Birmingham City left it late but continued their remarkable unbeaten start to the new Championship season with a roof-raising 2-1 win over Plymouth Argyle on Saturday afternoon. John Eustace’s side gave the St Andrew’s faithful plenty to cheer with a positive, attacking display in the first half and were then forced to defend with resilience in the second. Pegged back by a Ryan Hardie rebound strike, it looked as if Birmingham were going to draw 1-1 but new loan signing Jay Stansfield came off the bench for a dream debut, scoring with a tremendous half-volley to earn another huge three points.
Blues started with bags of energy and confidence as Koji Miyoshi, finding space in the area, forced a first-minute save from Argyle goalkeeper Conor Hazard. Laid off by Keshi Anderson, the Japanese winger got plenty of power behind his left-footed strike but Hazard reacted quickly to parry the ball away. Plymouth then had a brilliant chance of their own as Morgan Whittaker reacted quickest to a Joe Edwards miss-kick but his shot went well wide of the post.
Birmingham instantly made Plymouth rue their missed opportunity as Scott Hogan relieved the early tension with his first goal of the season. Anderson fed in Miyoshi down the left and the winger drilled the ball first-time into the box where Hogan was there to slide in to give his side an eighth-minute lead. St Andrew’s went wild and very nearly had a second goal to cheer just moments after the restart as Anderson ran through. The attacking midfielder got his effort on target but it was saved by Hazard.
Anderson continued his fine work throughout much of the first half as he cut in from the left and wowed supporters with quick footwork and fancy trickery. It wasn’t just the crowd that was dazzled as Plymouth defenders Dan Scarr and Joe Edwards were often beaten for pace as Anderson drove into the area. Blues weren’t the only side to threaten though as Argyle did look dangerous on the counter-attack, with Bali Bumba in particular getting in behind and taking advantage of Juninho Bacuna’s unfamiliarity at right-back.
The hosts got the second period underway in a similar fashion to the first as Anderson and Miyoshi linked up well and displayed terrific technique to very nearly hand Hogan a second goal of the game. Whipped in by Miyoshi, the ball was merely inches away from Hogan’s head as Hazard misjudged the flight. The early momentum did tumble, however, as Plymouth, responding effectively, gave Birmingham a scare in the 53rd minute when Whittaker beat Buchanan for pace and struck the woodwork.
Argyle got their reward for starting the second half as the better side as Whittaker had another chance, forcing a save out of John Ruddy and allowing striker Hardie to score from a simple tap-in. It was a shame as Blues’ goalkeeper had kept a few shots on target away from goal earlier in the game but was unable to parry the ball in the right direction at the vital moment for 1-1.
Eustace turned to the bench immediately after the equaliser to hook Jordan James and bring on new loan signing Stansfield. The Fulham attacker got involved straight away as he played Miyoshi in on goal but the number 11’s resultant shot was deflected away from corner. A succession of set pieces followed, including one ambitious Miyoshi inswinger that struck the post, but Blues were unable to capitalise.
Heading beyond the 70-minute mark, it was all Plymouth as they put everything into trying to score a winner. Birmingham were resorted to their own half for much of the closing stages, unable to break out as Argyle pressed high with ambition. Eustace’s men dug in, though, and managed to carve out one opportunity in the dying embers – and just the one chance was all it took as the roof nearly lifted off at St Andrew’s.
Super substitute Stansfield, sprinting through, flicked the ball past a Plymouth defender and struck on the half-volley with power to send the home crowd into bedlam. It was an outstanding finish from the attacker. Eustace couldn’t contain his excitement on the touchline as he sprinted beyond the advertisement boards and waved a raised first in the air. That’s now 10 points out of 12 for Blues, who have soared up to third in the Championship. Here are our player ratings.
Overall attendance: 20,685. Away turnut: 1,970.