Appleton backs McLeod to maintain his improvement

15/9/12_sport'Action from Pompey vs Walsall at Fratton Park.'Izale McCloud.''Picture: Steve Reid (123043-036)

15/9/12_sport'Action from Pompey vs Walsall at Fratton Park.'Izale McCloud.''Picture: Steve Reid (123043-036)

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Michael Appleton has called on Izale McLeod to maintain his improved work-rate and become Pompey’s 20-goal-a-season striker.

The Blues boss has been delighted with the change in his striker’s effort levels during the past two matches.

Goals in successive games against Crawley and Walsall have taken McLeod’s tally to three from seven games so far.

Despite a solid scoring start to his Pompey career, however, fans have still to be convinced over the striker who was so prolific at previous club Barnet.

Appleton acknowledges McLeod is a player whose performances will go up and down during the campaign.

Nonetheless, he has every faith the 27-year-old can deliver the goals, with McLeod again leading the attack tonight against Swindon.

Yet Pompey’s manager has warned McLeod must keep up the energy levels he has produced during the past two outings.

Appleton said: ‘Izale has had a mixed time of it.

‘He has obviously got himself three league goals, which is important.

‘He had a couple of games where his energy levels and effort levels weren’t as good as I would have expected – but I have got to say in the past two games he has worked his socks off.

‘If I am being honest, I thought he was probably our best player on Saturday in terms of his work-rate and he got his goal that he deserved.

‘There have been games when we have not been happy with his work-rate but he has stepped right up again.

‘I think performances when he is working hard are when we really see the best of him.

‘Izale is one of those players who can be up and down. He is not one who is going to be always involved, nor always playing with his back to goal and bringing others into play.

‘We realise that and we knew that before we tried to bring him to the club.

‘He is one of them who will get his fair share of goals – and surely the most important thing for a striker is goals?

‘If he gets me 20 goals come the end of the season, and the fans are still not sure, then I will be absolutely jumping through hoops because I know we will be in a place of security and not worried about dropping down the table.

‘I am sure if you ask him, he will say he wants to score 20 goals – and, potentially, he can do that.

‘At the minute, he is on course and hopefully it will continue tonight.’

Pompey have yet to win at home in the league at Fratton Park this season.

An encouraging draw against Bournemouth on the opening day has been followed by defeats to Oldham and Walsall.

Both of those losses yielded performances which disappointed the Fratton faithful.

For Appleton, the ongoing ownership uncertainty is continuing to have an impact on his players.

And only once that is resolved does he feel they can produce their best.

He added: ‘You will see the best of all of them once the ownership situation is sorted.

‘I wasn’t lying when I said it wouldn’t be until October or November time before you see any stability from the team on the pitch.

‘I said that from day one so I am not changing the goal posts or turning the page.’