HEAD down, hood pulled right up from the rain, hands wedged deep in pockets; the fan left his row disconnected from the misery unfolding in front of him.

The supporter in question had been sat in the Kop right behind the goal where Walsall had just scored their third.

Video of Freddie Draper heading past non-existent Bantam resistance captured him in the background seemingly intent on making an early exit.

The game was just 56 minutes old at the time but he appeared to have seen enough. Plenty of others would soon follow well before referee Scott Jackson finally put us all out of our misery.

Home matches have been a painful watch of late - but this one hurt 10 times more than most.

And the consequences have left Mark Hughes in his most vulnerable position since he took the helm.

There were more boos at the final whistle, delivered with venom and feeling; at least from those who had stuck around until the bitter end.

It certainly felt bitter as the relationship between the Valley Parade crowd and the manager, which had been growing increasingly tense, looked to be close to breaking point.

Hughes defiantly clapped towards the stands but there was no dismissing the reaction he got back as something that didn’t really register as he had tried after Harrogate.

“You’re getting sacked in the morning” got another refrain in the rain from the taunting Walsall travelling support. But there were a number at the home end who joined in.

Hughes hasn’t been and won’t at this point but the ground beneath his feet, seemingly firmed up with that handsome win at Newport just a week before, is crumbling.

Hughes has had some significant contests in Merseyside during his football career, throwing himself into battle at Anfield for Manchester United on many occasions as well as having a brief spell in Everton blue.

But Tuesday’s trip to Birkenhead has the look of a night every bit as important in his situation.

Failure to bring back three points from a lowly Tranmere side who have lost eight of their 10 games and already disposed of a manager could leave the club facing a decision they don’t want to make.

Nobody who had witnessed City’s clinical dismantling of Newport in their own backyard could have anticipated things turning so darkly again so quickly.

That gloriously sunny afternoon in south Wales suggested a corner being turned after the stumbling start to the season. Unfortunately, another dead end was awaiting them.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The game had started so well for City with Andy Cook's penaltyThe game had started so well for City with Andy Cook's penalty (Image: Thomas Gadd)

All the cards appeared to be stacked in City’s - and the manager’s - favour to put the record straight at Valley Parade.

Hughes had the luxury of being able to name the same starting 11 who had played so impressively in the last league outing. Alex Pattison was finally back in the reckoning after a brief run-out in the cup.

Barring their way were a Walsall side on the back of consecutive defeats and minus several key defensive personnel. They should have been there for the taking.

City, on the back of a bright start, even took the lead midway into the first half. They surely had a winning hand.

But somehow, they revealed a busted flush - and the audience were in no mood for sympathy.

Just over 400 City fans had enjoyed the away day in Newport; the overwhelming majority of the club’s whopping support get their football fix purely from Valley Parade.

And entertainment has been very thin on the ground.

That’s the crux of the issue for Hughes and the club. On paper, and there was another pointless stat about unbeaten runs trotted out recently, the Bantams are one of the best home teams.

This was the first loss since an equally dreadful afternoon against Barrow in February.

But there has been little enjoyment from recent trips to BD8 for an increasingly fidgety fanbase.

City have mustered just six shots on target from their last three home games in the league. Seven from four, if you count Middlesbrough in the Carabao Cup.

The only two efforts directly at goal against Walsall were Andy Cook’s penalty and a Kevin McDonald skimmer that was comfortably fielded by keeper Owen Evans.

Hughes had spoken post-cup exit about focusing on the league and winning promotion; the only target that matters. We all agree with that.

But what followed hardly validated those comments. Where was this response then?

Cook was smothered by Walsall skipper Donervon Daniels and excellent understudy Harry Williams as their switch to a back four kept the Bantams at bay.

Midfield was dominated by the Saddlers’ willing legs prepared to chase and compete for everything.

And at the back? Well, those three goals were something out of a video horror show.

Hughes kept the dressing room door locked for over an hour after the game, mainly, according to the manager, to discuss what went wrong with the set-pieces.

For a team well stocked with six-footers, City seemed to shrink every time Walsall put a corner on the money.

Yet, none of that nastiness seemed on the horizon when the Bantams had gone in front on 23 minutes.

A Walsall free-kick was cleared and Jamie Walker suddenly sent Rayhaan Tulloch off to the races.

Former City defender Joe Riley tried to match him stride for stride but brought the flying winger down as he advanced on goal.

The foul looked to be in the D but Jackson pointed to the spot, possibly to spare himself the awkward decision of which colour card to show Riley.

Cook settled the argument by thumping his fourth goal in two league outings in the roof of the net and Valley Parade rejoiced.

But then the cracks appeared.

City’s lead lasted just three minutes before left back Liam Gordon drifted inside Clarke Oduor’s half-hearted attentions.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Walsall shirts swarm all over City winger Rayhaan TullochWalsall shirts swarm all over City winger Rayhaan Tulloch (Image: Thomas Gadd)

Alex Gilliead was not quick enough to pick up on the danger as the defender had time to line up a shot with his weaker right foot which sneaked beyond Harry Lewis.

That was the start of a miserable match for City’s number one which got worse when Walsall grabbed the lead on half-time.

The warning signs had been there with Daniels heading into the side-netting from another set-piece that was not dealt with.

Walsall then won a first corner. Oisin McEntee flicked on Ross Tierney’s delivery, the ball pinging off Kevin McDonald and Aramide Oteh before finding the net.

Oteh, the one-time Gary Bowyer loanee, knew little about it but claimed the goal as City looked around wondering what the hell had just happened.

But more agony would follow soon after the break.

Tierney again delivered the corner, Lewis flapped and missed, and teenage striker Draper couldn’t believe his good fortune as the claret and amber wall parted obligingly for him to dispatch the header.

Cook and Tulloch went close in one scramble from Jamie Walker’s corner but that was as far as City’s response went.

The pitiful reaction to going two down was loudly acknowledged. Now it’s about how they deal with the fall-out.