THE stayaway owner should have stayed away.

Stefan Rupp’s first appearance at Valley Parade in eight months was ill-timed to put it mildly.

The public anger – unlike much of City’s play – hit the intended target.

But he was not the reason the Bantams caved in so dismally against the league leaders.

This tortuous afternoon was on the manager and the players.

Graham Alexander gambled and lost with his selection and the big calls to drop Andy Cook and Brad Halliday.

The team then delivered a performance that suggested they had never seen each other before.

Rupp being present as everything crumbled around him just created the perfect storm on a horribly ugly occasion.

The club had tried to keep Rupp’s return under the radar. Fat chance of that.

He had not been seen in BD8 since the Middlesbrough pre-season friendly in July.

His flying visit was thought to be to talk about next season’s budget. He didn’t need to take in the game – in hindsight, maybe it would have been wiser to have kept a lower profile.

But the man who doesn’t want to speak publicly and steers well clear of fans and media was on show, red baseball cap pulled down as he sat alongside Ryan Sparks.

They made very convenient scapegoats as the tempers flipped around them.

“Sell up or spend some money” gestured one fuming fan, waving a fiver in the German’s direction as City imploded in the opening quarter of the game.

The ire of supporters rained down on the chief executive’s box off the pitch while their team capitulated completely on it.

The bubbling discontent around the club was laid bare for their money man to see. Whatever his thoughts now – and no doubt we will not hear them – his eyes have been opened.

But it was not Rupp’s fault that City rolled over so meekly against the league leaders.

It was not Rupp who decided to line up a five-man wall for a free-kick that was clearly aiming for a cross to the far post.

It was not Rupp who scorned the gilt-edged chance that Jamie Walker somehow bundled wide straight after Mansfield’s second goal.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Jamie Walker cannot believe how he has not scoredJamie Walker cannot believe how he has not scored (Image: Thomas Gadd)

It was not Rupp who left the enormous holes at the back to allow Mansfield to march through at will.

He can be pinpointed for plenty by supporters but others carried the can for this mess.

They say a week’s a long time in football. It seems an eternity since Accrington.

The joy from the Crown Ground has been wiped away by two miserable home performances – City somehow managing to outdo Forest Green with this absolute stinker of a game.

Somehow, almost laughingly, the gap to the play-off has stayed at seven points with those two games in hand.

But play like this again and they could have 20 extra and it wouldn’t make a difference.

Alexander’s team sheet had caused pre-match ruffles with the omission of the top scorer and the season’s top player.

It may have sent out a message that nobody’s place is nailed down following a dire display in midweek. But it was a bold move that convinced few in the stands.

Alex Gilliead was switched to right wing-back in Halliday’s absence with Walker’s first start since that pre-Christmas injury seeing him employed in an unfamiliar role in centre midfield.

There was a lop-sided look about the team that Mansfield would exploit mercilessly.

Up front, Tyler Smith was given another opportunity to win over the doubters with Alexander looking for the type of attacking mobility that had looked so good against Wycombe.

But City didn’t score that night – and again failed to take their chances until Cook was finally summoned from the sideline with the result long gone.



The outcome might have been different if Smith had got something on the end of an inviting cross that Lewis Richards bent behind the Mansfield back four in the opening minutes.

But that flashed across the goal mouth and minutes later the visitors were behind.

Louis Reed needed lengthy treatment after being knocked over by Walker 30 yards from goal.

It gave City plenty of time to get in position for Stephen Quinn’s set-piece.

But they bizarrely opted to set up a large barrier – as Alexander screamed into his mouth piece to get the message on for an anticipated ball to the back post.

Sure enough, Quinn clipped a pass in that direction where an under-manned Liam Ridehalgh watched Baily Cargill bury the header.

A second goal followed four minutes later after a spell of penalty-box pinball.

Quinn’s first shot from an angle was blocked back to him, his second pinged off the post.

Cargill’s follow-up was brilliantly clawed off the line by Sam Walker but again the rebound fell straight to a blue shirt and Lucas Akins was not going to say no.

Walker should have immediately cut the deficit but showed his ring-rust by scuffing Tyreik Wright’s inviting ball past the post.

Mansfield needed no further encouragement to increase City’s agony.

Will Swan brushed off Ridehalgh for a high ball, swapped passes with Akins and teed up an unmarked Davis Keillor-Dunn to shoot past Walker.

That was the tipping point as the mood among the home support soured. Rupp and Sparks sat stony-faced as they were subjected to the anger from those sat around them.

Alexander hauled off Ridehalgh for the calming presence of Kevin McDonald and switched to a back four. But the damage had been done.

They could not even make it to half-time without further punishment.

Jon Tomkinson’s weak clearance was snaffled up as Mansfield poured forward once again, Keillor-Dunn returning the compliment for his goal by teeing up Swan for a fourth that deflected off City’s unfortunate American.

That was the signal for many in the crowd to make an early exit at the interval. You couldn’t blame them.

Those that did stick around would have seen more Mansfield goals but for a couple of good saves from Walker to deny the rampaging Swan.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Tyreik Wright tries to get the better of Mansfield's Aden FlintTyreik Wright tries to get the better of Mansfield's Aden Flint (Image: Thomas Gadd)

Cook appeared as part of a triple change just after the hour and did have his customary score against his former employers 10 minutes later.

He bundled home a cross from fellow sub Harry Chapman for his 17th goal of the season but barely acknowledged it. There was precious little to celebrate.

Affronted by conceding, Mansfield were not done and delivered their fifth in the closing moments.

Aaron Lewis saw his blast beaten out by Walker but he clambered straight up off the floor to smash home the rebound.

While the boisterous away end bounced around, the City boos at the final whistle were muted.

The energy in the anger in that moment had gone; fans had become numb to what they had just witnessed.

As for the owner, who knows what he’s thinking.