Diarmuid O’Carroll believes Jordan Owens deserves to dine at the top table of Irish League strikers.
Owens etched his name into Crusaders’ folklore with a simple tap-in against Rathfriland Rangers on Saturday.
The 50th-minute finish saw the 26-year-old move onto 158 goals for the Premiership champions, eclipsing Glenn Hunter’s club record.
Owens’ goal was sandwiched between O’Carroll’s opener in the 35th minute and a third from Jordan Forsythe on the hour mark.
It saw the Crues progress to an Irish Cup sixth round tie against Dungannon Swifts on February 6.
“Jordan is very underrated. A lot of people look at his goals and say ‘they are just headers’ and things like that. But heading is an art in itself and he has perfected it,” O’Carroll said.
“He is up there with the best strikers I have played with in this league. Liam Boyce, Joe Gormley and all those boys. He is up there with them and could play across the water too.
“There is a different style to Jordan, and Crusaders’ style suits him perfectly. But he puts the ball in the back of the net consistently. He is only 26 and has scored 158 goals for this club – that’s phenomenal.
“He doesn’t get the praise other strikers get. He is not the darling of the Press, and he isn’t on social media giving his views on things. He’s a quiet family man.
“He plays football and scores, and then he goes quietly on with his life.
“You have to respect him. I think he will get another 100 goals if he plays for another 10 years or so.”
Man-of-the-moment Owens admitted Saturday’s record-breaking goal was a “wight off my shoulders”.
He added: “It is great to get it off my back. People expected me to get it in the games over Christmas, but it wasn’t to be. But I am delighted to finally get the record and now I can concentrate on some massive league games coming up.
“I never imagined going on to score so many goals. I actually hadn’t been concentrating too much on the record. People had been reminding me along the way.
“To be up with the likes of Davy Rainey and Glenn Hunter is amazing. They were top strikes for the club and to be mentioned along with those names is fantastic.”
Rathfriland boss Clifford Sterritt endured a “bizarre day” at Seaview on Saturday.
While Sterritt was watching his side lose in the cup, his wife had just gone into labour.
“It has been strange. My wife went into labour today. But what comes first? Priorities,” he joked.
“As for the game we will take positives into our own league campaign.
“To come here and carve Crusaders open a couple of times, is fantastic. Credit to the players.”