REPORT | BIRMINGHAM CITY 2 ARGYLE 1
Birmingham City 2
Hogan 9 Stansfield 90 +4
For the second week in a row, Argyle slipped to a last-gasp defeat after a vicious strike from substitute Jay Stansifeld in the final minute of stoppage time.
Birmingham City led through an early goal from Scott Hogan but the Greens then controlled the next 82 minutes, moving the ball around with pace and precision.
The equaliser arrived on the hour, Ryan Hardie pouncing on a rebound, and Argyle were the side looking more likely to win it until Stansfield lashed in a debut winner for the hosts.
Argyle manager Steven Schumacher made one change from the side that lost narrowly to Southampton last weekend, Adam Randell replacing Luke Cundle in midfield.
City were the brighter starters in the sunshine of St Andrews, Koji Miyoshi forcing a decent save from Conor Hazard.
The Greens then settled into a period of calm and a neat pass from Randell released Morgan Whittaker for a strike off target.
Birmingham led from the next attack, Miyoshi fizzing over a low cross for Hogan to convert from close range and it was nearly two in two minutes, Hazard tipping over an effort from Keshi Anderson.
Good defending from Bali Mumba helped the Pilgrims recover into a strong period of possession and control, Randell feeding Hardie for a chip that proved comfortable for John Ruddy in the home goal.
The Pilgrims reacted superbly to the early setback, with Mumba a constant menace, but the Blues did carry a threat on the counter, Anderson jinking inside from the left for a shot deflected over the bar.
Heading past the half-hour, Argyle continued to control much of the play, as a patient build up created room for Kaine Kesler-Hayden to have a pop from 25 yards but it was straight into the arms of Ruddy.
A knock for Jordan Houghton resulted in a new headband for the midfielder but the resumption prompted more probing from the Greens, who were enjoying virtually total dominance of the ball and territory.
Argyle’s football was scintillating at times but any reward would have to wait until the second half.
After an early flurry from the hosts, Argyle resumed their pressure on the Birmingham defence and a fabulous spurt of pace from Whittaker created space for a right-foot drive that cannoned off the bar. Randell was fouled just outside the box from the rebound but the resultant Whittaker free-kick hit the wall.
The Green Army roared their approval as the siege continued. Randell won the ball on the edge of his area, pumped a lovely forward for the run of Hardie, who beat the last man but was thwarted by another Ruddy save.
Not the next time though.
Whittaker shifted the ball on to his left for a shot parried by the beleaguered Ruddy and the rebound was perfect for Hardie to slot a fully deserved leveller.
A fantastic block from Kesler-Hayden denied Birmingham after a swift break before an important Dan Scarr toe prevented Hogan from reaching a threaded pass.
The Blues had reacted very well to the equaliser, forcing Hazard into a punched save from a whipped corner. Matt Butcher for Randell was the first Argyle change and within seconds, he slid a dangerous low pass across the penalty area but Birmingham just about cleared.
Whittaker followed up with a swerving shot from distance, held by Ruddy. Julio Pleguezuelo replaced Kesler-Hatden on 78 minutes, while former Green Lukas Jutkiewicz came on for the Blues, as the Pilgrims resumed control of possession and territory. It was then Mickel Miller and Callum Wright for Mumba and Finn Azaz.
The game was crying out for one more big chance and Argyle were the side knocking on the door, with Whittaker still full of running and Butcher looking to break into the box at every opportunity.
One last corner for the Pilgrims was headed back into danger for the lurking Houghton but Birmingham cleared and pinched winner through Stansfield in the final seconds.
However much it hurts, it was a superb goal from Stansfield, volleying into the roof of the net to break Pilgrim hearts after what had been a tremendous performance on the road.
Football can be cruel!
Birmingham: 21 John Ruddy; 3 Lee Buchanan, 5 Dion Sanderson (capt), 6 Krystian Bielik, 7 Juninho Bacuna, 9 Scott Hogan (10 Lukas Jutkiewicz 82), 11 Koji Miyoshi (35 George Hall 78), 14 Keshi Anderson (23 Emmanuel Longelo 82), 19 Jordan James (28 Jay Stansfield 62), 26 Kevin Long, 34 Ivan Sunjic. Substitutes (not used): 1 Neil Etheridge (gk), 4 Marc Roberts, 16 Sam Cosgrove, 20 Gary Gardner, 27 Brandon Khela.
Booked: Sanderson 23, Buchanan 73
Argyle: 21 Conor Hazard; 2 Bali Mumba (14 Mickel Miller 84), 4 Jordan Houghton, 6 Dan Scarr, 8 Joe Edwards (capt), 9 Ryan Hardie, 10 Morgan Whittaker, 17 Lewis Gibson, 18 Finn Azaz (11 Callum Wright 84), 20 Adam Randell (7 Matt Butcher 74), 29 Kaine Kesler-Hayden (5 Julio Pleguezuelo 78). Substitutes (not used): 25 Callum Burton (gk), 16 Lewis Warrington, 19 Tyreik Wright, 23 Ben Waine, 28 Luke Cundle.
Booked: Randell 49
Referee: John Busby
Attendance: 20,685 (1,970 away)