Belfast Telegraph

Baxter is backing new boy Patterson to hit the goal trail

By Steven Beacom

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter believes new signing Rory Patterson has the ability to score a bagful of goals for him.

Patterson has arrived at Seaview from Derry City on a one-year contract and could make his debut when the Crues begin the defence of their Danske Bank Premiership title at home to Ards on Monday night.

The 34-year-old, who has played for Coleraine and Linfield in the Irish League, comes with a reputation for hitting the back of the net and Baxter is delighted to have him on board, especially with Jordan Owens on his way back to fitness after picking up a hamstring injury last month.

Speaking about his latest signing, the Crues boss referred to a league game at Seaview eight years ago when Patterson scored four times for the Bannsiders in a 5-2 victory. It was a sparkling performance that stayed in his mind.

"It was important we got another striker in with the injuries we are carrying as you can't rush hamstring problems, and Rory fits the bill," said Baxter.

"He comes in fit and fresh and ready to start, and he is a top-quality player.

"I remember when he came here and he scored four goals against us playing for Coleraine. He is a top, top finisher and that is the type of player we want at this club."

Another man capable of that is Paul Heatley. The winger produced a brilliant performance in his side's 1-1 draw against Slovenian outfit Olimpija Ljubljana in the Europa League second qualifying round, second leg on Thursday night before being substituted just after the 70-minute mark as the Crues exited the competition 6-2 on aggregate.

"Paul has had a little knock from the tail end of last season and we thought it was just the right time to take him off," said Baxter.

"What a performance he put in with his electric pace and his quality. He looked dangerous all night.

"Overall we were delighted with the boys. We held the Slovenian champions, who are on a budget of £16m, and our performance was stunning."

With Europe done for another season, Baxter can now turn his attentions to domestic matters and the opening league game against Ards.

"I don't feel ready because we have had a month jumping on planes, organising planes and organising hotels," he said.

"Our days are all over the place because playing football matches on Thursday nights isn't normal.

"It's important we change our thought process looking towards Ards on Monday night."

• Caolan Marron has signed a new deal with Glenavon that will see him remain with the club for the next three seasons.

The young centre-half has become a key player in the Lurgan Blues defence.

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