Plymouth battle back to hold 10-player Birmingham

23 December 2023 0 By Total Football News

Plymouth top scorer Morgan Whittaker hit a brilliant 86th-minute equaliser as managerless Argyle recovered from going 3-1 down to claim a 3-3 Championship draw with Wayne Rooney’s 10-man Birmingham at Home Park.

Playmaker Whittaker took his season’s tally to 10 with another long-range strike from outside the box, out of the reach of diving goalkeeper John Ruddy’s fingertips and down the inside of the side netting.

Birmingham were forced into an early change when scorer Jay Stansfield collided with Lee Buchanan on the halfway line, resulting in a 10th-minute introduction of substitute Emmanuel Longelo.

Within five minutes, City surged ahead when player of the match Juninho Bacuna’s corner from the left was glanced home at near post by Stansfield.

Morgan Whittaker celebrates after scoring a late equaliser for Plymouth against Birmingham

Image: Morgan Whittaker celebrates after scoring a late equaliser for Plymouth against Birmingham

After 25 minutes, Finn Azaz teed up fellow attacking playmaker Whittaker and his first-time left-footed curler from edge of box sped just past the post.

Bacuna’s corner from right after 33 minutes was side-footed wide of Conor Hazard’s left post from central defender Marc Roberts, unmarked on the penalty spot.

Azaz’s 35th-minute pass into striker Ben Waine saw his shot deflected by a superb sliding tackle from Dion Sanderson.

Two minutes late, Bacuna’s pacy cross from right, was met by Stansfield at the near post and flashed past the far post.

Birmingham doubled their lead after 39 minutes with Bacuna again creator. His cross from the right byeline was volleyed in first time off the underside of the crossbar by Jordan James.

The away side were made to rue that missed opportunity when skipper Joe Edwards scored five minutes later, with Argyle ending the first half in ascendancy.

Edwards pounced on a slip by visiting captain Sanderson on edge of the box and scuffed the ball home past goalkeeper Ruddy in the 43rd minute.

With an early injury to Buchanan, there were eight minutes of first-half stoppage-time added, in which Ruddy made a brilliant reaction save to somehow keep out central defender Julio Pleguezuelo’s bullet-like goalbound header.

Birmingham were reduced to 10 players in 48th minute when Krystian Bielik was sent off for a foul on Argyle central midfielder Jordan Houghton just inside the City half.

That galvanised Rooney’s team and they surged further ahead when Stansfield broke down the right.

Stansfield cut back his cross to Bacuna who let fly from just inside the box, giving home goalkeeper Conor Hazard little chance after 62 minutes with a brilliant strike on the run.

Six minutes later, Argyle pulled a goal back when substitute Mickel Miller’s sizzling cross from the left was turned in his own goal at the near post by defender Marc Roberts under pressure from Waine.

The Azaz-Whittaker combination worked a treat again with four minutes remaining as the spoils were shared.

The managers

Plymouth’s director of football Neil Dewsnip:

“I really enjoyed the experience, am really proud of the players, the supporters – they are really fantastic – and really proud to lead the team.

“We came back from two goals down and nearly sneak it at the end. We conceded three goals so we know we have got a bit of work to do.

“At the start of the game, the first period was difficult for the players, they have had some week because they have lost a manager they think highly of.

“We said to the players at half-time ‘we are still in the game and we will start again and go from there’.

“Joe (Edwards) was strong leader in the dressing room, we supported them to put out that performance.

“We nearly got the winner. What a moment that would have been.

“We are going to win one eventually away from home so why not at Cardiff (on Boxing Day).”

Birmingham’s Wayne Rooney:

“We looked really dangerous. We go 2-0 up and a mistake before half-time lets them back in it.

“Then the red card just after half-time – which I don’t think is a red card – was a big moment in the game which makes it more difficult for us.

“The lads put a real shift in and we went 3-1 up. Under pressure we failed to see the game out. We are all disappointed in the end not to win but a positive is that we got something.

“I thought with the personnel of the players we had on the pitch for us to stay in the game, at 2-1, I felt we could be a threat on the break and we get the third goal from that. We just didn’t hold on that 3-1 lead for long enough.”

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