Penny starting to drop for Portsmouth Academy forward
The penny is starting to drop for Leon Maloney.
That is the verdict of Mark Kelly, who believes the academy forward is reaping the rewards from his hard work on the training ground.
Maloney has been in superb form for the young Blues this season, scoring 15 goals in 20 appearances.
The Isle of Wight ace was rewarded with his first-team debut, coming off the bench in Pompey’s 2-0 win over Southend in the Checkatrade Trophy earlier this month.
He was also an unused substitute in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against QPR in the FA Cup fourth round.
Kelly was delighted to see Maloney feature for Kenny Jackett’s side at Roots Hall.
And he feels the fledgling talent is now putting his assets to good use.
The Blues’ youth chief said: ‘It was good to see Leon out there and he’s been quite consistent this season.
‘He’s scored some very good goals. He’s a good talent, got pace and a lot of raw ability.
‘We’ve been working hard on him to understand what he really is and what he’s all about.
‘He is so quick, rapid really, and has great feet.
‘Leon has got to build that belief up in himself. We’re trying to get into his head what he exactly is and how he can deliver things – that has been the key.
‘That’s been the majority of the work we’ve been doing with him.
‘You’re seeing the dividends from it now and the penny is dropping on a lot of things.’
Kelly admitted Maloney was previously not maximising his raw pace.
Too often he’d receive the ball to his feet, rather than expose the space in front.
That is no longer the case, however.
‘Leon drives past people and there’s a real element of aggressive running,’ added Kelly.
‘That was what he was probably missing. At the start of last year, he was comfortable to receive the ball at his feet but there was a great big hole in behind.
‘I was saying “God’s given you all that pace so why are you receiving the ball at your feet? Just get on and run!”
‘It’s simple things like that but he’s started to pick it up and understand it.’