After 20 games, Hawks finally came into a match where they knew that if they were to secure a positive result they would win the league with a game to spare. However, Saturday's match-up also gave the final opportunity for Eastcote, lying in 2nd place, to leapfrog Hawks into 1st place and the only automatic promotion spot. With the sun shining, and plenty of vocal support on the sidelines, the game got under way.
Hawks were assured in the opening phases of play and settled quickly back into their pre-snow/Easter rhythm. Meanwhile, Eastcote seemed tense and were soon on the back foot as Buckingham played a ball into the Eastcote D from the far left, evading both Paynter and Pickup, before coming off the defender's heel at the back post and rolling into the goal. The umpire's initial decision to award a short corner had Hawks up in arms, but following a meeting of the umpires they correctly awarded Hawks the opening goal of the game.
The game continued to move in Hawks favour, in part due to some great defensive work from the back line, which provided a springboard from which Hawks could attack - Gilbert, in particular, showed tenacity to make some important tackles. As the pressure mounted on the Eastcote defence, Hawks had the opportunity to double their lead when they were awarded a short corner. Blackburn lined up a tough pull-out on the dry pitch, and found Robinson who had moved well to collect the ball out to him. Burden did well to get his shot away, but the keeper could only rebound the ball to Buckingham who controlled it and shot a screaming half-volley into the top right corner of the net.
Eastcote had opportunities to get back into the game before the break, but fortunately Hawks were in safe hands with Price in goal, and came in at half time 2-0 up.
The second half was a different affair and Eastcote rallied to get back into the game. An aerial bombardment from an Eastcote defender tested the Hawks midfield and defence, but was resolutely expelled from the Hawks 25 as the Eastcote players looked to pounce. Despite tireless work from Hawks, the pressure finally saw Eastcote pull a goal back following a goalmouth scramble with about 15 minutes to go, and set up an anxious finale.
The Hawks midfield of Burden, Baldock, Craig and Brownhill worked tirelessly throughout, tried to soak up the surges of attacks, but also to open up opportunities to counter-attack. In a couple of attacks Hawks could have sealed the game: Baldock turned his marker, showed quick hands to beat another and found himself in front of the goalkeeper, but was unlucky when the goalkeeper guessed his next move and scrambled it away. In another opportunity missed, Buckingham went through one on one with the goalkeeper, only to see the Eastcote goalkeeper quell his shot with a low save.
Hawks survived a few more Eastcote attacks and, were it not for Man of the Match Price's influential saves, could have found themselves in difficulty, but the final whistle was blown and the result confirmed that Hawks would win the league with a game still to play. This game epitomised why Hawks secured promotion this season - a real squad effort and a gritty, never say die attitude, and they will be looking to take this with them into the higher division next season.
Before starting next season in the South Premier Division 2, Hawks face Slough 1s in their final game of the season on Saturday. A win would secure a remarkable 7 point lead at the close of the season but, with Slough still scrapping for points in a relegation battle, the game will certainly not be an easy one for the champions.