Crues showing desire to retain crown, says Burns
Crusaders 4 - Glentoran 2
Billy Joe Burns insists Crusaders sent out a statement of intent following their thrilling 4-2 Danske Bank Premiership win over Glentoran at Seaview.
Stephen Baxter's side found themselves under the cosh - and two goals down - after only half an hour, but they roared back with a devastating goal avalanche which suggested they are in no mood to give up their title.
Curtis Allen's early double looked to be the platform to end Glentoran's losing streak at the north-Belfast venue. Jordan Forsythe and Matthew Snoddy, however, struck before the break to level matters.
Burns then grabbed a goal of the season contender before Crusaders' all-time record scorer Jordan Owens completed the job, just seconds after Glentoran's Ciaran Caldwell was dismissed after a second yellow card.
"I thought Glentoran were brilliant for the first 35 minutes or so," said Burns.
"They were on top of us, we didn't get a second on the ball. They pressed us really high up the pitch. They deserved to be 2-0 up. But I also thought we showed great character to come back.
"As good as Glentoran were, I think we started really sluggish. In fact, we've been like that for the past few weeks, so it's something we need to cut out.
"We were over the moon to go in level after the start we had. We knew then we could go on and win it. If we want to retain the title, we can't afford to give teams a two-goal start."
It was Burns' fourth goal of the season - and the one that gave him most satisfaction. He added: "I just kept my head down and hoped for the best. Sometimes they come off, sometimes they don't. I was delighted to see it hit the net.
"When I get the ball in that position, I usually sky it over the bar. But it just opened up in front of me. It was a good strike. I caught it well.
"It's my fourth of the season, but the other three were from the penalty spot. I'm thrilled to get one from open play."
With Cliftonville slipping up at Glenavon, the victory helped Crusaders increase their lead at the top of the table to eight
But Burns warned: "Glenavon is a difficult venue, getting a draw down there is not the worst result in the world for Cliftonville. Obviously, we are delighted to pull away a little further.
"But we have still to go there and other difficult venues, we'll be taking nothing for granted.
"You would rather be in our position that any other team. But we can't afford to take our foot off the pedal. Two defeats and we are back among the chasing pack. We have to keep our heads down and keep working away.
"We go out every week with the same mentality - to get three points."
Crues boss Baxter saluted Burns, stating: "BJ is a class act. He's been superb all season. His goal was as good as anything you would see in England - simply brilliant."
Glentoran manager Alan Kernaghan insisted his team once again pressed the self-destruct button.
"I'm frustrated we couldn't put a whole 90 minutes to together," he said. "I thought we were superb for the first 40 minutes, then it all went wrong. I think we showed the best and worst of Glentoran. We showed we can play against the best team.
"We competed really well, but we just can't put it together for 90 minutes. We switched off and you can't afford to do that.
"Then our discipline went in the second-half by having a man sent off. It made our task practically impossible."
CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Magowan, Coates, Robinson, McClean, Snoddy, Heatley (Whyte, 89 mins), Owens, Forsythe, Carvill. Unused subs: Clarke, Mitchell, O'Flynn, O'Carroll.
Glentoran: Hogg, Holland, Kane, Magee, Addis, McCaffrey (Scullion, 69 mins), McKee, Allen, Caldwell, Lavery, McCullough. Unused subs: Henderson, Birney, Scullion, Smith, McMenamin.
Man of the match: Billy Joe Burns
Match rating: 9/10
Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey)