Leon Maloney on why he'll turn up for Portsmouth's EFL Trophy game against Northampton - even if fans don't

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It’s a competition with a tendency to turn fans off.

But Pompey forward Leon Maloney believes the much-maligned EFL Trophy provides a great opportunity for youngsters like him to turn on the style and get the ‘exposure’ they crave.

The Blues play host to League Two Northampton tomorrow night in the first knock-round of the competition (7.45pm) after topping Southern Group B.

Despite more than 40,000 Pompey fans making the trip to Wembley for last season’s final success against Sunderland, another vastly reduced gate is expected at Fratton Park for the visit of the Cobblers.

Only 3,784 were present for this term’s opening game against Crawley.

That figure was reduced to 2,855 for Norwich under-21s’ trip to PO4, while only 274 Blues fans made the journey to Oxford in the club’s last outing in the competition.

Pompey youngster Leon Maloney

Pompey youngster Leon Maloney

Yet, while supporters voice their disapproval with their feet, 18-year-old Maloney is hoping some fancy footwork on the pitch in games like these can earn him regular outings with the first team.

And he’s desperate to show manager Kenny Jackett and those fans present exactly what he can do as he bids to build a future at Fratton Park.

The youngster, who has started three games for the Blues in this season’s Leasing.com Trophy, said: ‘This competition gives exposure, and that's all you want.

'Everyone wants exposure, even the manager, just to see us against other teams.

'It's really good just to get out there in front of men, it's a really good competition to play in.

‘I made my debut in the competition last year against Southend.

‘It was good and tough, but this year I feel as if I have grown as a player, I'm doing more and playing more minutes, so it's going well.

‘The fans might not like the competition as much with teams fielding weakened sides, but still they are strong.

'Some of the teams have still got strong players, very good players – so for me playing in a game like that is the best thing that can happen.

'The under-23s, you still feel like you're playing opposition that are really around your age, there's less contact. It's quicker but in men's football it is completely different.

'They're on you straight away and it's definitely better to play these types of games.

‘Playing against top quality, you're always going to learn from it.’

Last month The News revealed that Pompey had no plans to loan Maloney out, despite the likes of Ronan Curtis and Marcus Harness returning from recent injuries.

The Isle of Wight winger is below them and Ryan Williams in the pecking order – yet Jackett wants him around ahead of a busy period for the Blues.

Maloney has no problem with that and remains ready for when the call comes.

The teenager added: ‘I would benefit from a loan but the manager wants me around to be 18th man when I need to be – and when it comes I'm ready to be as well.

'Obviously, a loan would benefit me but by training each day with the first team I'm doing well.

'I'll be involved again against Northampton and hopefully I can once again show what I'm about.'