Owens gets it spot-on as Crusaders hand Braidmen a lesson
Crusaders 6-0 Ballymena United
Jordan Owens intends to become the new penalty king of Seaview. The big 27-year-old demonstrated his spot kick potential by ramming home his third goal of Saturday's demolition of Ballymena United.
When Michael Carvill buckled under a challenge from young defender Jason Johnston in injury time, it was an easy decision for referee Andrew Davey. Quick as a flash, Owens grabbed the ball and dispatched it with aplomb, sending goalkeeper Alan Blayney the wrong way.
It certainly was an afternoon to forget for Blayney and his new-look side - there were seven new faces that walked out on to the lush newly-laid 3G pitch.
"It doesn't get much better than an opening day hat-trick," said Owens. "There was no way I was giving away the ball when we got the penalty.
"Although I don't think the boss was too confident of me scoring. He told me he doesn't have much confidence in anyone hitting a penalty. Hopefully, that's me on them for a while."
The lively Paul Heatley also got off to a flying start by hitting a glorious double, while impish Gavin Whyte got in on the scoring act, but the day belonged to Owens.
"It was a good start, but that's all it is," he added. "We have another big game against Carrick Rangers on Wednesday night. We've got to show the same character as we did today.
"They turned us over up there last season. We'll be back in on Monday night, we'll train well and prepare well for the game. We are notoriously slow starters, that was our first opening day win since 2010.
"I thought we were outstanding from the off. We had two new centre-backs in Michael Gault and Howard Beverland but were superb."
Owens admitted that family loyalty was put on hold for the 90 minutes while his brother Kyle made his debut for United.
He added: "It was a bit strange playing against my brother. I had to just treat him as any other player. We hadn't chatted to each other all week; I put my team performance in and he did the same."
Ironically, Owens missed a gilt-edged chance of completing his hat-trick in an astonishing first half when the Crues rattled in four quick-fire goals.
"It was a great ball over and I think my legs just gave up on me," he added. "I couldn't get any great contact on the ball, but I just kept my head down and I knew more chances would come. Once we got the penalty, I knew no one else was going to be hitting it."
Sky Blues boss David Jeffrey admitted his boys received a 'harsh footballing lesson'.
"We defended poorly," he said. "But we were hit by three Carl Frampton-like jabs in a quick spell and we capitulated after that. Crusaders didn't have to work for their first three goals.
"We created a few good goal scoring opportunities in the second half, but failed to take them. I told the players it was a very harsh footballing lesson in how not to defend and how not to take anything we created."
With so many new faces on show, Jeffrey admits change will not happen over night.
He added: "It's going to take time. We are well aware of the mountain we have got to climb. We were aware of it before we came into the job.
"Even in defeat, there were some positives to take form the game.
"We had a number of lads playing Premiership football for the first time. They now realise what it's like in the big league."
CRUSADERS: O'Neill, Burns, Beverland, Gault, McClean, Whyte, Heatley (Carvill, 75 mins), Cushley (Lowry, 72 mins), Owens, Forsythe, Caddell (Clarke, 72 mins) Unused subs: Holden, Soares.
Ballymena: Blayney, Owens, Flynn (Johnston, 72 mins), Thompson, Jenkins, McCloskey (Kane, 78 mins), Friel, Ervin, McMurray, Smith, McCaffrey (Millar, 60 mins). Unused subs: Glendinning, Henderson.
Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor).