Roring to go!

�/Presseye.com - 4th March 2013tPress Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland - Setanta Sports Cup 2013 Quarter Final 1st Leg. Derry City V Drogheda United.''Derry's Rory Patterson celebrates his goal.'''Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

�/Presseye.com - 4th March 2013tPress Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland - Setanta Sports Cup 2013 Quarter Final 1st Leg. Derry City V Drogheda United.''Derry's Rory Patterson celebrates his goal.'''Mandatory Credit Photo Lorcan Doherty / Presseye.com

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RORY Patterson may have experienced a frustrating introduction to League of Ireland football last season due to injury, but Derry City’s No. 1 hitman has already issued a statement of intent during the pre-season campaign.

ARTHUR DUFFY reports

And with Premier Division champions, Sligo Rovers, opening the defence of their trophy tonight at the Brandywell (7.45 p.m.), the 28-year-old will warmly welcome the challenge as he will lead the “Candy Striped” attack.

Having already netted goals in the pre-season campaign against Ballinamallard United, Finn Harps and Institute, the Strabane man lashed a 30 yards free-kick low into the Drogheda net to put Derry into the driving seat in the Setanta Sports Cup quarter-final first leg, on Monday night and he was adamant that more goals would follow.

Opting to amicably severe his ties with Plymouth Argyle at the start of last season, Patterson didn’t have a pre-season break and he realised very quickly had his body failed to contend with the physical stress associated with the modern-day game.

That said, he still managed to net 14 goals - three fewer than the club’s joint leading scorers last season, David McDaid and Stephen McLaughlin.

“I was never injured before but, then again, I’ve never gone straight from one season into another. It was a learning experience for me but this season I feel fit and sharp having given my body the necessary time to recover.

“I’ve been in the gym over the close season working on strength and conditioning and I feel I’ve got my fitness levels up and, hopefully, that will progress during the season,” said Patterson.

“I feel good within myself and I felt we put in a very good shift, particularly during the first half against Drogheda in the Setanta Sports Cup on Monday night. Even with players out injured and suspended, I felt we should have won that game. We did well against them in our first competitive match, as they are one of the more physical teams in the league,” he added.

But he refused to make predictions on the season ahead, in terms of achieving success. “I don’t think you can make any predictions until you’ve played all the teams in the league.

“I’m certainly not making any predictions or setting any targets, I’m just taking it one game at a time. We’ve lost our top scorers from last season in Davy and Stephen, but we’ve also signed talent and experience in adding players such Paddy Kavanagh, Sean Houston, Michael Rafter and Mark Griffin, so we’re not a bad side on paper,” noted the striker.

“Obviously I’m hopeful we will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season, but that’s a long, long way off at the moment and our total focus must be on Sligo Rovers on Friday night.”

He agreed that Derry must improve their home form after disappointing at the Brandywell in quite a few games last term.

“Sligo are a top side and they’ve proved that. But we are at home on Friday night and it’s vital that we stand up to them. We must attempt to nullify their strengths, get the ball down and play to the best of our ability.

“One thing is for sure, the match against Sligo will let us know how far we’ve come or, indeed, how far we must go if we are to compete with the teams at the top of the Premier Division table,” concluded Rory.