JAKE Young was on view in Bradford – if you happened to frequent a certain coffee shop in the city.

The most talked-about player in Graham Alexander’s squad this week was nowhere to be seen on the battered pitch at Valley Parade.

The only fans who did catch up with the returning striker were those who had popped into a nearby Costa on their way to the game.

His absence from this shocking home defeat, while anticipated by many, has upped the ante around his future.

Alexander played the straight bat with his post-match comments, while offering the hint of an edge for those reading between the lines.

“Soreness” on Young’s part was the reason that he had pulled out of training early the day before and hence out of the team plans – which the manager hastened to add had included the man they had hauled back early from his prolific Swindon loan.

Whether anyone is buying that – it’s the January window time after all – is debatable.

Remember Nahki Wells 10 years ago and the mystery “limp” that disappeared the moment he put pen to paper for Huddersfield?

Or Tony McMahon ringing up this reporter in a rage midway through a game over the widespread suggestion on social media that he was faking symptoms for a potential move.

Whatever the rights or wrongs, the picture with Young is likely to become clearer in the coming days. You sense it needs to be resolved one way or the other and quickly.

The dressing room can do without that cloud hovering as they look to put their season back together at the end of a difficult week.

And if the League One interest is firmed up sufficiently, the mid-season cash boost would be most welcome for Alexander to try and lighten the mood once more.

Young-less City have come off the road in 2024 after suffering back-to-back losses – both very much of the self-inflicted variety.

As with Crewe on New Year’s Day, City clocked up enough chances to have put the Crawley game away.

Once again, they didn’t take them and were made to pay for individual errors.

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The Bantams had conceded the first goal for the fourth time in the last five games – and all inside the opening 15 minutes.

Another sluggish start was punished as Liam Kelly slid in Nick Tsaroulla behind Brad Halliday and Danilo Orsi got to the near post to flick home his cross.

Tsaroulla, with his low socks reminiscent of Steve Claridge, was a menace on Crawley’s left and would give Halliday one of his most uncomfortable afternoons of an otherwise ultra-consistent campaign.

It was City who needed to pull their socks up again after a stuttering first half hour.

They did so as the interval approached and should have gone in all square.

Clarke Oduor snatched at a big chance – how the Bantams are missing Jamie Walker in those situations – before Tyler Smith, who had barely had a touch up to that point, blew the golden one.

Finding himself through on goal from Andy Cook’s flick with only Corey Addai to beat, Smith’s finish lacked any conviction and allowed the keeper to spread himself and smother.

The inevitable shouts for Young from the stand following that miss summed up the dark mood that was developing.

Things promised to improve as City attacked the Kop. Addai made a couple of saves before the deadlock was restored from the least likely source.

Halliday had banged in the equaliser at that end on Boxing Day. Now it was Liam Ridehalgh’s turn as the other wing-back, although he was honest enough to admit the effort that sailed into the far corner after he had shrugged off Ronan Darcy was 100 per cent an intended cross for Cook.

But that was the break City needed and a second goal beckoned.

Ridehalgh even had another pop himself before substitute Vadaine Oliver capitalised on a poor back pass and heavy touch from Crawley skipper Dion Conroy to tumble in the box.

Fortune smiled on City again with Cook’s penalty. Addai guessed correctly to his right and had made the save but the ball slithered loose, deflected goalwards off his ankle and was pushed into the net by a flailing arm in the panic.

Recovery complete, job done, points in the bag … that’s what we all thought. Then the nastiest of all stings in the tail ensued.

Alexander dismissed suggestions that his side had switched off at that point. But he accused them of relaxing as the intensity levels dropped following the big effort to come back in the first place.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Andy Cook salutes the fans after City's second goalAndy Cook salutes the fans after City's second goal (Image: Thomas Gadd)

Suddenly, they were no longer chasing Crawley down. The mint green shirts found more room to play – and how they cashed in.

With City retreating deeper, Crawley advanced with intent.

Harry Forster had only been on a couple of minutes but his drilled ball from the byline flicked off Matty Platt into the path of Adam Campbell to level.

The dynamic had shifted and City were crumbling.

The fourth official’s board went up showing eight minutes – the price of Crawley’s “game management” that irked Alexander. It would go on for 10 in the end and the visitors made every one of them count.

Kelly probed the edge of the box again and played in Tsaroulla whose heels were clipped by Halliday.

Harry Lewis, like Addai, went the right way but Orsi’s spot-kick flew under his arm.

As an exodus of stunned home fans headed for the exits, there was still time for more pain.

Kelly again set it up for sub Klaidi Lolos to blast the fourth with an angled shot that kicked up off Ciaran Kelly to fly over Lewis.

Crawley could enjoy the long trip back from West Yorkshire to west Sussex once more - that's three times in the last four visits they have taken all the points with them.

Meanwhile, it remains just four wins out of 12 for City at Valley Parade – only the bottom four and Harrogate have worse home records.

City still have the majority of the remaining 20 games to play on their own patch; if they are to gatecrash the play-offs, something clearly has to change in front of League Two’s largest audience.

It’s hard to take watching another smattering of away fans – 103 was the official travelling Crawley figure – cavorting in the emptiest section of the stadium.

But we’ve been saying that for far too long. Seeing is believing and those who did hang around to the bitterest of ends could hardly fathom what they had just witnessed.