Belfast Telegraph

Crues ace wary of Portadown's power up front

By Graham Luney

Jordan Owens, who displayed his finishing prowess on Boxing Day, can appreciate the predatory instincts of Portadown's dynamic duo Kevin Braniff and Matthew Tipton.

The dangerous frontmen are the two main reasons why the Ports are hot on the heels of Linfield in the title race at the turn of the year.

Crusaders travel to Shamrock Park on Monday in the Carling Premiership (3pm) and Linfield will be hoping the north-Belfast side can dent the mid-Ulster Reds' title hopes.

It's a tasty clash to kick-off 2012 as Stephen Baxter's men are on a high after conquering Cliftonville 3-2 at Seaview on Boxing Day.

The Hatchetmen won that game courtesy of the attacking threat posed by Owens - the visiting defence struggled to contain him all afternoon.

His second goal in particular was a sweet finish, perfectly placed into the bottom corner of John Connelly's net.

Now Owens will be looking to hit the headlines again on Monday though the Crues defence will also need to keep Braniff and Tipton quiet.

"It's going to be a very tough game for us because Portadown have been superb this season and Kevin (Braniff) and Matthew Tipton had been in great form," said the once-capped Northern Ireland international.

"They are great to watch and very dangerous but we also have players coming back from injury and suspension so we'll look forward to taking them on and hopefully coming home with the three points."

Crusaders' win over the Reds tasted even sweeter as the squad was missing the injured Timmy Adamson and Michael Halliday while Chris Morrow and David Rainey were suspended.

The small matter of not having beaten the Reds on Boxing Day since 2003 added an extra dose of fun into the proceedings.

"We had quite a few players out and I was up front on my own with Stuart (Dallas) just behind but I thought we did very well," added Owens.

"The boss wanted the boys to pump the ball to me and I was able to win the majority of the headers.

"Last year I was banging the goals in for fun but my confidence has been a wee bit low recently so it was nice to be back among the goals again.

"Hopefully these two goals kickstarts my season.

" The fans perhaps expected us to do better in the league so it was good to give them something to shout about and we also have the Irn Bru League Cup final to look forward to."

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