ADAM Clayton shaped to hoist one last cross into the Barrow box as the seconds continued to tick away deep in added time.

Instead, he shanked it horribly and an ugly ball sailed into the empty Bradford End to derision from all round.

It was that sort of day for City when nothing had gone right or worked as it should have done.

Clayton was left to carry the can for the mistake that ultimately proved their undoing as Barrow seized on the chance to convert on the counter.

But the midfielder, so impressively reliable since his window arrival from Doncaster, was not alone in coming up short on a dismal afternoon.

After all the build-up, the hype, the anticipation - the reality was a miserable let-down for an angry Valley Parade audience. There were boos at half-time and again at the end and you couldn’t blame them.

Mark Hughes had played down the significance of stats in the build-up. But there were two very telling figures in the post-match numbers.

City had a ridiculous 78 per cent share of the total possession - their highest in any game this season and probably for many more before that.

And what did they do with it? Shots on target: none.

Having shut down Tranmere to such a miniscule return four days earlier, the Bantams were embarrassingly blanked themselves by a team that had won only once since mid-November and not at all in their last six attempts.

It meant Barrow swaggered away from Valley Parade with a memorable league double under their belts.

No wonder former Halifax boss Pete Wild was grinning from ear to ear on his return to West Yorkshire.

Think back a year and Wild was very much in the frame for the job that Hughes would be given. He was certainly a potential contender to succeed Derek Adams.

Ironically, match-winner Josh Kay had also been linked with the Bantams before he signed a new Barrow contract in the summer of 2021.

He demonstrated the hustle that City’s play lacked to provide the only noteworthy moment of a tedious encounter.

There appeared to be no danger when Jamie Walker rolled a pass back to Clayton just over the halfway line with all bar the centre halves and goalkeeper in Barrow territory.

But as Kay rushed to close him down, Clayton decided to try and turn away from the challenge rather than lay a pass back to the Scot or five yards behind him to Sam Stubbs.

That delay proved fatal as the Barrow man was quickly all over to him to wrestle the ball away.

Harrison Neal was on hand to drive it forward into the gaps in the Bantams half. Ged Garner showed clever feet to hold off Stubbs and screw a pass back for Kay to finish what he started and shoot past Harry Lewis.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Richie Smallwood and City's midfield found it toughRichie Smallwood and City's midfield found it tough (Image: Thomas Gadd)

Having begun at a fair lick, with Liam Ridehalgh forcing three early corners in as many minutes, City found themselves a goal down midway through the half.

And they would never look like clawing it back - just like that gap to the automatic promotion places that had been whittled down to manageable proportions by those back-to-back wins.

But once more three has proved an elusive number.

We’ve been here before.

Think back to November and that productive week on the road with maximum points from Mansfield and Sutton - only for City to fall flat on their faces at home to Northampton as third place beckoned.

More recently, there were the two home wins at the turn of the year - followed by that embarrassing slip-up against bottom club Rochdale.

So much for launching the big run that Hughes had been talking up. Once more back to the drawing board in front of a Bantams battalion 4,000 strong at Doncaster next weekend.

The team must make they sure they turn up for that one - or they will hear about it.

The public dissatisfaction was made very clear as City had all of the ball and did nothing with it.

It was too slow, too deliberate, too safe; everything that is sure to wind up the stands when you pass, pass and pass some more and still don’t go anywhere.

Barrow were happy to let them get on with it.

Wild had added the extra centre half to make a back five which effectively became a back seven with the two midfielders holders sat just in front.

Once they went a goal up, the script was planned out perfectly to frustrate and spoil their way to three points with hardly a hint of discomfort.

Barrow’s players went down with abandon, rolling around to stretch out every incident and break up play as often as possible to maintain the bad mood among the locals.

Not that City ever threatened to mount a concerted comeback as they plodded about without finding a hole in the white and blue force field that protected bored keeper Paul Farman so effectively.

At the heart of it was Niall Canavan, the former City skipper who clearly won the battle of brawn with Andy Cook.

In George Ray and the masked Sam McClelland he had two willing helpers who stopped Cook getting a sniff of adding to his impressive goal tally this season against former employers.

Vadaine Oliver’s arrival at least balanced the battle a bit in physical terms but it was too little too late by that point.

Barrow were happy to see a dog of a game dribble out in unsatisfactory fashion to put the lid on their recent slump.

For City, this was a painful jolt as the great work of the previous couple of outings was allowed to go to waste.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Andy Cook got nothing against Barrow's three centre halvesAndy Cook got nothing against Barrow's three centre halves (Image: Thomas Gadd)

Matt Derbyshire was a miss up front as we feared he might be.

Abo Eisa barely scratched the surface before limping off with a hamstring complaint just before interval - thankfully, it is not the one that required major surgery last season.

But that was the only change from the side who had clocked up those consecutive victories to raise hopes once more. Yet, everything was so one-paced and played without conviction.

Jamie Walker, like Cook, had minimal attacking input although not for lack of trying.

The Scot dropped deeper and deeper to get more involved but his one sighter of goal in stoppage time was smothered by left back Patrick Brough hurling himself in the way.

The reaction when referee Carl Boyeson blew the final whistle was justified.

A fourth home defeat had seemed inevitable from the moment City went behind.