WHAT on earth is Steven Schumacher doing?

That was the question on the lips of Plymouth Argyle supporters when they saw the line-up the Pilgrims' manager had picked for last night's eagerly-awaited West Country derby game at Bristol City.

Seven changes from the 2-1 defeat at Championship leaders Preston North End, when Schumacher felt the Pilgrims played really well and were unlucky to come away with nothing to show for their efforts at Deepdale!

Was this an EFL Trophy tie? A match in the Carabao Cup?

No, it was a big Championship match against a Bristol City side who had not won at home this season, who had only scored once at home in the league all campaign, and were fresh from a 0-0 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

A team seemingly ripe to attack from the off as the Pilgrims sought their first away win of the season, but joint Championship top scorer Ryan Hardie and first-choice strikers Morgan Whittaker and Bali Mumba were all on the bench, and he made two changes to both his midfield and defence as well.

I travelled up to the game in a car with three Bristol City fans - that was a fun journey home afterwards!! - and they thought all their Christmases had come at once when they saw the team list beamed up on the screens in the concourse before the match, and no doubt Nigel Pearson and his City players felt the same too.

One could maybe understand Schumacher being keen to freshen things up with maybe two or three changes after a long trip north, but seven? And your best players too?

It took some swallowing, and the mood amongst the disbelieving Green Army did not improve when Argyle fell 2-0 behind after only eight minutes.

It brought back horrible memories for those who witnessed first hand that Wembley debacle against Bolton Wanderers in the Papa Johns Trophy in March.

Even though Adam Randell pulled a goal back with a sweet strike from outside the box, things did not improve that much, and a 3-1 deficit at half-time – when the Pilgrims were loudly booed off by their 3,400-strong travelling support – became 4-1 ten minutes from the end

Whittaker and Jordan Houghton were introduced at half-time, Hardie and Mumba 15 minutes later, and Azaz with 18 minutes remaining, but the words 'stable, door, bolted, and horse' sprang to mind.

When they were on the pitch, Argyle created chances late on when Hardie hit the post and then was denied what seemed a certain goal by a superb last-ditch tackle by former Argyle loanee Zak Vyner.

You could argue it also might have been different if Ben Waine had not inexplicably failed to score, or even hit the target, when presented with a glorious opportunity when the Pilgrims were 3-1 down in the first half.

But why did Schumacher do it?

Explaining his selection afterwards, Schumacher said: "It was a tough game on Saturday, it took a lot out of everybody physically, so we decided to make changes.

"I know seven sounds a lot, four of those players that started the game tonight are regular starters - Joe Edwards and Dan Scarr have played virtually every game for us - Callum Wright was our best player for the majority of the end of last season and Adam Randell has played loads of games, so there's not an issue with those four players coming into the team.

"The three young lads who are making first Championship starts, if you don't put them in you're never going to know what they can do. In hindsight, because we've been battered 4-1, it doesn't look a great decision."

Schumacher said the performance had been 'embarrassing', and the 'worst he had seen from his team in ages', and he wasn't wrong.

You could maybe understand the changes if the Pilgrims had been on a long run of Tuesday-Saturday games that was stretching the squad, but Saturday at Preston was their first match after a two-week international break, so the players were fresh.

Maybe he feels Argyle's best hopes of picking up points this season are at home, and he was resting his star men ahead of this weekend's Home Park clash with Norwich City.

Of course, if the Pilgrims beat the Canaries, then the defeat at City will largely be forgiven by the fans and they will move on, but lose to Norwich and it will make the Ashton Gate selection even harder to fathom.

Since Schumacher took over the Home Park hot seat, he has done a fantastic job and there has been very little for the fans to question him over. However, last night has shaken that faith just a little bit.

But if Argyle supporters are feeling the pain today, it could be worse, you could be an Exeter City fan! They suffered a club record 9-0 home defeat to Reading last night in the EFL Trophy!