Belfast Telegraph

Owens is braced for another fierce title fight to the finish

Crusaders 3-1 Ballymena United

By Graham Luney

Crusaders striker Jordan Owens has predicted a tight fight to the finish in the Danske Bank Premiership title race and he doesn't expect Coleraine to give up the chase.

The Crues conquered Ballymena United 3-1 at Seaview on Saturday but they know there are many more tough hurdles to overcome before any title winning champagne can start flowing.

Coleraine, who have played a game more than the leaders, are only two points behind and that game between the sides after the split is going to have huge significance.

"The cup games made for a busy schedule but now it's time for us to chalk off the wins and hopefully win the league," said Owens who scored two second half headers to seal the win after Jamie Glackin's first half opener.

"Coleraine are a fantastic side, they have beaten us here and they will come to Seaview again. It's important we look after own performances because the games are going to be tough. We will take it game by game and it will be tight.

"Teams can go on a charge -look at Linfield last season - but we want to finish strongly.

"Ballymena United always give us a tough game, David Jeffrey has them well drilled so we are delighted to win this one and move on to the next.

"We had a break from the league last weekend and the team changed a bit through suspensions so the boys needed to show character and we did that.

"Ballymena came into the game but we are pleased with the performance and the result.

"We've had a lot of games and you will get injuries and suspensions but we have a big squad and you need to have that to win titles.

"It was important we kept confidence levels high in our league campaign and it's all we have to go for."

Gavin Whyte was taken off with a dead leg, while Colin Coates fell awkwardly on his shoulder but the injuries are not thought to be serious.

Teenager Kofi Balmer slammed in a superb late strike for the visitors but boss David Jeffrey accepted his men were cut open in ruthless style for the goals.

"We showed a good response from the disappointment of our League Cup final defeat but the lesson continues to be there are key moments in the game when you need to thwart their attacks," he said. "The missing players had an impact but that's never an excuse."

Crusaders: Jensen, Burns, Beverland, Coates (McClean, 52 mins), Lowry (Cushley, 84 mins), Ward, Caddell, Forsythe, Glackin, Whyte (Snoddy, 76 mins), Owens. Unused subs: O'Neill, Suarez.

Ballymena: Glendinning, Kane, Owens, Ervin, Shevlin, Balmer, McCullough, Millar, Burns, McKinney (Nolan, 75 mins), Friel. Unused subs: Faulkner, Weir, Quigley, McCaffrey.

Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)

Man of match: Jordan Owens

Match rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph

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