CITY are ready to start experimenting as they move towards making contract calls for next season.

The Bantams head to Port Vale with the gap to the play-off up to seven points – and seemingly beyond them now.

Mark Trueman accepts it is time to start looking at different things before they decide on who they want to stay or go.

Danny Rowe’s out-of-the-blue departure to Chesterfield came as a surprise to the City bosses, although the money saved will give them more leeway to pursue Andy Cook in the summer.

Parent club Mansfield have an option on the on-loan striker, who leads the way for the Bantams with eight goals, when his deal there is up in the summer.

But Trueman confirmed that Cook is high on the list to keep at Valley Parade.

“Andy Cook has been great for us since signing,” he said. “He’s caused problems for opposing defences and is a great character in the group.

“Andy is performing well so he obviously is a target that we will try to bring to the football club.”

Trueman is frustrated that City’s play-off hopes appear to be over with four games left – but they will use the remaining time to try different players and formations.

He added: “We didn’t just let it slip. We did want to get into the play-offs.

“We got ourselves into a position and we’re as disappointed as any fan.

“But we’ve now got to look to the future and if that means experimenting with the squad slightly and getting to know the characteristics and whether they can play in different systems.

“We’ve always looked to make contract decisions at the end of the season. That was the discussion with the players and we’ll stick by that.

“I don’t think anything’s changed in the morale. We are a positive group.

“We’ve got to compete and try to finish as strong as we can.

“Yes, we can experiment a bit more and see different sides of these players. We want to look to the future positively.”

Billy Clarke went for a scan yesterday and will miss out but Lee Novak is set to make a welcome return after four months out.

“We’ll see how Lee is but he’s had a good week’s training so hopefully he can be involved,” said Trueman.

“Lee has been massive for us earlier on in the season before he picked up his injury.

“He’s done everything in his powers to get back earlier than expected.

“We’ve got to assess how he is over the next couple of games but he offers a lot of qualities.

“When you’ve got someone like Lee Novak, he is that voice that the younger players can really look up to. He’s a winner.”

Callum Cooke is also expected to start after coming through unscathed from his half-hour appearance off the bench in the disappointing midweek loss to Tranmere.

“We’ve got Callum back now who does allow you to play in different formations because of how versatile he is as a player.

“You saw the other night that he can break lines with his passing, he can play forwards, he’s brave to play forward.

“We have missed him. We’ve tried different things to fill his position and different systems but he is a key player for us.”

“What we’ve got to do in the summer is identify players that if we do lose a Callum Cooke for whatever reason through injury etc, we’ve got similar personnel who can help us win football matches.”

Trueman also back-tracked over his initial post-match comments that City had “dominated” Tranmere in a game when neither side managed a shot on target.

“On reflection, having watched the game back, we probably haven’t done enough to win.

“We did have a lot of possession - but possession without purpose doesn’t win you football matches.

“I’m big enough to admit that. We didn’t create enough chances on goal and I can see the frustration with the fans.

“Yes, we nullified Tranmere to no shots on target but we need to win football matches.

“We needed more from certain individuals and needed to do more as a team. We’ll try to address that going into Port Vale.”