CLIFTONVILLE v CRUSADERS: Hat-trick hero Jordan Owens looks to kick-on

Crusaders striker Jordan Owens has put Cliftonville on red alert before their Danske Bank Premiership clash at Solitude on Saturday afternoon.

The big striker was in fantastic form during the week as he grabbed three goals as the Crues saw off Glenavon 6-1 at Mourneview.

Crusaders striker Jordan Owens scored three against Glenavon during the week

Crusaders striker Jordan Owens scored three against Glenavon during the week

The hat-trick took Owens to 17 for the season and it also blasted him into the 200-goal club.

Owens was sitting on 199 goals going into the game, but his treble saw him extend his record to 202.

But modest Owens says it was a team effort that overcame the Lurgan Blues on Tuesday night.

“It was a great performance from the whole team.

“Even after going behind we were confident we could bounce back.

“It was obviously good to get a hat-trick. It is probably one of my best performances in a Crusaders shirt, but the main thing was getting the win and three vital points.

“We are five points clear now, and now we have eight massive games remaining.

“We knew Glenavon would be a tough test. They are a great team and are third in the table. They were also coming off the back of a defeat to Loughgall in the Irish Cup.

“I just think we performed brilliantly on the night and deserved our win.”

Owens’ first ever goal for Crusaders came on his senior debut against Larne 11 years ago when he scored in a 3-1 win at Seaview.

“I remember my first goal well,” said Owens.

“Never did I imagine back then that I would go on and score as many goals as I have.

“I am still young. I am only 28 and I feel I have many more years in me.”

And Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter says they are not out for revenge after their defeat to Cliftonville in the Irish Cup a few weeks ago.

“We have no point to prove. We have been brilliant this year and I have no points to prove anywhere and I would happily pay money to come and watch them every week.

“We are straight into the Cliftonville game after playing Glenavon and it is a massive game.

“We take the games as they come. “

And Baxter has been pleased with the input of his three front men Owens, Paul Heatley and Gavin Whyte.

“I am glad we are not facing them every week. They have been superb this season and we have got to keep the motor going.

“But there are loads of teams in this league that are very capable and every game is there to be won and we went to Cliftonville a few weeks ago and got thumped.

“We will be taking nothing for granted,” said Baxter.

And Cliftonville manager Barry Gray will be looking for his side to get back on track as they have lost three of their last five league games and have only won two of their last 10.

In there last outing they were beaten 1-0 by a resurgent Glentoran and Gray was not happy with what he witnessed.

“The Glens game was just was just extremely, extremely poor.

“There’s no excuse for it. I said to everyone, me as manager, you have to take responsibility for it and I’m happy to do that, but everyone alongside me needs to take responsibility as well.”

“I said to them I didn’t think they were playing for me and I didn’t think they were playing for Cliftonville.

“Why that is, I don’t think it’s a conscious decision by anyone, but it’s at the point where a continuation of this means they’ll find themselves not playing for Cliftonville in due course and, possibly, me not even managing Cliftonville, so it’s a serious situation and I think everybody needs to just collectively take responsibility for it. When they cross that white line, I’m restricted in terms of what I can do, so all my work is done pre and post-that. I’ll do whatever I can for them, but they’ve been lifted and laid all season long, by me and the club,” he added.