If Hayling won this game, then they would win the league. If they lost, however, Ringwood would win it; it was all to play for.
From the start, United looked the stronger side, with their players winning all of the 50/50 battles. It took them all of 5 minutes to mount an attack on the visitors, with Dave Faye winning a throw in level with the edge of the penalty area.
Anybody who's seen United play this season would know what's coming next: a long throw in from Matt Blackburn-Smith, hurled menacingly at the opposing 'keeper. These throw ins have given United a higher chance-conversion rate than free kicks and corners this season, but this one wasn't going to improve that rate even more as the ball sailed over from Harry Cottle's header.
More of this aerial onslaught continued, and it was evident that Ringwood's 'keeper was not comfortable dealing with the speed and directness of the delivery and the challenges from Harry Dodgson, Harry Cottle and Charlie Collier. It wasn't a throw in that broke the deadlock, however, as the opener came from a corner.
Harry Hancock gave the signal and swung in an inch-perfect delivery, so much so that it sailed right into the far top corner of the visitors' goal, leaving the unsuspecting defenders no chance of preventing it.
United were unlucky to not have doubled or tripled their lead before the half hour mark, with Harry Dodgson coming close twice after being fed through balls from Aaron Kinchen and Matt Blackburn-Smith; each time the 'keeper did enough to save his side. They also had chances through Dave Faye, who flew past his opponent on two occasions before firing into the side netting.
Despite the way United were playing, Ringwood were the next to score. Calum Ferrier had nothing to do until a cheap free kick was given away on the edge of United's area. The free kick was fast and low, and Calum Ferrier did enough to keep it out, but the visitors were first to react and place the ball into the empty net.
This served as a wake up call for United, who appeared happy with their one goal lead; Ringwood were lucky to have netted after having no other shots in the first half.
Fortunately, United were able to react almost immediately as they won another throw in from the left hand side of the pitch. Matt Blackburn-Smith launched in another ball, and Harry Cottle rose the highest to flick it across the 'keeper into the far corner.
The half ended at this scoreline, but only just. After the ball dropped down to a Ringwood striker, the United defence looked almost certain to be beaten, but for a perfectly-timed, crunching tackle from Morgan Marshall; it will be considered by many as the tackle of the season as it proved vital to United winning all 3 points.
The second half didn't continue in the same manner as the first, as United were desperately holding onto their lead. Body-on-the-line defending from Harry Cottle, Morgan Marshall, Ryan Heywood, Max Jones and, man-of-the-match, Charlie Collier saw United's goal left untouched in the second 45 minutes. Persistence and improvisation from Matt Blackburn-Smith, Dave Faye, Harry Hancock and James Woolas enabled United to keep a tight watch on their opponents, which also led to a sending off, as a Ringwood player made one foul too many and picked up his second yellow.
Ultimately, this made the remainder of the game a little bit easier for Hayling, and they managed to cling on to their lead. Eventually the final whistle went and United had won the league; the substitutes and coaches sprinted onto the pitch to join in with the celebrations on the half way line.
Ringwood Town were gracious in defeat and stayed for the duration of the presentation, after the game, made by Hampshire Youth League officials, where United's captain raised the trophy in ecstasy. This accolade put the icing on the cake for United, whose squad have each contributed to the most successful Hayling team this season.
There will be one last game against Petersfield Town at the College Ground on Easter Sunday, where there will be nothing for either team to play for.
Finally, everyone involved with Hayling United Youth would like to extend their thanks to everybody who attended the game. I'm sure I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that it made a huge difference having all of the encouragement and noise on the sidelines which, consequently, created a winning atmosphere for all of the lads to soak in.
Thank you for your continuing support.