After losing out to league leaders Leicester City at St Andrew’s last Monday, Birmingham City made their final Championship outing of 2023 on Saturday afternoon, rocking up to Home Park in Devon to face a Plymouth side who had lost head coach Steven Schumacher to Stoke earlier in the week.
Blues possessed a 2-1 lead at the half-time interval thanks to strikes from Wales international Jordan James and former Exeter City forward Jay Stansfield, but the harsh dismissal of Krystian Bielik in the 48th minute really turned the tide in the contest, with the Green Army eventually netting a 86th-minute equaliser through Morgan Whittaker.
Despite managing just two wins from his opening 12 matches at the helm, Wayne Rooney was greeted by a round of applause from nearly 2,000 Bluenoses following a share of the spoils at Plymouth last time out, with the Birmingham fanbase beginning to see the manager’s training ground methods translating to performances on second-tier matchdays.
The Second City club currently occupy 18th position in the Championship standings at the halfway point of the campaign, holding a comforting seven-point advantage over 22nd-placed Queens Park Rangers, although Blues are a sizeable nine points behind Liam Rosenior’s Hull City in sixth.
Just the Humberside Tigers and Enzo Maresca’s Foxes have bested Birmingham at their St Andrew’s turf this term, but Rooney’s men have only managed to win one of their five home contests since the Manchester United legend replaced John Eustace – a scrappy 2-1 success over relegation-threatened Sheffield Wednesday.
After two games under the interim stewardship of Paul Gallagher following Alex Neil’s sacking earlier in December, the bet365 Stadium warmly welcomed ex-Plymouth boss Schumacher to the Stoke City managerial hotseat, but the Liverpudlian was unable to guide his new club to a first win in nine
matches.Joe Edwards’s Millwall – who themselves are in the midst of a worrying winless run – were kind opposition for the 39-year-old’s first contest in charge, but the Potters could not breach the net of Matija Sarkic in a goalless draw, with Jack Bonham having to deny Aidomo Emakhu in the final stages to prevent a narrow away victory.
Overall, Schumacher was pleased with his side’s efforts in Staffordshire on Saturday afternoon, with the point gained against the Lions leaving the Potters in 19th place, four
points ahead of Marti Cifuentes’s QPR and with the opportunity to leapfrog Birmingham on Boxing Day.Stoke’s last victory in the Championship arrived on their travels in impressive fashion, as Neil’s Potters passed a Teesside test at Middlesbrough with flying colours on October 28, when first-half goals from Michael Rose and summer arrival Mehdi
Leris secured maximum points for City.The Potters have not tasted success in their last five visits to St Andrew’s, and Stoke fans will have to go back over a decade for memories of their latest win in B9, with Peter Crouch and Marko Arnautovic getting on the scoresheet during a fourth-round EFL Cup clash in October 2013.