MARK Hughes was 17 and still two seasons off making his Manchester United debut when Colchester last left Valley Parade empty-handed.

None of the 4,772 crowd in September 1981 witnessing goals from Barry Gallagher and Dave Staniforth in a 2-1 win could have possibly imagined it would be 42 years until the feat was repeated.

City would go on to clinch promotion from the fourth division in second place that season.

The incredible 20,383 turn-out this weekend, a record for the Bantams at this level, will be keeping everything crossed that history can repeat itself.

When your luck finally turns against a traditionally tricky opponent - and victory arrives in such deliciously dramatic fashion - you seriously wonder if the footballing Gods have got your name on the good list.

Ticking off the games, accumulating points in whatever way possible; that’s been the mantra from Hughes to the dressing room as the season reaches the so-called business end.

This is what he was used to year after year at Old Trafford; that steely, blinkers-on focus towards the finish line with no distractions. It doesn’t matter how you get there - just do it.

Five wins out of six suggests that City very much have the bit clamped between their teeth right now.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Mark Hughes shouts in frustration - but he was dancing at the endMark Hughes shouts in frustration - but he was dancing at the end (Image: Thomas Gadd)

It’s just over three weeks since the Bantams headed for Stevenage, then boasting the best home record in the division, with a gap of 14 points and seven positions between the two clubs.

That has since been slashed to three points and two places - and could be wiped out completely if the winning run can extend at Walsall.

“Momentum”, a favourite word of the manager’s, is claret and amber.

There are no bonus points for style and certainly the latest victory carried less of the control or swagger of their previous back-to-back away wins. Yeah, and anyone’s bothered …

And look at the goal times - 93 and 96. There’s a certain sense of justice against opponents who were quite happy to drag out every second whenever the opportunity arose.

It has happened too many times the other way this season.

Barrow and, of course, Colchester away back in August; Swindon and Mansfield equalising so late on at Valley Parade.

Barring Vadaine Oliver against Wimbledon, it rarely if ever falls in City’s favour - until now.

No wonder the crowd went bonkers in the euphoria, the bench emptying as the players taken off earlier like Richie Smallwood and Alex Gilliead and the unused subs spilled onto the pitch to join the jubilant pile-on.

And Hughes shedding his picture of calm to whirl his arms in manic fashion and “jumping up and down like an idiot” after Andy Cook, inevitably, had chosen the perfect moment to come to the party.

It had to be Cook, of course. Why should his 100th City appearance be much different from most of the previous 99?

His 42nd goal for the club; his sixth in seven matches; his 22nd of the season and 19th in the league. I’m sure every Bantams fan can recite those numbers by heart.

Forget the new contract - just give him the keys to the city!

Cook had got little out of the afternoon up to that point. The same could be said for the rest of his team-mates.

But 90 plus three minutes of frustration evaporated as he hovered in the air to meet Harry Chapman’s well-flighted corner and bury it past Colchester keeper Kieran O’Hara.

Then, with the celebrations still in full swing, he still found time to add a cheeky assist for Scott Banks to flatter the final scoreline further.

Valley Parade had never felt better at the final whistle. What an advert for the new season-tickets, prices frozen, that have just gone on sale.

Dare we start to dream they will be for League One football again?

On the face of it, the March fixture list has a very kind look to it.

Five of the six opponents in the bottom half of the table; four of them in the bottom eight.

But then we know too well that the path out of this division is strewn with banana skins. Rochdale and Barrow anyone?

It wasn’t just in BD8 where Colchester have proved to be awkward foes.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: He does it again! Andy Cook celebrates his goalHe does it again! Andy Cook celebrates his goal (Image: Thomas Gadd)

City had won just two of their previous 17 encounters this century and not scored in the last three since some fella called Cook netted behind closed doors in Essex in March 2021.

Colchester had also won five in a row on the road before losing their most recent trip to Carlisle.

Throw in the new manager factor, even if Ben Garner chose to watch this one from the directors’ box, and all the ingredients were there for a testing afternoon.

And an audience fit for the Championship in terms of its size soon lost the early buzz as Colchester stuck to their task of spoiling City’s day.

Cook had modestly made the point pre-match that the Bantams are far from the one-man team that Smallwood had talked up after Gillingham.

That was evident in a disappointing first half when City’s liveliest participant was Harry Lewis.

He earned his corn for a third straight clean sheet and fourth in five with two important saves.

The first was to divert Connor Wood’s header from sneaking into the top corner. How ironic would that have been from a player who had scored only once at Valley Parade in 115 City outings?

Then Lewis used his knees to keep out Tom Hopper’s shot after Colchester had latched onto a loose pass from Smallwood to open up the Bantam backline.

There was also one other heart-in-mouth moment as Wood’s dangerous free-kick flicked off Cook and flew past the far post.

City took a long while to get going and it was nearly the hour mark when they finally forced O’Hara into action.

Brad Halliday, continuing his rich vein of form at right back, cut inside onto his left foot to stretch the keeper with a bending effort.

There was a leggy feel to the team after the efforts on the road earlier in the week.

Hughes, having named the same side for all three games, went to his bench early to freshen up with Ryan East, Banks and Emmanuel Osadebe - whose return to home soil for the first time since that injury earned a rapturous response.

Chapman would also see his first involvement for six games late on and each addition made their impression.

Matty Platt rattled the post with a header but the deadlock - and the absence of any goal so far this season from a City defender - remained.

It needed something or someone special to finally break through.

“I’m no miracle man” were Cook’s words in the week. About 20,000 Bradfordians might beg to differ.