THE sporting good nature of Hedinghams United Under-12s Hawks has seen them rewarded by topping a poll to win the Essex County FA 2018/19 Fair Play Awards.

The Hawks emerged victorious from a Facebook vote to win the award after a sporting gesture ahead of a game towards the end of their season as they edged out Hullbridge Sports Under-16s to take the honour.

United went head-to-head against eventual runners-up Hullbridge in the live poll on the social media site and their reward is a prize of £700 worth of kit and equipment vouchers.

The poll attracted 1,766 votes, with Hedinghams edging-out Hullbridge as they took 52 per cent of the vote.

Hawks manager Stephen Parsons said: “The boys and supporters are over the moon with winning this award.

"I would like to think we are known for fair play and sportsmanship.

"Since we started at under-sevens level, we have won, and come runners-up in, sportsmanship awards in the Blackwater & Dengie Youth League.

"With the prize vouchers we’ll look to invest in new training equipment, kit and jackets for the boys.

"Also, we hope to get a little something for the rest of our youth teams.”

Hedinghams' under-12s team were nominated for the prestigious award by Ben Elmer, the manager of rival side Tiptree Jobserve Under-12s after the Hawks provided a guard of honour for his team ahead of a big cup match in April.

Tiptree had just wrapped up the league title and after seeing their achievement honoured by their rivals, Elmer felt it was a tribute that deserved to be marked.

He said: “Hedinghams provided a guard of honour for us after we had won the league.

"Ahead of the semi-final in the Knockout Cup, United lined-up and clapped the Tiptree Jobserve squad on to the pitch, showing fantastic fair play from their team and manager.”

Parsons added: “We have had a great relationship with Tiptree Jobserve and their manager, Ben Elmer, for a long time now and they had been crowned division one league champions.

“They are the team to look up to in our division so we found it to be the right thing to do.

"We would also like to congratulate Hullbridge Sports Under-16s for making the final two.

"We believe it is very important to maintain high standards of conduct in grassroots football, and life in general, for everyone involved with our team, and as a club.”

The Fair Play awards are run by the Essex County FA in all formats of youth and adult football.

Throughout the season, anyone who witnessed exceptional acts of sportsmanship at a match was encouraged to put individuals or teams forward for each month’s competition.

Nominees were then whittled down into an open vote between two finalists each month, culminating in the end-of-season contest, with votes being cast on the Essex FA's Facebook page.

Hedinghams and Hullbridge were selected by a panel to progress to the 2019 final, with the Hawks winning April’s monthly award.