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Football: DREAM LOVER; BELL'S DIVISION TWO SPECIAL: AIRDRIE CELEBRATE TITLE WIN Alloa 0 Airdrie U 1 Diamonds ace on cloud nine.

Byline: SAM McLEOD

AIRDRIE United's Paul Lovering has been a lucky charm since joining the Second Division title-winners.

Since full-back Lovering moved to the Diamonds in February, Airdrie haven't lost a game - with the win at Alloa stretching the run to 17 matches.

Owen Coyle scored the only goal of Saturday's game in 26 minutes to kick-off the title party.

And ex-Hibs and Ayr ace Lovering, 28, said: "When I joined the club we were mid-table and under-achieving.

"But you could see the quality was there and I knew there and then we'd be a good bet for promotion.

"However, to actually go and win the thing is the icing on the cake.

"We were disappointed last week. Even though we'd won promotion, Hamilton's late goal denied us the chance to be champions.

"But we've come to a tough place like Recreation Park and won. We were very nervous but we held on for the win and it feels fantastic."

Lovering rates the achievement as the highlight of his career.

He added: "This means even more than when I was in the Hibs team that won the First Division in 1999.

"I'm on a short-term deal with Airdrie but I love it and hopefully I can stay for next season."

Alloa were the better team on the day and if Iain Nicolson had scored one of his two efforts from the spot they could have gone on to win.

Airdrie's Kevin Christie tripped up Richard Walker in the box and Nicolson saw his kick smothered by Mark McGeown.A retake was ordered - which the defender blasted over the bar.

Alloa paid for that minutes later when Coyle took a pass from Willie McLaren and, at the second attempt, stroked the ball past Gary McGlynn.

Airdrie were under the cosh in the second half but clung on and the final whistle sparked a pitch invasion by more than 1000 fans.

Diamonds boss Sandy Stewart said: "This is undoubtedly my best moment in football.

"We've been nervy recently but it's great to be champions. Everyone at Airdrie has played their part and we'll savour the moment."

Alloa manager Tom Hendrie said: "The missed penalties were the key moment but we matched Airdrie and can make a real impact next season."

CAPTION(S):

FEELING CHAMPION: Airdrie stars and their fans enjoy the title win; SPOT MISS: Nicolson
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 10, 2004
Words:394
Previous Article:Football: Helen of joy.
Next Article:Football: Weather's forecast for Morton isn't good; DIVISION 2 ROUND-UP.



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