CITY enjoyed a Bank Halliday Monday after clinching their play-off spot through the unlikeliest source.

The Bantams got the job done with the point they needed against League Two champions Leyton Orient in front of the biggest league crowd at Valley Parade this century.

They now face a two-game showdown with Carlisle to reach Wembley. Part one is on Sunday night at Valley Parade - the first time the stadium has housed a play-off encounter for six years.

But who would have thought that Brad Halliday would emerge as the goal hero who got them there - hitting the net for the first time in nearly two and a half years.

Mark Hughes’ men showed the bottle to deal with the occasion against an Orient side who kept them honest.

Having wrapped up the title a couple of weeks ago, the visitors had little to play for - but there was no hint of them having one eye on the forthcoming celebratory trip to Marbella.

Hughes had bolstered the spine of his side with the return of Adam Clayton to play alongside Richie Smallwood in the heart of midfield.

Clayton replaced Abo Eisa, who had failed to grab his unexpected chance at Gresty Road. Alex Gilliead was given more of a floating role, alternating with Jamie Walker centrally behind Andy Cook.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Brad Halliday, left, gets the plaudits after his goalBrad Halliday, left, gets the plaudits after his goal (Image: Thomas Gadd)

Eisa was not even named among the subs, suggesting that his underwhelming outing last week was his final one in City colours. Dion Pereira and Thierry Nevers added wide options from the bench.

The poignancy of the occasion, marking the final home game before Thursday’s 38th anniversary of the fire disaster, was clear as the teams came out to “you’ll never walk alone”.

An impeccably-observed minute’s silence was followed by a wall of noise as City got down to business.

They were so nearly off to a flier from Clayton’s opening corner as Cook’s looping header was touched on to the bar by Lawrence Vigouroux. Sam Stubbs kept it alive with a flick towards goal and Romoney Crichlow diverted it just wide of the post.

Orient gave no suggestion they had turned up “in their flip-flops” at the end of an all-conquering campaign. Idris El Mizouni fired a deflected shot straight into Harry Lewis as they attacked confidently in the opening stages.

Three bookings in the first 20 minutes underlined the competitive edge of the contest.

City almost undid Orient with a quick free-kick that released Walker to fire into the side-netting. Then Scott Banks set up Cook, who span away from Shadrach Ogie for a snap-shot that Vigouroux palmed away.

Clayton took a painful one for the team as he threw himself in the firing line as Kieran Sadlier let fly from 20 yards.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

The midfielder needed treatment before returning but City suffered an even nastier blow from the resulting corner as Jordan Brown found time to control Tom James’ lay-off in the box before guiding it past Lewis.

The roar from the crowd showed that the faith in the stands had not been rocked - and with good reason as the Bantams hit straight back inside two minutes.

Halliday’s volley was heading straight at Vigouroux before taking a big deflection to fly into the corner as Valley Parade erupted.

What a time for the right back to score his first goal since December 2020.

A touch of fortune but no more than City had deserved for their first-half efforts - and timely as news came through of a Mansfield goal at Colchester.

City began the second half on the offensive - but were grateful to a crucial defensive interception from Stubbs to deny an Orient counter.

Blue shirts swarmed forward as they broke in numbers from a free-kick but Stubbs got a vital touch as Paul Smyth slipped a dangerous ball across the goal-mouth.

Then Crichlow made another block in the box as Orient continued to show they were in the mood. Again, City left gaps at a corner and Aaron Drinan should have done better with a loose shot.

Applause broke out around the ground in the 56th minute in memory of the fire victims before Richie Smallwood’s shot was charged down by Omar Beckles as City went in search of a second.

Clayton’s day was done just after the hour, leaving to a standing ovation as Hughes threw on Matt Derbyshire.

The striker’s arrival maintained the experience levels and meant a shift in formation with two up front and more of a midfield diamond behind.

There was another warning as Ogie flashed a volley over the bar but City came close to a full back one-two as Liam Ridehalgh’s blast was tipped away by Vigouroux.

Orient had made four subs and new arrival Theo Archibald caused Harry Lewis some discomfort with a shot that kicked up. But City were able to hack clear from the keeper’s parry as Smyth and Charlie Kelman closed in.

Hughes made further changes with 15 minutes left, Ryan East and Emmanuel Osadebe replacing Banks and Walker.

Lewis looked a bit nervy again as he smuggled Smyth’s shot past the post. Orient were keeping City honest by not allowing their performance level to wane.

“Mark Hughes’ Bradford army” belted out as the fourth official’s board showed four added minutes. And for once, the extras passed without incident.