CLARETS striker Martin Paterson hopes to hand Burnley a fitness boost after pulling out of the Northern Ireland squad.
Boss Eddie Howe feels the 25-year-old is key to his side playing at a high tempo, and, after missing the last three games with a slight hamstring tear, he returned as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to Brighton.
Paterson was named in Michael O’Neil’s Northern Ireland squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Russia and Luxembourg, despite suffering a grade one hamstring tear two weeks ago on the opening day of the season, after scoring in the win over Bolton.
Having featured against Brighton, he was under obligation to link up with his country, but after discussing the issue with O’Neil after Saturday’s game, he was excused from the Russia game, with a decision to be made for the Lumexbourg clash.
Paterson netted a late penalty to equalise in Northern Ireland’s last outing – a friendly against Finland last month – but he will now focus on becoming fully fit for his club, after suffering horrendous luck with injuries since promotion to the Premier League.
Howe generally starts Paterson when fit, and feels he is vital to the way he wants his side to play.
The club opened contracts talks with both Paterson and Chris McCann on Saturday, and Howe said: “What concerned me was hat in the first half (against Brighton) we didn’t really look like scoring a goal or getting close to their box.
“We put Pato on and he makes a big difference when he’s fit and available to us, so hopefully that will be the key for us.
“I think it helps having two up top. That would be a big help to us, but then we’re reliant on personnel. But hopefully we can play that way.
“It’s difficult with one up front trying to put pressure on their centre halves – I think that’s a difficult job for Charlie (Austin) on his own, so we need to give him help.
“It definitely suited us better in the second half.”
Paterson’s pace and persistent closing from the front have been sorely missed, and with the best part of a fortnight now to get back to 100% fitness, ahead of the next game at home to Peterborough United a week on Saturday, Howe hopes his return can help the side reproduce the Bolton performance.
Howe said: “We have to try to match the tempo of the Bolton game. That’s really our standard and now we’ve got to try to hit that.”
While Paterson will not join up with Northern Ireland, Sam Vokes is away with Wales and David Edgar with Canada, while Michael Duff and Danny Lafferty are on standby for Northern Ireland, and Howe said: “As always, the international break seems to come at a bad time for us, we lose a few players, but that’s how it is.”
However, the break gives new signing Cameron Stewart a chance to adapt to life at the club after being pitched straight into the side without a training session after his deadline loan move from Hull .
Howe said: “He hadn’t trained with us so came in cold, and there’s a lot more potential there.”