THAT thud you heard around 4:20 p.m. Saturday afternoon was City landing firmly on planet Earth.
Chesterfield dished out a healthy dose of reality to anyone who laughed at how the Bantams had dismantled Sunderland days earlier.
Pre-season was never about results. It’s about refining, getting the bodies back into the routine of playing again week after week and putting that work into practice.
And perhaps a slap like this will prove timely as we anxiously count down the minutes for the big game against Doncaster next weekend.
West End actors swear by a dodgy dress rehearsal after all; a few fluffy lines or missed cues sharpen the reactions when they take the stage in front of a full audience.
Mark Hughes is hoping for the same after a surprisingly offbeat performance from a side that had looked so clinical and menacing in beating York and the Black Cats the previous week.
Perhaps Tuesday’s toils on such a humid night had taken its toll on producing such a lengthy follow-up.
But for some reason City looked half a yard away throughout; second best in physical terms behind Chesterfield, second best at reacting to the ball on too many occasions.
The game itself was as close to the real thing as it gets with a sometimes thorny and feisty feel to the contest.
But off the pitch, the afternoon was clouded by the unsavory incident with a Chesterfield supporter, for lack of a better word, and City substitutes warming up.
The exact swap remains allegations until the FA launch the investigation which the Bantams will be pushing for.
But it appears the man concerned first complained that the three players were ‘blocking his view’ as they stretched near the corner flag, then things quickly went downhill – City angrily pointing out the racism involved against Lee Angol and Yann Songo’o.
It was a horrific episode, made all the more unpleasant and shocking because it seemed to come out of something so mundane, and a reminder that an age-old disease still lurks in some corners.
Chesterfield boss Paul Cook was as animated as Mark Hughes to stop the game while it was happening and fans around the alleged ‘guilty’ were just as keen to see justice done.
They bear no blame for what threatened to spoil a game when the Spireites demonstrated they will be a force to be reckoned with in the National League’s bear pit. They were looking at the streets in front of York, certainly.
The tone was set early on when Matty Platt unsuccessfully tried to guide a ball for a goal kick – only to find himself out of possession by Akwasi Asante and forced to scramble him for a home throw-in.
Platt had his hands full with the muscle of Asante and partner Joe Quigley – the first time the centre-half has looked genuinely uncomfortable since arriving from Barrow. Again, this review might come in handy before visiting Donny’s Valley Parade.
Romoney Crichlow was the pick of a defense stretched by Chesterfield’s attacking intent, appearing calm on the ball as those around him were fired.
But there were too many.
Passes were short or slightly off in a harassed midfield where even Richie Smallwood struggled to find time and space.
The front line was deprived of opportunities. Vadaine Oliver, at least, had an hour under his belt but was left frustrated by the lack of service while Kian Harratt was unsuited to the larger role given to him.
Harratt had the ball in the net with a neat finish after Oliver kicked in Smallwood’s long pass, but the flag was in an offside position – one of three efforts ruled out by the assistants in the first half.
Quigley and Armando Dobra were also thwarted, but both chances served as warnings of the threat from Chesterfield. It was ignored after the break.
The Spireites struck three minutes into the second half as left-back Branden Horton’s deep cross was acquitted by Quigley at the far post.
Horton, encouraged to advance, then hit the woodwork before providing another assist for Quigley as City failed to react in time.
And the stunned visitors quickly took another shot as Jeff King sent the ball into the box where Liam Mandeville had all the room he needed to hammer Chesterfield’s third into the roof of the net.
Lots of food for thought for Hughes in the coming days. But deep down, he can feel it’s done him a favor by keeping his feet on the ground amid the whirlwind expectation of what’s to come.
CHESTERFIELD: Covolan, Horton (Clements 61min), Grimes (J Cook 71min), Mandeville (Whelan 64min), Williams (Maguire 71min), Dobra (Cooper 61min), Asante (Trialist 71min), King (Sheklford 61min), Oldaker (Trialist 64min) , Quigley (Gyasi 61min), Banks (Miller 64min).
TOWN: Lewis, Halliday (Threlkeld 72min), Platt, Crichlow (Songo’o 77min), Foulds (Ridehalgh 61min), East (Sutton 72min), Smallwood, Osadebe (Chapman 61min), Walker (Young 72min), Harratt (Angol 61min), Olivier (A Cook 61min).