Jordan Owens eager for Crusaders to retain Irish Premiership crown in style
Glenavon 0-1 Crusaders
Jordan Owens goes in search of his 20th goal of the season tomorrow night at Solitude, this time knowing it could be the strike that wins back-to-back Premiership titles for Crusaders.
Linfield's win over Coleraine at Windsor Park on Saturday meant his 19th was enough only to beat Glenavon and keep the Crues' advantage at the top at eight points but, with just three games remaining, time is almost up for their remaining pursuer.
"It's a big game on Tuesday but we'll not worry about Linfield, we'll just look after ourselves. It's important we get the point to get us over the line but we're going there looking for the win," said Owens after their victory at Mourneview Park.
"We let ourselves down in the Irish Cup (losing the semi-final against Glenavon) but we showed our character against Linfield last week and we were outstanding here.
"We expected a hard game and we got one. They edged the first-half but second-half we came out and showed why we are champions. The manager told us we needed a bit more and we got the goal and defended well and now hope we finish the job on Tuesday."
Owens' manager Stephen Baxter hailed his striker.
"Jordan's the type of lad who epitomises everything that's good about this club," said the Crues boss. "He got one good delivery (from a Gavin Whyte free-kick) and finished it off. Hopefully we can get the job done soon. But if someone says you have to win one of three games to win a title, you'll take that.
"I've told the players to go away and rest, stay fit and recharge the batteries. If we can achieve back-to-back titles it will be the biggest moment for this club."
For Glenavon, who lost Ian Morris to a groin injury in the first-half and will miss tomorrow's game against Coleraine, it's a battle for third place - they remain one point behind Cliftonville - and although they have picked up just one point from their last three games, player-boss Gary Hamilton insisted they were back to their old selves on Saturday.
"When you play like that, 99 times out of 100 you would get something from the game and a high percentage you would win but unfortunately for us it didn't go our way," he said.
The man responsible was Sean O'Neill, who kept a fourth consecutive clean sheet in the league as Glenavon were shut-out at home for the first time since August.
Twice the Crues No.1 denied Eoin Bradley with superb blocks and late in the game stopped a thunderbolt from Kevin Braniff, Glenavon's four-goal hero from the Cup semi-final.
But it was the first-half when the home side missed their opportunity. Playing with Andrew Mitchell in front of the back four, Crusaders created only one serious goalscoring chance but the introduction of Jordan Forsythe and a change to 4-4-2 after the interval put the league leaders on the front foot and although they didn't "destroy", in the words of Baxter, Glenavon in the second-half, it was more like the champions.
Owens also hit the upright and Jonny Tuffey saved at the foot of his post from Whyte as Mourneview remained a happy hunting ground for the Crues, who have lost on just one of their last 14 league visits.
And Baxter will know that it is looking good for Crusaders tomorrow night as well.
Their last four away games against Cliftonville have ended in 1-0 wins, including a title-winning success last season. Now for a second.
Glenavon: Tuffey, Marshall, Dillon, Lindsay, Morris (Patton, 33 mins), Hall, Kilmartin (Hamilton, 78 mins), Martyn, Cooper, Braniff, Bradley (O'Brien, 63 mins).
Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, Magowan, Coates, McClean, Mitchell (Forsythe, 46 mins), Whyte, Caddell, Snoddy, Owens, Heatley (Carvill, 90 mins).
Man of the match: Sean O'Neill
Match rating: 8/10
Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey)