City 5, Aldershot 0

Perhaps Barnet and Notts County were just horrible dreams that never really took place.

Eight days on and it’s once more all systems go, the blot of those double away defeats wiped away by six more points from “fortress” Valley Parade.

And, what’s just as significant, the goal difference has been sorted out as well. How important could that turn out to be, given the congested state of the promotion picture?

Those who were calling for the collective heads of Stuart McCall and his players in the wake of the no-shows at Underhill and Meadow Lane have been silenced by a strong response. This side have got character and determination after all.

There was never a five-goal margin between the two teams on Saturday – but so what? City showed a clinical touch in front of goal to take their chances. This was Notts County again but on the other boot.

As McCall said, there were plenty of positives for the crowd to enjoy from City’s biggest league win for 11 years. Now the army of travelling fans can head for Spotland on Tuesday night with a belief that the team can deliver.

The table looks a damn sight better than this time last week – but imagine how good it could be if City can maintain the momentum built up over the last three hours with two more big performances against the sides currently locked with them on 58 points?

We’ve been here before, of course. There is still not enough room to swing a cat in the play-off chase, so the jury remains out.

But having rattled up a season’s high five, McCall’s pre-match belief that City are capable of stringing together a charge a la Brentford does not sound quite so outlandish.

The biggest cheer of the afternoon was not for the goals, though. It was reserved for a late substitute who came on and hardly touched the ball.

Chris Brandon’s debut for his beloved City may not go down as one of the most spectacular but few players have come on to such a fanfare.

The sight of the number 11 shirt finally getting its first senior airing put the icing on a very fat cake.

Without influencing it himself, Brandon can claim that his arrival heralded two City goals to give the final scoreline an added flourish that nobody really expected. It was that sort of wonderful day.

Macclesfield in midweek had been all about the result; nothing else mattered. But this was a show of intent to their promotion rivals, an indication that Bradford City are still very much a serious contender.

It also proved that the team can turn it on as an attacking force without Omar Daley. Hats off to Steve Jones in that regard. The borrowed Burnley winger has had an up and down time in recent weeks but this was arguably the finest of his 18 games in the claret and amber.

Playing on the left again, you would not have known that it was his weaker side. Unlike Daley and his annoying tendency to cut back on to the right foot all the time, Jones was happy to go at the full back on the outside and whipped in a stream of good balls with his left.

He also tracked back to help out Luke O’Brien on defensive duties. Clearly McCall has got into him about a part of the game that the Northern Ireland international has lacked.

Jones played his part in the opening goal after just 75 seconds, eclipsing Daley at MK Dons as City’s quickest of the season.

It started as route one with a Rhys Evans goal kick, Michael Boulding out-muscling a defender to create space for Peter Thorne to claim possession. He fed Jones and then continued his run to meet a low cross with a typically predatory finish.

Aldershot’s decision to field three centre halves may have caught McCall temporarily on the hop but Thorne’s immediate strike removed any fears of another 90 minutes chipping away at a brick wall.

Not that the visitors intended to ‘park the bus’ like Macclesfield or Chester. The wing-backs were more like wingers, which ensured for a wide-open game, and for a long time Aldershot were very much in it.

They almost cashed in when Evans had a brainstorm and pursued a ball towards the corner flag which he had no chance of reaching first. Anthony Charles managed to get a cross in with the keeper still back-pedalling but Matt Clarke, who had another good game, stood firm in the middle to prevent Marvin Morgan getting a sniff of the unguarded goal.

Clarke was immediately involved at the other end, claiming a shove from Nicky Law’s corner, but City’s complaints were swiftly forgotten as the all-action Dean Furman picked up a loose ball 25 yards out and found the net via a deflection and the underside of the bar.

City had not led 2-0 after 15 minutes since strolling to victory at Macclesfield way back in August. It was a welcome, if rather strange sensation.

That probably accounted for the mood of the fans as the Bradford End tried several times to instigate a Mexican wave.

Some were still on their feet when an Aldershot ball over the top sent Jake Robinson scampering clear but Evans made amends for his earlier lapse by racing out and making himself big enough to chest away the striker’s attempted lob.

A goal then would have changed the whole dynamic. But City were happy to let Aldershot, with the extra man in midfield, keep plenty of the ball in front of them without causing any more scares.

The Shots were still going forward without real menace at the start of the second half but City effectively put the result to bed nine minutes in. Jones forced a corner and Law’s well-flighted kick picked out the napper of Thorne to direct into the far corner.

Further proof, if needed, that the team’s sharpest marksman is getting back to his lethal best. If Thorne can finish the term like he started, then City can look to the next two months with real confidence.

The rest of the afternoon centred on when McCall would give Brandon his opportunity. Thorne went off to a fully-deserved standing ovation with 20 minutes to go but it was Barry Conlon who stepped from the bench.

Jones missed a good chance for a fourth goal when he ignored the better-placed strikers to go it alone, before Brandon finally made his bow. He had been on the pitch for two minutes when a City corner was returned to Law, who played Conlon in for 4-0.

Then Joe Colbeck, who had a frustrating afternoon, got it right in the last minute with a 40-yard dash and cross which Rhys Day could only touch into his own net.

It was City’s first five since 2005. The last time? Rochdale away. Now they make the short hop to Lancashire to begin a crucial triple-header, hoping they can take the home form on to their travels. It’s a long time since we have said that.

Attendance: 12,465