by Sam Elliott
OXFORD UNITED hitman Danny Hylton has told manager Michael Appleton: carry on being a tinker man.
The 27-year-old striker – hailed as “magnificent” by the boss last weekend – has been on and off the bench for weeks as Appleton continues to meddle with his frontline and formation with great success.
Fellow forward Jordan Bowery was surprisingly ditched for the visit to AFC Wimbledon having scored twice five days earlier at Exeter City as the manager went with one up top. The 24-year-old came on to get the winner against the Dons, and started and scored in the 4-0 thrashing of York City on Tuesday night.
Hylton did, too – and after watching on from the sidelines for parts of 2016 he says his little break has given him extra legs when it matters the most.
And that may just help as Oxford look to claw back Northampton’s giant lead at the top of League Two.
The former Rotherham striker said: “It is so important to be well rested at this time of the season. Sometimes you see clubs playing with tired players who have been playing twice a week most weeks for months but we have been in the fortunate position that the manager has been able to change things around. If you don’t, you can pick up injuries.
“You need to play with energy, and I think that’s a plus for us at the business end of the season as we will be fresher. What it means as well is that no forward at Oxford can take their foot off the gas.
“You have to do everything right when you are given the chance. If you’re not on it, someone is ready to come in – it’s that kind of competitive edge which has made us so successful.”
Oxford carry real goal threat – so much so that the U’s boast three players, Hylton with ten, Kemar Roofe with 12 and ten-goal midfielder Liam Sercombe, all in double figures already.
Hylton is therefore happy for Appleton, who watched his side leapfrog Plymouth into second spot after ripping apart the Minstermen, to chop and change.
“I actually think squad rotation isn’t a bad thing,” he said. “You won’t hear every forward say that! Everyone wants to play but you have got to let your manager manage games and manage your season.
“We have a strong squad and we’ve been playing well – we now just need to get over the line and finish the job.”
On the title race, he adds: “If this good run we are on turns into a very good run then who’s to say where it could end up.”
*This article was originally published in The FLP on 6 March.