IT HAD been 500 long days since City last played in front of a crowd in Bradford.

February 29, 2020, when 14,219 witnessed a Valley Parade victory over promotion-bound Plymouth, seems an absolute lifetime away.

So tonight’s opening friendly against Park Avenue felt far more relevant than their usual pre-season encounters.

A “full” house, restricted to a third full of 1,106 by Covid sensibilities, were simply delighted just to be back watching football in the flesh.

And they saw plenty to enjoy as the Derek Adams era kicked off with an entertaining performance and convincing win.

Pre-season results mean absolutely nothing, of course, but it made for encouraging viewing for a public starved of live action.

It felt like a new start with Adams at the helm of a team wearing the white kit inspired by the 1982 automatic promotion from the fourth tier that he will be chasing in the months ahead.

Trialists were well represented, as usual, but they were all in Avenue colours.

While Mark Bower continues to look over a varied cast to fit into a tight budget, the hectic business carried out in the first month by Adams means that City are ahead of the game. Elliot Watt, watching from the dug-out, was the only notable absentee.

The new boss fielded two different sides for each half but the fans appreciated seeing all senior players. When did that last happen in the first friendly?

The Bantams were no doubt relieved to be finally allowed on the pitch rather than the running track round it they had been pounding in training.

But Avenue might have questioned the wisdom of allowing their neighbours to use the athletic facilities as the extra fitness of the visitors was apparent from the off.

There was plenty of intent to City’s early play and was rewarded with an opening goal on six minutes. It was already their third corner as Niall Canavan decisively headed home Callum Cooke’s kick.

Avenue’s trialist keeper scrambled to deny Paudie O’Connor and then narrowed the angle sufficiently to keep out the lively Lee Angol, who led the line brightly.

Alex Gilliead’s low header was clawed away before he danced his way through into the box only to be thwarted by a last-ditch lunge from Mitch Lund.

“Press” was the common shout from Adams as City looked to squeeze the play and give Avenue little time on the ball.

As the white tide continued, Charles Vernam set his sights and rifled one against the bar from 25 yards.

Rob Guilfoyle curled a free-kick straight into Richard O’Donnell’s hands on the half hour but that lifted Avenue who had been under the pump up to that point.

There was an even better opportunity for the former York striker when Avenue broke from a City corner, Trialist H sending him clear on the left. But his finish lacked conviction and O’Donnell turned it away.

It was all change for the second half – and great to see Reece Staunton involved for the first time since that season-ending hamstring injury at Leyton Orient in November.

Staunton almost had an assist with a deep cross that Andy Cook nodded back across the keeper – and against the inside of the post.

But last season’s top scorer was not to be denied when City caught Avenue napping with a short corner, the striker converting from close range after good work from Abo Eisa.

And it was soon 3-0 as the hosts were picked up by a clinical counter, Ollie Crankshaw using his pace before sliding in a cross for Kian Scales to fire home.

City were playing with a swagger as Crankshaw and Staunton showed some clever touches before Scales’ curler flew just over the bar.

Everyone wanted to get forward and the pressure told with a fourth goal from the spot. Cook was sent tumbling and Crankshaw eagerly grabbed the ball before dispatching it beyond the keeper’s dive and into the bottom corner.

Eisa wanted to join the fun but dragged a shot wide after linking well with Cook. Then Scales forced Avenue’s second trialist keeper into a plunging save.

But there was still time for one more. Levi Sutton had a crack at goal and Eisa was in the right place to turn in the goal his efforts warranted.

AVENUE: Trialist A, Ross, Downing, Lund, Havern, Guilfoyle, Hibbs. Trialist H, Marriott, Trialist F, Dockerty. Subs: Windass, Johnson, Trialist I, Tolson, Fawcett, Sanyang, Novakowski, Trialist C, Trialist E, Trialist G, Bolton.

CITY: O’Donnell, Threlkeld, Ridehalgh, O’Connor, Canavan, Songo’o, Cooke, Gilliead, Vernam, Evans, Angol.

Second half: Hornby, Cousin-Dawson, Kelleher, Sikora, Foulds, Sutton, Staunton, Eisa, Scales, Crankshaw, Cook.