Duguid the U's hero

WORSHIPPED by some, vilified by others. Karl Duguid played the leading role in a dramatic Essex derby at Layer Road on Saturday.Duguid, the U's Captain Marvel, remains the darling of Layer Road after inspiring his side to their first victory over deadly rivals Southend since 1989.

By Carl Marston

WORSHIPPED by some, vilified by others. Karl Duguid played the leading role in a dramatic Essex derby at Layer Road on Saturday.

Duguid, the U's Captain Marvel, remains the darling of Layer Road after inspiring his side to their first victory over deadly rivals Southend since 1989.

Geraint Williams' men helped themselves to three second-half goals to record their seventh home win on the trot - but that only tells half the story.


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Basement club Southend were left fuming after referee Steve Bennett sent off two of their players, Kevin Maher and Mark Gower, inside the first nine minutes of a crazy second period.

Down to nine men, the Shrimpers were cannon fodder for the goal-hungry U's, who made their numerical advantage count with goals from Greg Halford, Pat Baldwin and Jamie Cureton.

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Yet it was Duguid who took centre stage, both before and after the match. He was the hero and the villain, all wrapped into one.

Southend skipper Maher was shown a straight red card in the 51st minute following an off-the-ball incident with rival skipper Duguid.

The U's stalwart fell to the deck, clutching his face, after the two clashed in the Southend half of the pitch. The action had already switched to the other end when play was stopped, with the Layer Road faithful chanting a chorus of “off, off, off.”

Mr Bennett did not see the incident but the experienced referee, who usually officiates in the Premiership or on the European stage, walked over to the touchline to consult with his assistant before brandishing the red card. The video evidence suggests that Maher did indeed put his face in the face of Duguid. Whether he over-reacted or not is immaterial. The Southend skipper was condemned to an early bath.

Tempers were reaching boiling point, and the worst was not over for the Shrimpers. Left-winger Gower, incensed by the decision, was booked for dissent in the aftermath, and that was to prove very costly.

Just five minutes later and Southend had just nine players left on the pitch. A hot-headed Gower clearly tripped Duguid as the U's winger stormed down the flank, and so was subsequently flashed a second yellow and ensuing red card.

The Championship's bottom club had completely lost their composure, and Colchester picked them off with ease, scoring three goals in the final quarter of the match.

The first was a wonder strike, and another candidate for goal-of-the-season from the trusty right boot of Halford. The U's will do well to keep hold of their 21-year-old star when the transfer window reopens in January.

Kevin Watson had appeared as a 67th-minute substitute for Kevin McLeod, after missing the last five matches with a tight calf, and he set-up the opener with his very first touch, even if it was just a simple pass to Halford inside his own half.

Halford powered forward on a long run, brushing aside a couple of Southend defenders before unleashing a stunning 20-yard drive that flew like a rocket past keeper Darryl Flahavan.

It was Halford's third goal of the season and the 24th of his career. And most of them have been real crackers, fit for any Christmas compilation video!

To say that Baldwin has not been quite so prolific during his career, with no goals in 127 appearances before Saturday, would be an under-statement. But the U's centre-half broke his scoring duck with the U's second goal in the 74th minute. Substitute Watson was again the creator with a corner from the left - the U's only earned three corners all afternoon. Johnnie Jackson's shot was deflected onto the bar, off team-mate Chris Iwelumo, but Baldwin reacted smartly to steer home the rebound from six yards out.

Two-up with 16 minutes to go, and playing against nine demoralised opponents, the U's could have bagged a hat-ful. But the wind was taken out of their sails by a red card of their own.

Chris Barker had already been booked for a foul on Simon Francis when he brought down Jamal Campbell-Ryce, the former Colchester winger, in the 76th minute.

The U's left-back was therefore dismissed for two bookable offences. It was the one black spot of an otherwise bright afternoon for the hosts.

The demolition was completed by Cureton's ninth goal of the season in the 85th minute. Appropriately, Duguid was again the thorn in Southend's side, bursting between two defenders to square for Cureton to sweep home from 10 yards out.

This was Colchester's first win over Southend for 17 years, since Martin Grainger and Tom English scored in a 2-0 win at Roots Hall on Boxing Day 1989.

Saturday's success leaves the U's in 11th spot, a healthy nine points clear of the drop zone. The Shrimpers, by contrast, are marooned at the bottom, seven points adrift of safety and without a league win since August.

For a change, it's Colchester who have the bragging rights in Essex.

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