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Nationwide Division 3, 27/2/99, from the Abbey Stadium, Cambridge:

Cambridge United 3

Southend United 0

Southend United suffered their latest setback on Saturday with a crushing defeat at the hands of neighbours Cambridge United.

However, the 3-0 scoreline flattered the U's somewhat, as they were somewhat fortunate to win this game by such a margin. The Blues once again showed infuriating inability to create chances for forwards- and typically when they were created, they were spurned. In the end a brace from John Taylor and a goal from Martin Butler ensured that the Cambridgeshire outfit consolidated their position in the promotion places and ensured that the Shrimpers continued to struggle in their relegation dogfight.

The Blue army had their moments in an exceptional first half, and can count themselves unlucky not to have gone in ahead at the break. Chances fell to Kevin Maher and Martyn Booty, who failed to convert, while up the other end Cambridge found the Southend defence in resilient mood. The 5-3-2 formation seemed to be doing the trick for the Shrimpers until first half injury time when they were sunk by a hugely controversial goal from John Taylor. The ball fell to Taylor 30 yards from goal. He clearly used his arm to control the ball, before cracking home a stunning volley off the left hand upright. The Southend following were stunned and angry that the referee had not spotted such a blatant contravention of the laws, but the goal was allowed to stand. However, but for an incident a couple of minutes earlier, Cambridge may have been chasing the game themselves.

German loanee Lars Unger had broken clear of the Cambridge reaguard and found himself clean through with only the keeper to beat, and when 10 yards out, he pulled the trigger only to watch his sliced effort sail well wide of the post.

Unger came within a lick of paint of making up for this error early in the second half. Controlling a bobbling ball 25 yards out, he lashed a tremendous half volley which crashed against Arjan Van Heusdens bar and rebounded out to safety. Minutes later, Simon Coleman was presented with a free header from a corner kick, but he failed to direct his effort under the bar.

With the Southend fans pleading for a change, manager Alvin Martin decided to revert to a 4-4-2 system, sacrificing Simon Coleman and Neville Roach for Trevor Fitzpatrick and Alex Burns. What proved to be possibly the worst tactical substitution in the world ever resulted in an immediate goal for the unmarked Martin Butler, who tapped in Neil Mustoes low centre 60 seconds after the change. Seven minutes afterwards, any lingering doubts among the home support were extinguished when John Taylor, yards offside, sent an exquisite chip flying over Martyn Margetsons head and into the net.

So all the good work done last weekend was frustratingly redone at the Abbey Stadium, and it is still a mystery why Alvin Martin can even consider that this side is consistent enough to avoid relegation, let alone challenge for promotion. 13 games left, 18th in the league, still make the playoffs Alvin? Get real.