THE word caretaker will not be appearing above the next City team sheet.

By the time the Bantams re-emerge for league combat against Barrow next weekend, there will be a new – and permanent – voice on the Valley Parade touchline.

The game of guess who, which is stretching into its fifth week, will reach a conclusion any day now.

Then, thankfully, we can all focus on matters on the pitch and forget the rumours about whose odds have suddenly plummeted because somebody stuck a fiver on them or who might be lurking somewhere in the stands.

Or who might have studied the map and eventually realised where Bradford actually is.

The conspiracy theorists latched onto a grainy picture on Twitter claiming to be Joey Barton sat among the overflow of scouts directly beneath Ryan Sparks at the back of the press box.

His name had certainly not been on the list – unless it was under a pseudonym like Richie Wellens with his incognito appearance when Mark Trueman was last in temporary charge before Mark Hughes was appointed.

The Danny Cowley U-turn scenario has thrown everything back a week. But it seems that City have got their ducks in order ahead of an upcoming announcement.

The players are certainly ready for the next challenge. The Kevin McDonald spell was fun and provided the lift in results, for the most part, and spirits that was needed.

Trueman was unlucky that his one afternoon at the helm should end in defeat after they gave Wycombe a proper run for their money.

The new guy is picking up a team capable of much better than meandering in the bottom half of League Two.

Nobody is suggesting everything is perfect, and both goals conceded at Valley Parade again fell into the “sloppy” category, but there is enough to work with over the remaining two-thirds of the campaign.

The manager-to-be, if he had eyes on the FA Cup, will have witnessed plenty of heart and front-foot fight that should have earned a second crack at their League One opponents.

The last half of caretaker control was a pretty decent one and had the meagre crowd in good voice with an encouraging salvage attempt from a two-goal deficit.

They ultimately came up just short but not through lack of trying.

Panicky pressure combined with strong-willed Wycombe defence restricted the scoreboard to one City goal – just like their seven previous league outings.

Improving that measly output will no doubt be a priority for the gaffer-in-waiting.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Mark Trueman in the City dug-out ahead of his game in chargeMark Trueman in the City dug-out ahead of his game in charge (Image: Thomas Gadd)

The Bantams had scored three in 44 minutes in midweek against Manchester City’s young wannabes although Tyler Smith, who had helped himself to the lot, was back on the bench.

Trueman had made two changes, including a recall for Bobby Pointon, but stuck with the same formation with Andy Cook going solo up front.

Significantly, a second-half switch to good old 4-4-2 with Smith thrown on for the ineffective Emmanuel Osadebe brought more attacking joy if not quite an equaliser.

Two up front? That’s surely one for the next hot-seat incumbent to consider – a move that would be welcomed by every fan desperate to see City having a go.

Most supporters had found better things to do than head for BD8 on a wet and miserable afternoon.

The attendance of just 3,642 was over 3,000 down on the corresponding cup exit to Harrogate last season.

But poor Valley Parade crowds in the FA Cup early rounds are historically nothing new.

Only 3,236 had bothered to turn up for the first of the Exeter trilogy in 2021, 3,764 against Shrewsbury in 2019 and 2,248 for the replay with non-league Aldershot the season before that.

By half-time, those who had made the effort must have been contemplating if their £15 could have been spent somewhere else.

City had not been particularly bad and started the game brightly enough with a couple of snatched half-chances promising more to come.

But two poor goals left them in a self-inflicted hole with no obvious sign of being able to clamber back out.

Wycombe had served a warning when David Wheeler slipped in behind Liam Ridehalgh to set up Kieran Sadlier but Harry Lewis saved well with his body.

The City stopper, though, was culpable for his part in the first goal.

Those in front of him failed to track Wheeler waiting in plenty of space to meet Ryan Tafazolli’s deep cross or Killian Phillips arriving in the box to meet the knockdown with a first-time shot.

Lewis then allowed the Crystal Palace loanee’s effort to bounce past his right hand.

Wycombe’s second looked even worst from a City viewpoint.

Osadebe should have dealt with a half-cleared corner as he won possession to the side of the penalty area.

But instead of taking the safest route and wellying into touch, the midfielder decided to take a touch or two of his own – and instead allowed Freddie Potts to pick-pocket possession.

The early cross caused confusion as Sam Stubbs, running towards his own goal, nodded the ball past a flailing Lewis.

Phillips, who had annoyed the Kop with an exaggerated celebration under their noses when he scored, was at it again shaking both fists as the home side fumed.



But, to their credit, City cleared their heads and got back at it after the break. The change in formation helped as belief began to build.

Jamie Walker led the resistance, preparing to shoot whenever the opportunity arose, and got the goal that brought hope just after the hour point.

Ash Taylor shaped to hurl a throw into the Wycombe box but instead took it short, got the ball back and launched a cross into the mix.

Max Stryjek, who had done well to keep out a header from the otherwise tightly-marshalled Cook, was less convincing with his punch.

Richie Smallwood kept the ball alive and his header dropped for Walker to smash a first-time volley through the scrum of bodies.

The Kop sprang to life as City set about chasing a second goal. But, as so often this season, finding the net another time proved elusive.

Even Lewis joined the fun for a late free-kick and hung around in the penalty area as the ball bobbed about.

But Wycombe, by this point bolstered by the extra defensive presence of experienced campaigner Richard Keogh, stuck at it to see the game through.

A cup departure is no great shakes, although the £41,000 prize money would have come in handy, but the fightback offered a launchpad for the man City will trust with their fortunes for next time.

Another chapter starts now.