Belfast Telegraph

Paterson enjoying himself on biggest stage

By Rory Dollard

Martin Paterson admits he feels more at home than ever in a Northern Ireland shirt.

Paterson's road to a regular place on the team-sheet has not been without its bumps, be they all-too frequent injuries or a lesser role in the pecking order.

But he has started the last four World Cup qualifiers, scoring his first outfield goals with a winner against Russia and the opening strike in last month's defeat at lowly Luxembourg.

Indeed, those goals are his only ones of the season as he has endured a less productive start to life at Huddersfield.

Paterson has not been given a prolonged run as a central striker since arriving at the Galpharm Stadium, often used from the bench or wide on the right.

With that in mind, he is delighted to be back under Michael O'Neill's wing and looking to build on his recent efforts.

"You could probably say I've played my rightful position for my country and in other places maybe I haven't," said Paterson.

"I'm comfortable in the set-up and really enjoying my football with Northern Ireland.

"Club things maybe haven't gone to plan due to a number of things that I cannot control, but playing for your country and scoring goals...there's not a bigger stage and there's not a better feeling.

"You could say to me my club career is not going great but at international level I'm bang in form.

"I'm pleased with my performances. If given the nod I'm confident I can give a good account of myself and cause problems at this level."

Paterson is likely to lead the line again against Azerbaijan on Friday night, with Kyle Lafferty suspended following his red card against Portugal.

In the reverse fixture at Windsor Park last November, Northern Ireland needed a stoppage-time equaliser from David Healy to spare their blushes and salvage a 1-1 draw.

It was record-scorer Healy's 36th international goal and possibly his last.

He is currently without a club and has not featured since that match.

It would be a brave man who would annoint himself Healy's successor, such is the esteem he is held by the green and white army, but Paterson's aim is simpler: he just wants to find the net as often as possible.

"The two goals I've scored are gone now.

"They were great for me but I want to kick on, keep the momentum rolling," added Paterson.

"The two games coming up (Northern Ireland head to Israel immediately after Azerbaijan) are my focus.

"I don't want to rest on my laurels and say 'great, I've scored a couple of goals'. I want more.

"I think I'm putting more of a demand on myself than others are, but I feel it is a requirement of me to score goals."

A couple of timely strikes in the next week would go a long way to helping O'Neill's contract talks come to a positive conclusion, and Paterson would love that to happen.

He said: "I'd love to see him carry on and hopefully the players can make a real big push for that to happen over the next two games."

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