There was little, virtually nothing to enjoy in Birmingham City’s FA Cup non-performance against Plymouth Argyll.
Any shot on target in two hours against a League One opposition is almost unforgivable and if there were some surprises Plymouth needed 120 minutes to beat the Blues.
The shot count of 22-7 was a fitting indicator of the disparity in the performances of both the teams.
Here’s what depicts a troubled evening in St Andrews.
Manchester United’s Teiden Mengye was very good and could be forgiven for thinking of what he signed up for as the key to a bad team.
The 19-year-old began playing with George Friend in the back four – and the game ended with fellow teen Tate Campbell as his partner after the veteran was dismissed.
It didn’t deter him, his demeanor was decisive and firm—not something you could say about the more experienced players on the team—and he diligently went on to douse the increasing number of fires in the Blues penalty box.
He displayed the physical characteristics, speed, power and decent technique with the ball on his feet – required for Premier League clubs – and showed the kind of leadership others would be good to replicate.
A moment stood out in the second half, when he put the ball behind Kristian Pedersen for a corner and then reprimanded the Dane who was effectively coming back.
Mengi required extended treatment after an awkward fall after a tackle and one feared the loan player’s curse might reoccur.
In the end it was Mengi who ended up bashing as the Blues’ defense was eventually disbanded despite his best efforts. He is looking for a solid replacement for Dion Sanderson.
Mengi was one of two full debutants – while the other two played off the bench for the first time. Each of them can be satisfied with their individual contribution, even if they are spoiled by the collective result.
Tate Campbell was having a baffling time. Starting on a Diamond side, then moved into a defensive midfield role and then, after a friend left, put in the last four.
He did really well with Mengi playing well and stood up well as Plymouth threatened to dominate the Blues. The fact that he lasted a full two hours for almost five months in his first match is a huge credit to him.
Jobe Bellingham came off the bench at 16 years, three months and 16 days to make his blues bow and – in Boyer’s words – brought ‘a spark’.
He attacked the defenders, rocked the ball well, tried to play the Blues forward and did well to win some corners and set up Chucks Anke for his only real chance of the game. There was also a Bellingham ‘G Up’ trademark for supporters. This was promising stuff.
Josh Williams was up against a dangerous opponent when he replaced Maxim Colin, but he did the OK on the pitch in the quarter of an hour.
Overall, the youthful energy these players brought was an improvement on the sluggish performances of some of their senior colleagues.
Plymouth’s attacking venture also stood in stark contrast to the impotence of their hosts.
Zero shots on target is a pretty damning statistic, but the lack of a cross going into the Argyle penalty area was also downright mysterious.
The few that went all in were delivered from the shallows and were therefore easily cleared by a defendable position or first defender.
Scott Hogan may not have been there for all the serve, though it was hard to tell if he stopped scoring or the ball refused to come near him.
Troy Deeney tried to provoke a bit of play in the first half, but he left the Blues without a focal up front – he couldn’t get his own run with the pass. He remained in a more advanced and central role after that – and therefore became completely isolated.
Colin and Pedersen barely moved forward, which invoked Plymouth’s wing backs to fill the space – and when he demonstrated quality in the box he was executable.
Boyer desperately needs his attacking players. The departure of Riley McGree and the injuries to Tahit Chong, Jeremy Bella, Evan Sanchez, Jordan Graham and even Taylor Richards – without even kicking a ball at Royal Blue – are felt enough.
It was a motivation-free performance that lacked the slightest of deceit.
back in the future
Neil Etheridge returned to the Blues goal, where he will likely stay for the rest of the season – and the game was a reminder that he doesn’t go about his work the same way Matija Sarkik does.
With a dislocated shoulder in the Montenegrin back to Wolves, Etheridge tried to work sweeper-keeper and only ended up causing problems for himself and his team. He was also not as comfortable with the ball at his feet.
But his shot-stopping is arguably better than Sarkik’s and he put up a very good defense to negate Jordan Garrick – and another very, very good reaction stop.
The Blues will have to get used to having Etheridge as their last line of defense – but unless he gets too obsessed with his goal, he will do well for the rest of the campaign in which Lee Boyer’s men will be a good goalkeeper. may be needed.