Crusaders after goal threat
Stephen Baxter will be looking for other players to shoulder the goalscoring burden at Seaview while David Rainey and Mark Dickson recover from injury.
Rainey picked up a hamstring injury during the 1-1 draw at home to Glentoran while Dickson’s recovery from a knee knock is not going smoothly.
The former Linfield frontman may have to go under the surgeon’s knife, leaving Baxter no choice but to wrap him up in cotton wool.
Fortunately, young hotshot Jordan Owens is in formidable form, with his goal against the Glens taking his tally for the season to four.
A marauding role on the right wing isn’t his best position but Gareth McKeown has now moved further forward on the right, giving Owens the chance to concentrate on finding the back of the opponent’s net.
Rainey, who has now scored 100 goals for the Crues, may have to sit out tomorrow’s trip to Glenavon.
Although he is still leading the goalscoring charts with 16 strikes, Baxter knows other players will need to find their shooting boots.
“Jordan scored against Glentoran and against Portadown and that’s what strikers feed off,” said Baxter.
“That will do his confidence good and he has certainly hit a run of form. I’m really pleased with him. He got his fitness levels back after an ankle injury kept him out for six or eight weeks at the start of the season.
“It took him a while getting up to speed — he’s a big lump of a lad — but he is now motoring well and we also have young Ross Arthurs playing for the reserves.
“It’s important to have the players fighting fit as we have big games coming up, including a big cup final. The big run-in to the Christmas programme will test all the teams.
“David (Rainey) came off early against Glentoran so hopefully his hamstring injury will not be as bad.”
While Baxter is hopeful his side’s attacking mindset will stay strong, he is confident goalkeeper Chris Keenan can keep performing heroics between the sticks.
Keenan was a clear man of the match winner when Glentoran were held at Seaview and the former Larne stopper must now be brimming with confidence.
“Chris was the cause of the first goal against the Glens but he redeemed himself with a few world class saves in the second half,” added Baxter.
“That is what Chris is all about — he has great agility. He loves all the shot-stopping. When he was called on to help the team he didn’t disappoint.
“It’s going to be a long haul this league and everyone is fighting to stay in that top six.”