TURN the clock back a decade or so and it could have been Nahki Wells clipping the ball home from an acute angle.

James Hanson shrugging off the defender to allow it to bounce into his partner’s path and his trusty partner’s deadly finish doing the rest.

Instead, this was Tyler Smith making the most precise of conversions look easy after Andy Cook had muscled Jay Rich-Baghuelou out of the equation.

Too early to discuss in the same sentence as City’s best modern-day duo? Maybe. But still, how refreshing to see a proper front two combining to such clinical effect.

Graham Alexander’s promise that the days of Cook playing solo up top were over came as music to the ears of the battered Valley Parade faithful.

Here was further evidence that the new boss will always ensure that the main man has a proper supporting cast.

Smith has now scored three in the four games of Alexander’s tenure and is clearly benefiting from the change in structure.

Playing on the shoulder, there are inevitable comparisons with a certain Bermudian as he is encouraged to feed off Cook’s aerial power.

Like everything, it is early days but the fans and manager can see positive signs.

“It’s a good two-some to hopefully score goals,” said Alexander. “They’ve got a few goals between them in the games we’ve played so hopefully that will continue.

“It’s still in its infancy. There are still things we can improve on as a team and as little units, the back three, the wing-backs, the eights, midfield three, the front two.

“We’ve only played this formation for two and a half games. With three games in a week, it’s hard to get that training programme together to understand that but we can analyse it and show clips of good movement and connections.

“We want to be more consistent with our team selection but that’s down to the players to play well to keep performing.

“But then you get more partnerships and understanding.”

There was certainly more understanding off the pitch where tensions have been simmering as results wobble.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Graham Alexander shouts instructions in his first league winGraham Alexander shouts instructions in his first league win (Image: Thomas Gadd)

This had the makings of a sticky afternoon for the club hierarchy if the pre-match noise was to be believed.

But social-media talk of a tennis ball protest never materialised.

The bold keyboard claims had suggested that balls would be raining down after seven minutes, marking the number of years that Stefan Rupp has owned the club.

The only ball in play at that moment was a cross-shot from Lewis Richards that fizzed across the Accrington goal-mouth.

It could, of course, have been very different had the visitors gone in front.

But for once there was no early goal before fans had been able to settle in their seats. In truth, Accrington created very little.

They did have the two best moments of a first half of midfield attrition.

Kody Adedoyin bustled in behind Matty Platt but Harry Lewis turned his snap-shot behind at the near post.

Then Rosaire Longelo was possibly a bit too honest in keeping his feet and not plunging over the City keeper when a through ball fell into his path.

Those aside, City kept the door firmly shut against an opponent who are used to scoring. John Coleman’s post-match displeasure underlined their lack of attacking teeth.

The back three and wing-back formation seems here to stay, certainly for now, and looks a more comfortable fit than the version encouraged by Mark Hughes.

Alexander’s front-first approach of defending higher up the pitch has been taken on board eagerly.

Accrington’s plans to play out from the back were quickly abandoned as Brad Halliday, who seems to be a magnet for the ball these days, and Andy Cook forced mistakes deep in opposition territory.

For a while, every time City went forward there was Halliday at the hub of the move as he linked with Jamie Walker.

On the other side, Richards again demonstrated he has the type of motor to meet his manager’s demands for getting up and back and up again.

The game itself will not live long in the memory but there were enough good things on view to bring some much-needed smiles to the stands.

On the coldest day of the campaign by far, there was that warming feeling that Alexander has a bit of a plan that his players are beginning to follow.

From the nadir of the first half at Notts County, City appear to be edging their way back up.

Alexander was honest enough to hold up his hand and accept he was wrong in the first place – a humility absent with his hot-seat predecessor – but the subsequent shift to playing 3-5-2 seems to be paying off.

The back three provided a solid base and Ciaran Kelly produced his best performance for the club.

It was his pass that set up Smith and another long ball, well chested down by Cook, should have produced something better from a wild finish by Jamie Walker.

Kelly was defensively strong and one late recovery tackle as Accrington threatened to counter put the lid on City’s first clean sheet since Wimbledon during the McDonald honeymoon period.

Ash Taylor’s retention alongside him and Matty Platt raised eyebrows when the team was announced.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Tyler Smith takes on Accrington defender Lewis ShipleyTyler Smith takes on Accrington defender Lewis Shipley (Image: Thomas Gadd)

Sam Stubbs, for all his wobbles at Meadow Lane, was widely expected to come straight back in. His only previous league absence had been through injury on the opening day.

But Taylor did little wrong. He won the majority of his battles with Accrington’s Josh Andrews and, barring a few miscued passes, played his part in a grafting all-round effort.

With a first league win under Alexander in sight, you feared a nail-biting finale once fourth official John Mulligan’s put up the board showing seven added minutes.

But those late worries never materialised. Encouragingly, most of that time tacked on was spent in Accrington’s half as City demonstrated sound game management.

The lowest league crowd of the season showed the current apathy with the club’s plight but results can soon change that.

On the back of scoring five against Barnsley in the EFL Trophy in midweek, this felt another important step forward.

There’s a long way to go but Alexander seems to be making the right moves.