Jordan Owens: Crusaders striker to miss start of season

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We've the depth to cope with Whyte loss - Baxter

Crusaders are likely to begin their Irish League title defence without all-time leading goalscorer Jordan Owens.

The 29-year-old is set for a period on the sidelines having suffered a hamstring injury during the Crues' Champions League qualifier defeat by Ludogorets on Tuesday.

"In anybody's book that's six weeks out," confirmed manager Stephen Baxter.

"We will see if we have to bring some reinforcements in to deal with it."

Owens surpassed Glenn Hunter's club record of 157 goals in 2016 and has since gone on to eclipse the 200 milestone.

The injury is a blow for Crusaders who have also lost the services of last year's top scorer Gavin Whyte following his move to Oxford United.

Although accepting his absence will be felt, Baxter has ruled out bringing in a direct replacement for the 22-year-old winger.

"We are not going to have a new Gavin Whyte," said Baxter.

"That player isn't here in Northern Ireland. We will mature our own players and work with what we have."

Crusaders will now contest the second qualifying round of the Europa League against either Olimpija Ljubljana of Slovenia or Azerbaijani side Qarabag.