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Crusaders are warming up for tough winter tests: Jordan Owens

Crusaders 3-0 Glenavon

By Graham Luney

Crusaders hero Jordan Owens says the champions are back in business and ready to produce fireworks over the winter period.

The Crues will need their big squad to do its job with County Antrim Shield and League Cup commitments running alongside their Premiership title defence.

Early season form was underwhelming but Stephen Baxter's men appear to have their mojo back and this 3-0 win over Glenavon suggested that those writing off the Hatchetmen may be tucking into humble pie alongside their Christmas turkey.

Owens and Heatley were on fire and all three goals were pretty on the eye, even through the steamy windows of the press box.

Glenavon striker Stephen Murray let two opportunities slip but 'keeper Jonny Tuffey prevented his side from suffering a bigger loss.

Heatley's stunning 10th minute volley, Owens' sublime diving header six minutes later and then his exquisite volley from 25 yards on 79 minutes had the home fans on their feet.

"There's a long way to go with many games coming up but we are looking forward to the challenge," said Owens.

"It was a very good game. Glenavon are a good team but we produced a strong performance.

"The last three performances have been top drawer and we will keep our heads down and keep going. The winter period will take its toll and you will need that big squad with the suspensions and cup games coming.

"We will look forward to the run in.

"I felt we could have been more clinical but Heats was superb and his pace is frightening. We could have scored more. Glenavon are up near the top of the league for a reason and Mark Sykes is a quality player. They will be up there at the end of the season."

Owens admitted he was being slightly ambitious with his wonder strike which rounded off the scoring. "I didn't think I had that in my locker, the boys thought it was meant to be a ball through to Paul Heatley but it was a good goal and what's important is it was a great team performance," he added.

"I thought some of our passages of play were very good.

"Last year we were hard to beat at Seaview so it was important we performed well.

"We have struggled against some of the top teams this season but this result and performance will send the fans home happy." Baxter was delighted with his side's all round performance with the clean sheet as welcome as the sublime finishes.

"We restricted Glenavon to very little, with our keeper Harry Doherty making the one save from Rhys Marshall," he said.

"We could have scored six or seven goals. The quality of our play including the defending of Colin Coates and Howard Beverland was stunning.

"If Jonny Tuffey hadn't been in form we could have won more comfortably. We must build of this performance and keep the momentum going. There's a lot to be done, Glenavon were the early pacesetters and a quality team that will stay in the hunt.

"Linfield and Ballymena United have been excellent and I expect the teams to get even better as we go along."

Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton had no complaints about the outcome but he will expect his players to regroup quickly.

"In the last three games out first half performances haven't been good enough," he said.

"You can't stand off players like Ross Clarke and Paul Heatley or they can hurt you. The difference is they did the pressing which you need to do to stop teams punishing you. In this league you need to be that competitive to get results.

"We have Ards next but they beat Linfield recently and we are coming off the back of three games without a win.

"You have to go into every game with the right attitude. Crusaders were dangerous on the counter attack but like the Ballymena and Warrenpoint games we didn't do enough in the final third."

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