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Racking up points is Jordan Owens' No.1 goal for Crusaders

Crusaders 3-2 Ballymena

By David Mason

Published 30/11/2015

The heat is on: Ballymena United captain Jim Ervin attempts to clear under pressure from Crusaders' Paul Heatley
The heat is on: Ballymena United captain Jim Ervin attempts to clear under pressure from Crusaders' Paul Heatley

Big Jordan Owens is closing in on Crusaders' all-time scoring record, but he prefers to focus on points rather than goals.

The 26-year-old pocketed his 13th strike of the season in the thrilling 3-2 victory over Ballymena United at Seaview on Saturday - moving him to within one of Glenn Hunter's club record of 157.

"I'm not really paying too much attention to that," said a modest Owens. "I'm now on 156, so I need one more goal to equal the record.

"Yes, it will be a big achievement when it happens, but the most important thing for me is keeping our place at the top of the table.

"My focus is getting points on the board for the team. The record stuff will look after itself."

Owens shot the Crues into an early lead in a game that was played in horrendous conditions. He latched onto a flick from Paul Heatley before ramming home.

Heatley then blotted his copybook by blasting a penalty over the crossbar after he went down in a collision with United goalkeeper Dwayne Nelson.

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And it was a Nelson howler that gifted the Crues their second goal when he punched a Richard Clarke corner-kick into his own net.

With the wind at their backs in the second-half, United reduced the deficit within three minutes when Matty Tipton tapped in from close range after Crues goalkeeper Sean O'Neill made a brilliant save to keep out a David Cushley free-kick.

Referee Keith Kennedy then angered United fans by awarding his second penalty of the day when Owens tangled with Kyle McVey. This time, Billy Joe Burns sent Nelson the wrong way.

United came back again with the alert Tipton picking up the crumbs after another Cushley blockbuster came back off the crossbar but the Crues held on.

"It was a massive three points," said Owens. "The conditions were the worst I can remember for some time.

"We played with the wind in the first-half and went in two goals up. Perhaps it should have been more.

"The second-half was really tough. We found it difficult to get up the pitch at times... the ball just kept coming back at us.

"It was a matter of grinding out the result. We were relieved to get the job done."

The Crues are now six points clear at the top, but Owens insists the league table doesn't mean much in November.

He added: "We now have a bit of a cushion in terms of points. But you need that going into the festive programme. We have two away fixtures against Dungannon and Carrick coming up - they will be tough games. We'll not be getting carried away."

United manager Glenn Ferguson insisted the performance of referee Kennedy left a lot to be desired.

He said: "Big decisions change games but those big decisions didn't go our way. The first penalty was never a foul - Dwayne got the ball first. Big Jordan (Owens) actually laughed when they got the second. He (the referee) didn't want to speak to me afterwards, insisting I was too loud. He's not a schoolboy - he's a man.

"I was wanting to speak to him man to man and he wouldn't let me. It's embarrassing.

"If he has made a mistake, I would like him to come out and admit it.

"There were a catalogue of errors all afternoon that cost us big time. For a start, I'm sure he (Kennedy) has known for some time he was coming here to referee. He knows Crusaders wear black and red.

"He turned up in a black shirt with a red stripe, just like Crusaders. There was confusion all round. And that just epitomised what happened.

"He made a mistake with the first penalty. I'm not so sure about the second - I would need to see it again.

"I believe we could have got something out of the game had the referee been fair with us. I hate having to speak about refereeing decisions, but I'm so frustrated.

"I also don't know how there were only three minutes of injury-time played. There were four substitutions and Josh Robinson was down injured for a long time."

Crusaders: O'Neill, Burns, McClean, Coates, Magowan, Caddell, Clarke (Robinson 72), Heatley (Carvill 86), Forsythe, Snoddy, Owens.

Subs not used: O'Carroll, O'Flynn, Whyte.

Ballymena United: Nelson, McVey (Ferguson 60), Rodger, Taylor, Ervin, McBride, Thompson, Magennis (Faulkner 59), Jenkins, Tipton, Cushley.

Subs not used: McNally, Henderson, Kane.

Man of the match: Billy Joe Burns

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn).

Belfast Telegraph

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