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Crusaders will throw kitchen sink at title race, insists Owens

Crusaders 2-0 Linfield

By Graham Luney

Jordan Owens is confident Crusaders can keep their foot on the gas and see off the spirited challenge of Coleraine in the title race.

With only two games remaining, only a superior goal difference separates the top two and the Crues know that two wins over Cliftonville at home and Ballymena United at the Showgrounds will be enough to clinch the championship.

But there's still time for one more late, dramatic twist and the Shore Road men know all about that after losing to the Sky Blues in their penultimate Premiership clash a year ago.

This 2-0 victory over Linfield at Seaview, however, was a huge result for the Hatchetmen and gives them added momentum going into the north Belfast derby.

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Striker Owens returned to the side and smashed in a brace following two impressive Billy Joe Burns' assists.

Andy Mitchell was sent off late on for a challenge on Jamie Glackin and the scoreline was probably a fair reflection of the home side's dominance.

"You always have to be hungry at this stage of the season, there's no lying down, it's goal difference separating the teams so it's important to put the points on the board," said Owens who took his goal tally for the season to 20.

"We've got to go for it and throw the kitchen sink at everything now.

"It was a very important win after last week.

"I think today was all about winning and getting the points on the board.

"I should be in the box and Billy Joe Burns has been putting lovely balls ino the box all season, that's what strikers thrive on.

"I go to the back when sometimes I should go to the front but he knows where I am and his quality balls make a big difference.

"It hurt us last year but it's still tight.

"Coleraine are a good side and they are on our tails.

"We are in the diving seat but the Cliftonville game will be tough.

"The fans will come out in their numbers again and get behind us.

"It's a north Belfast derby and if we play like that again we've a chance of winning.

"Jamie Glackin came in and showed great energy in the final stages and you need that.

"We didn't have that cutting edge last year when a few boys were injured and we are looking forward to these two games."

Crusaders, who were held 1-1 by Glenavon last weekend, looked a lot more sharper and dangerous with Owens and Gavin Whyte restored to the side.

Owens hailed the form of winger Whyte who has also dazzled for the Northern Ireland Under-21 side.

"He's fantastic and he's the type of player who will pick the ball up if you make a mistake," added Owens.

"He's lightning quick and has a great future ahead of him.

The striker will be joined by his brother Kyle at the end of the season following his switch from Ballymena United.

"It's nice to have him on board and I'm sure he's looking forward to it but right now all my focus is on helping the team win the title," he added.

It's now a fight to the finish between the league's two most consistent sides with only two games to go and Baxter admitted he's not surprised by Coleraine's impressive charge towards the finish line.

"You guys (the media) should have predicted Coleraine's great run," insisted the Seaview supremo.

"They went on that long unbeaten run last year and gave us fabulous games of football here. They came here three games in and beat us. I knew they were a top, top team.

"I didn't expect them to lose too many games and I have enormous respect for Oran Kearney and Winkie Murphy, another legend of our game.

"They are there on merit as we are. Two games to go, next weekend is a big one and I'll tell you after that if we've a chance of winning it.

"You've got to take the big chances when they come and Jordan Owens epitomised that."

Blues boss David Healy accepted his side were second next at Seaview and it's a result which sees the outgoing champions slip behind Glenavon in the race for third place.

"With two games to we have lost a place in the table and we have to take that on the chin," said Northern Ireland's record goalscorer.

"Crusaders' play is not a secret. Billy Joe Burns has been the best right back in this league for years and you can't give him a hard to pick out his man which he did."

CRUSADERS: Jensen, Burns, Coates, Beverland, Ward, Lowry, Snoddy, Carvill (Cushley, 90 mins), Heatley (Glackin, 78 mins), Whyte (Forsythe, 90 mins), Owens. Unused subs: O'Neill, Bonnar.

Linfield: Carroll, Stafford, Robinson, Haughey, Waterworth, Lowry, Millar, Byrne (Campion, 71 mins), Clarke (Rooney, 87 mins), Fallon (Strain, 71 mins), Mitchell. Unused subs: Callacher, Garrett.

Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey)

Man of the match: Jordan Owens

Match rating: 8/10

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