Stephen Baxter credits Crusaders duo for playing huge roles in 3-0 Danske Bank Premiership win over Carrick Rangers

Crusaders extended their unbeaten run to nine matches in all competitions with a 3-0 Danske Bank Premiership win over Carrick Rangers and boss Stephen Baxter was full of praise for the roles played by both Jordan Owens and Ross Clarke.
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Clarke was back in from the start at Seaview on Saturday after making three consecutive appearances from the bench and netted for a third game on the trot when he opened the scoring in the 66th minute following good work from Philip Lowry.

Second-half substitute Owens got himself on the scoresheet shortly after, rising highest from a Clarke cross to head home his third league goal of the season before Declan Caddell rounded out a comfortable victory.

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After a frustrating first hour, Baxter was delighted to find a solution against their visitors, who he says “didn’t come out of their half”.

Crusaders Jordan Owens and Ross Clarke both scored in Saturday's 3-0 win over Carrick RangersCrusaders Jordan Owens and Ross Clarke both scored in Saturday's 3-0 win over Carrick Rangers
Crusaders Jordan Owens and Ross Clarke both scored in Saturday's 3-0 win over Carrick Rangers

"When the clock was ticking I was saying I would let it go another five minutes and then I'm changing it,” he told CruesTV. “It was a Jordan Owens day and a day you had to change the direction of the ball and put it in the right area of the pitch because Carrick had backed off.

"They left one centre-forward up and were banking a shape up and saying you're not getting through. Sometimes you can get away with that over 90 minutes and it can be very frustrating, but we took our time, worked it out, had the right personnel on and found the route to goal.

"It's a good day’s work and wasn't pretty on the eye in the first-half. That was the nature of the game and how it shaped up and it's hard to find passes when a team doesn't come out of their half. You have to find a solution and we did to run out comfortable winners.

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"It did become a stalemate like in chess with the way the game was shaping up but you have to stay patient. We had a good chat at half-time about where we were in the game and believe it or not sometimes it can come from your goalkeeper who is the person that can unlock it for you.

"Once we got to grips with it and the players chatted about it amongst themselves we were able to find solutions. Jordan Owens just rolls it back. He wins every header, puts his head on the cross and buries a sublime header and it was just vintage Jordan Owens and it was a joy to watch. He's a top, top man."

It’s the second time Clarke has scored against Carrick after also netting in October’s 4-3 defeat to Stuart King’s side and Baxter feels the 29-year-old has “found his mojo again”.

"We gave him a round of applause in the dressing room after the game and said welcome back,” he added. “By his own admission he wasn't playing the way he should and he has found his mojo again.

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"Sometimes you need to take a player out for a week or two to let them relax and settle down. They can get so uptight around their own performances but Ross Clarke is just total quality when he gets back on the horse and strikes the ball so well.

"He's a pacey lad, a good player and you just have to let them focus on their own thing. Ross is top drawer."