BOBBY Pointon watched the demise of the Mark Hughes era as helpless as any City fan.

Pointon had been at Tranmere for what turned out to be the last rites of the Welshman’s reign.

But his involvement was limited to a few fitness runs before the game – which he spent in the stand alongside the supporters.

Seeing his exuberance and joyful purpose at Valley Parade, it leaves you scratching your head as to why Hughes deemed the youngster surplus to requirements during his hour of need.

Pointon didn’t kick a ball in Hughes’ last four games.

There’s taking care not to burn out a teenage talent – and then there’s shooting yourself in the foot by holding back someone with that go-forward oomph to get the team and the crowd going.

What the Saturday afternoon after the week before really demonstrated is that football is a simple game at heart.

You can over-think, over-complicate, over-tinker but ultimately, especially at level four, it’s about running hard, tackling keenly and playing positively.

Do that and, lo and behold, people get behind you.

Valley Parade felt like a different planet to the miserable place we have inhabited in recent weeks. The buzz at the final whistle was something we’ve not felt this season.

Kevin McDonald, whose humble approach to his unexpected rise to caretaker boss has won instant respect not just in the dressing room but well beyond, achieved that by getting City to play to their strengths.

They touched the ball almost 300 times less than in the dreadful loss to Walsall, 469 compared with 752. They had less possession at home for the only occasion this season – 40 per cent as opposed to 67 the week before.

But they won – and the Valley Parade fans, finally, went home happy.

In the space of a couple of training sessions, McDonald had changed a team programmed into playing out from the back into going more direct again.

Gone were the pointless interludes of passing along the backline just to keep the ball for the sake of it.

There were a couple of isolated boos on the one occasion that Richie Smallwood did check and reverse – an uncalled-for reaction that drew a stern stare from Colin Doyle in the direction of the perpetrators.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Kevin McDonald is all smiles in the City dug-out with Matt Derbyshire and Mark Trueman before kick-offKevin McDonald is all smiles in the City dug-out with Matt Derbyshire and Mark Trueman before kick-off (Image: Thomas Gadd)

But otherwise, the mood was overwhelmingly united, the best on Parade since the Carlisle play-off; the fans getting up for it and doing their part just as McDonald had urged. His team encouraged that response with the way they went about business.

This was the complete opposite to Walsall.

“Fans have got a right to boo a bad result or bad performance,” said McDonald. “That’s absolutely understandable.

“There’s no way we should be at home conceding a 3-1 defeat. That shouldn’t be happening at our place with the players we’ve got in our team.

“I felt we’ve lacked an energy and enthusiasm in doing the hard yards. We’ve taken the easy way out on the ball.

“We knew the fans were going to be up for it but we had to change things as players. If we could bring our own energy, we could create a tough place.”

The music man had clearly done his preparation greeting the early arrivals with a play list featuring David Bowie’s “Absolute Beginners”, “Don’t Panic” by Coldplay and, with a mischievous glint, Simple Minds “promising you a miracle”.

McDonald had hardly slept since getting the call from Ryan Sparks. He was at the ground bright and early, doing some fitness running with Matt Derbyshire four hours before kick-off.

But that was the playing side done. Then it was coaching heads on with Derbyshire joining his dug-out think-tank which also included Doyle and, of course, the experience of Mark Trueman.

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Jake Young was also present well in advance even though he was barred from playing against his parent club.

He spent plenty of time deep in conversation with some of his old City team-mates. Penny for his thoughts about the change at the top and what that might mean.

“Play Youngy today, he never scores here” shouted one wag when Michael Flynn stepped off the Swindon coach. But you wonder what the future holds now for the striker, who is still not even halfway through his three-year contract.

Flynn was afforded a good reception by a support who respected his work ethic in a City team that was far from the best.

Again, be prepared to sweat for the badge, and the crowd will cut you plenty of slack whatever the outcome.

He had feared Valley Parade would be a very different beast with Hughes gone. The “hostility” had gone, in his words, with the turmoil bringing the fans and players closer together.

Flynn particularly admired Pointon’s intelligence off the ball; his positional sense and knowing when to press the ball.

With Swindon determined to play out from the back at all costs, McDonald drilled Pointon, Jamie Walker and Adam Wilson to swarm around them; closing down not just the centre halves but the keeper as well.

Pointon’s personal duel with Murphy Mahoney almost became a game of chicken at times with the visiting number one daring how long he could hang on to the ball before the 19-year-old came sliding in.

Pointon, Walker and Wilson all received well-earned standing ovations when they were subbed; all of them looked out on their feet after emptying the tank.

The running stats, McDonald confirmed, were the highest of the season by far. So was the amount of crosses into the box as Andy Cook got the service he craves.

City have the best attacking header of the ball in the division so why not exploit that? It’s hardly rocket science.

It could still have gone horribly wrong had Charlie Austin put his foot through a glorious early chance rather than try to caress it into the bottom corner. It was the start of a miserable day for the ex-Premier League frontman.

But after an early period getting to grips with the change of philosophy, City and the fans came right back into the game.

Walker and Wilson went close, Cook should have done better with a header. Swindon, the best opposition seen in BD8 so far, also had their chances in an entertaining contest.

Prompted by the recalled Smallwood, who looked transformed from the sullen figure from the latter stages under Hughes, and Alex Gilliead snapping into any challenge in the vicinity, City kept trying to going forward.

Their reward came five minutes into the second half – straight after Tyrese Shade had blown a huge opening at the other end.

Brad Halliday let rip with a venomous drive that Mahoney found too hot to handle.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Skipper Richie Smallwood looked revitalised on his recallSkipper Richie Smallwood looked revitalised on his recall (Image: Thomas Gadd)

Walker, buzzing around again, was on to the rebound in a flash to turn the ball goalwards where Pointon bundled in with his shin past the flailing efforts of Udoka Godwin-Malife on the line.

What a magical moment for Pointon, the lifelong City fan who had 18 members of his family at Valley Parade to share his joy.

Fourteen years of dreaming since dad Michael took him to his first game as a five-year-old, the youngster’s elation was infectious.

Other chances came and went with McDonald, proper manager’s head on, admitting they should have scored more.

But this was about the result and the performance and he got both.

The noisy ode to McDonald that filled the air underlined the public appreciation. The fans had finally seen what they wanted.