Chesterfield 1, Bradford City 1

Saltergate will never win any popularity contests with City fans.

For starters there are too many bad memories from last season.

Throw in the decrepit surroundings of a ground that, thankfully, should soon be replaced in the not-too-distant future.

And add a non-stop deluge to ensure that the away supporters get a soaking huddled on a terrace without any hint of cover.

Oh, and let's not forget that City never win there either.

And for a long period on soggy Saturday it seemed that the Ban-tams would fall victim to a case of football symmetry.

This time last year, they had seen off Chesterfield at Valley Parade for their first home win since September - and what, of course, also proved to be their last of a dismal season.

So when Chesterfield, without a Saltergate success since September 7, went a goal up early on then it seemed the fates had been decided.

Especially considering City's woeful recent record - they had not scored in their three previous visits.

Those away fans getting doused deserved a medal.

Many of those were probably stood in the same spot they had occupied on that sun-drenched afternoon in April when City capitulated to relegation. Now they were facing water torture.

The pitch carried surface water from well before kick-off but referee Anthony Taylor deemed it playable, even though the ball was holding up in the puddles during the pre-match warm-ups.

Stuart McCall had told his players that the winning team would be the ones who made the fewest mistakes.

And Chesterfield nearly paid for the first weather-induced slip as keeper Barry Roche allowed Omar Daley's cross-shot to slither through his grasp - but agonisingly just a couple of inches past the far post.

City were fielding a different formation with McCall packing five men in midfield to leave Peter Thorne ploughing a lone furrow up front. Joe Colbeck, brought back early from his spell at Darlington, was straight in on the right flank, with Daley switching to the left.

Paul Evans was given the role of marshalling the back four as McCall took safety measures against the elusive Jamie Ward, the young striker who had torn City to shreds in their last meeting.

It was the same system used against Chesterfield by Rotherham in midweek as well as Barnet - the two away sides to have won at Saltergate.

McCall said: "I always had it in mind, not just because of that. I've seen Chesterfield a few times and thought we needed a bit of protection in front of the back four which Evo gave us.

"I felt the only time we looked under any real danger was in the last five to ten minutes when we'd opened up and gone to 4-4-2. Chesterfield started to look more threatening and that might have been the case much earlier if we'd started like that."

But what the engine room enjoyed in numbers, it lack-ed in height. "I don't think there was anyone in there above 5ft 8in," admitted McCall, "but that's down to the size of the team at the moment."

The height differential between the sides was exposed when Chesterfield grabbed a 13th-minute lead. Phil Picken, who did a mean defensive job dealing with Daley, whipped a corner to the near post where Adam Rooney nodded the fifth goal of his loan spell from Stoke.

He had not been tracked by a marker but Evans, guarding the near post, might still have cleared off the line if he had been a fraction taller.

Donovan Ricketts needed to make a good save at his near post from Ward after the ball had stuck under Darren Williams.

Once again, Matt Clarke looked immense in the centre where his partnership with David Wetherall is looking better with each game. If, and given his track record it's a big if, Clarke can stay fit then City may finally see the player that arrived from Darlington with such a respected reputation at this level.

McCall had hoped the added pace of Colbeck on one side to balance Daley on the other would stretch the Spireites. But the pitch was hardly condusive to quick, incisive running and the standard of crossing was not the best at times.

Nicky Law once again showed he can adapt to any situation and, as half-time approach-ed, set up a neat interchange of passes with Kyle Nix who fired straight at Roche.

Chesterfield looked marginally sharper and the first team to the ball without really looking like adding to their advantage. But given the conditions - and City's form guide at Saltergate - they trudged off for the half-time respite probably feeling they didn't need to.

Lanky left back Gregor Robertson summed up Chesterfield's enthusiasm when he galloped forward to retrieve a deep cross-field pass from City pre-season trialist Peter Leven and drill in a fierce cross which Ricketts had to turn away.

But then Leven was robbed of possession by Colbeck, who rumbled into range and rattled the underside of the bar from 25 yards as Roche looked on helpless.

That sparked an instant response from Chesterfield which should have brought a second goal. Felix Bastians crossed behind Rooney but the ball ran perfectly for Jamie Lowry, who blazed over with the goal at his mercy.

The local radio commentator, a surprisingly accurate prophet of doom, immediately informed his audience that Chesterfield's hopes of a first home win in seven had disappeared over the bar. Next week I'll ask him for the Lottery numbers ...

Roche's uncertainty seemed the best avenue for a City revival and he spilled another Colbeck effort but just managed to flick the rebound away from the hungry Nix.

Thorne, who had once scored four against Chesterfield in a Stoke shirt, nodded over the corner before McCall reshuffled the ranks and threw Daley up top to partner him.

And Daley had a hand in the equaliser with 14 minutes left. The Jamaican burrowed through the middle and when he was checked by Leven on the angle of the box, Nix picked up possession and sent a left-footed curler beyond Roche and inside the far post.

Nix almost got a second from a rehearsed free-kick routine, while Ricketts saved well from Ward's shot on the spin as Chesterfield forced a flurry of late corners.

"I'm pleased with the resilience of the lads and their desire not to lose the game," said McCall. "In those conditions it's difficult to get back into it but we stuck in there and showed plenty of spirit.

"And it's nice for our fans because it must have been horrible standing out there in that rain. I'm pleased that we gave them something in return."

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