad was wrong, there was no hope.

"Even if you are drawing in edge of the seat games then you have hope. Especially in lockdown, people want something to look forward too."

It is hard to argue Bower's team have not given supporters this. Results against Gloucester, Fylde, Chester and Spennymoor were enthralling events.

And who can forget that marvellous home victory over York, Boyes' bangers, Hereford's Gowling's complaints or Knight developing a clinical edge.

It has not just been the single moments of magic standing out either. The squad has a much more familiar feel to it. Albeit 20 more games were played in 2019/20 in all competitions, less than half the number of players were used (54 to 25) the following year.

Consistent performers Mark Ross and Luca Havern were back in the fold, supported by the exuberance of Isaac Marriott and Brad Dockerty and super reliable Nicky Clee and Jake Hibbs.

Coming into that FA Cup opener with Spennymoor, the consensus was without a recognised striker where are the goals going to come from?

The man, who scored in that 3-1 defeat, signalled a stern 'hold my beer' call to that remark.

To say Lewis Knight has found his shooting boots this year would be an understatement. His 11 strikes, which included three braces, has either handed Bradford one of the most feared frontmen in the league or a tidy few quid.

Of course, the sun has not always shined brightly over these last few months. If Avenue are going to get anywhere near the heights of 17/18 and 18/19 in the future, mistakes will need to be eradicated.

Collapses at Kettering and Curzon, and home failings to Telford and Southport were disappointing. But it is easy to forget this is a club punching above its weight in this league.

Martin Knight said: "From a results point of view we are a steady seven, coming from a one or two. If you are looking at the culture and the development of those players, we have done that well, 8/10.

"There is always room for improvement, but the strategy shows it works. We can be competitive with that structure."

Despite the Covid interruptions, false promises, and empty stadia, even the most pessimistic of fans can still savour something from the bizarre five months that was Avenue's 2020-21 season.