Elias Melkersen urged to step up for Hibs in Kevin Nisbet's absence as Shaun Maloney hails striker's hard work
The 19-year-old replaced Christian Doidge in the second half of the goalless draw with St Johnstone and stirred up excitement in the stands with an energetic performance.
With Nisbet sidelined for the foreseeable, Maloney knows he will need to call on Melkersen more as he seeks to keep Hibs in the top four.
“We’ve lost our main nine for a long period of time and we’re going to have to push Elias because we need him,” Maloney told the Longbangers podcast.
"That’s football. We need to let him adapt but keep pushing him.”
Melkersen has been doing extra work at the training centre and after matches in a bid to accelerate his readiness for the rough and tumble of the Scottish Premiership and Maloney revealed it has been a real team effort at the club’s Ormiston base to help progress the forward.
“He’s been so good to work with. He has a brilliant attitude and he works so well out of possession, and that’s been my experience of him since he signed,” the Easter Road boss continued.
"He understood how long it would take to get up to speed and he’s worked so hard. He’s done more sessions than anyone else, the coaches have worked very hard with him to get him ready physically and some of the senior players have taken it upon themselves during training to really help him progress.
"Long may it continue but we’re going to have to push him, because we really need him.”
'He’d never played on a grass pitch’
With Hibs having struggled in front of goal since the turn of the year, many fans were questioning why the former Bodø/Glimt prospect wasn’t given a chance to shine sooner.
But Maloney explained that it wasn’t as straightforward as pitching him into action and hoping he could nick a goal, revealing that the Norway youth internationalist had only ever played on artificial surfaces before making the move from the Arctic Circle to the Scottish capital in January.
"When he signed he had just played a full season in Norway, he’s young – just turned 19 – it’s a new league, a new country, and he’d also never played on a grass pitch before.
"He had to get used to the physicality and the speed of the game. I knew it would take a period of time to get him up to speed, and I did say this, but it got a bit lost.
"I knew it, and he knew it. We spoke about it before he signed so he knew the plan we had for him.
Ready to fight for the 9
"But I understand that there’s a lot of pressure to see him. He caught Covid-19 as well which delayed the process. He was on the bench against Arbroath then got ill but he’s come back.
"I’m so glad we had that period of time for him to adapt because what you’ve seen already against Dundee, and St Johnstone, I feel like he’s really ready to fight for the number nine position.”