Midfielder Connor Mahoney knows it will take graft to become a Millwall regular but that is the part of his game which has given his boss a selection dilemma.
The 22-year-old, signed from Bournemouth in July, has scored twice and bagged two assists in his last two games.
He hopes that will secure him a spot in the starting line-up at Stoke tomorrow – but if not, then he will be ready to come on and have an impact.
That happened in the 3-1 home FA Cup win over Luton when he came on in the 71st minute, scored in the 78th and set up the third goal for Matt Smith three minutes later.
Mahoney said: “Graft is a side I need to work on.
“I think if I work on the defensive side and I’m working hard things will start to fall into place.
“I go into games trying my best. People have different assets. Some go crunching into tackles and there’s me who is a bit technically on the other side – I like to be finding the ball in pockets and putting it into good areas.
“I want to get as many goals and as many assists I can. I want to be one of the main players here – with what he is doing, Jed is one of the first names on the team sheet. You want to create that bond in the squad where they can rely on me.
“I want to start but but if I don’t i hope I will be able to come on again and change the game.
“I’ve had a chat with the gaffer and he said he wants me to be knocking on that door.
“Football is crazy – somnetimes your fortunes can change in a couple of matches and such a short space of time.
“I wasn’t involved as much as I would have liked to been.
“But now I think I have put a thought in the gaffer’s head now with the last two games. To get two assists and two goals – you could not ask for more.”
“Jed [Wallace] has been firing so I think you should want to be in the running as well. It’s time for others to start stepping up. We can’t always rely on Jed to get us out of trouble. Me and bradders [Tom Bradshaw] have been chipping in with goals here and there which takes the pressure off Jed.
“Tom is highest scorer with 10, Matt’s on eight so the goals have been spread around. I want get a few more goals and catch them up as quick as I can.”
Mahoney started the first seven games of the season under Neil Harris but has had to scrap for a place since then.
“Behind the scenes I wasn’t 100% as I would’ve liked, to be honest. But I am not going to shy away from playing if asked, even if I wasnt totally fit.
“There was moving down here, getting getting used to a new style of football. But the way the gaffer wants to play suits me down to a T.
“The new gaffer’s come in and he’s said he wants to get on the ball and attack, which for me is a big positive.
“I played 90 minutes in the opening day 1-0 win over Preston – and I can’t remember the last time I had played a full 90 minutes – it was a long time before that.
“I was trying to ease into fast action football. I’m 100-percent fit now and hopefully can keep the form going.
“When you are not starting, you just keep working hard behind the scenes. I come in every day with a smile on my face try and do some extras after training and some work with the fitness guys behind the scenes. I don’t want to be behind the lads if I’m called upon. It paid off against Luton because I’ve come in fresh. I was raring to go.”
Lancashire-rasied Mahoney’s family came to watch him at games over Christmas – and saw his exquisite strike against Luton to open his account. “They were down over the New Year period they stayed down for a few days,” he revealed. “For my mum to see me score my first goal for the club – she was over the moon and she got a bit emotional. You can see from the celebrations there the emotions were very real. Next time I do score I’ll be celebrating again like that it’s a big thing for me to score. I was delighted.
“I have got that finish in my locker. I need to start shooting more. Me and Jed we’re told to shoot more. The gaffer wants me to. He says I got two good feet – I need some more shots. Jed has been doing that and he’s been scoring. If you don’t shoot you don’t score – that’s something I’m going to take on. Jed himself – he says you need to get those positions.
“If I play with confidence, that’s when I play my best football. Hopefully I can take that with me into the game at the weekend.”
As well as scoring, he sees his job as setting up others like Matt Smith.
Mahoney said: “Me and smudge have a good relationship. I stay behind on the training pitch and do crosses with him and stuff like that. I think I’ve set up three or four of his goals. If we get the right service in to Smudge in the box you have seen how lethal he is with his head.
“We just need to keep providing those kind of crosses for him and he will do the rest.”
Mahoney took the 64th-minute penalty in last weekend’s 3-0 FA Cup win over Newport County.
“Bradders [Tom Bradshaw] wanted the penalty but I was on the penalties before the game,” said the midfielder. “Jed had taken them in the league. I’ve told the gaffer if Jed is not on the pitch I’ll take them – that was my first professional penalty so I was a bit nervous. Thakfully it went in and we went on to win the game.
“I have stayed behind and done the few spot-kicks – but you can’t replicate that match situation. When you’re in front of a crowd and you need to score it is down to instincts and don’t change your mind. Thankfully it went in.”
The next round against Sheffield United at home will be a big game. “I sat down with my fiance to watch the cup draw,” he said. “I wanted a really big team like a Chelsea or Liverpool or a much smaller team. Sheffield United are going to be a very hard team to overcome. To be at the Den is massive and with games there, you’re going to it with a lot of confidence.”
But with their position in the table, the league is the priority.
“We’ve got big games coming up,” Mahoney said. “Some people might say it’s over achieving for us to be in the playoffs.
“But we’ve got an amazing set of lads in there and we are going into every fixture thinking we can give anyone a game. We’ve beaten Brentford, Preston, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds. They are all in and around the top six. So why should shouldn’t Millwall be there? Luton was crucial – and season defining – because if we didn’t win that we would have slipped down a few places.
“We just need to keep pushing on and get a win on Saturday – and come February and March time, if we are still up there, then we will be very happy.”