MICHAEL Appleton admitted he was surprised just how well Oxford United’s new-look strike partnership performed in the 5-1 thrashing of Crawley Town.

With top-scorer Kemar Roofe only fit enough for the bench due to illness and Jordan Bowery ruled out with a hip problem, the U’s head coach needed an alternative.

After reviewing Crawley’s previous games, he felt pairing Callum O’Dowda with Danny Hylton would prove effective.

It was a good decision, with O’Dowda – normally a winger – scoring after a clever pass from Hylton, who also set up Liam Sercombe to make it 3-1.

Appleton said: “We thought they would work well together because of their attributes, but we didn’t expect them to play as well as they did.

“Everything that was good about us started from the front two.

“We were really clinical in the first ten minutes of the second half.

“When Callum gets on the half-turn and gets at people he can be dangerous.

“He’s more than capable of playing through the middle. I think we’ve seen glimpses of it.”

The win extended United’s astonishing away form in Sky Bet League Two, where they have lost just once in their last 17 games – winning 12.

Just under 1,500 supporters made the trip to Sussex and they were thoroughly rewarded with United scoring four goals attacking towards their end in the second half.

Appleton paid tribute to their role and is hoping for a similarly raucous atmosphere at home to Luton Town this Saturday.

He said: “The fans were great again.

“I’ve been saying it all season, certainly away from home. We’ve packed stadiums out, it’s incredible.

“There were almost as many away fans than home fans here, which is a credit to them.

“If we can bring that type of support to the Kassam next week I’m sure it will give us that little bit of an extra edge we might need at times to get through tough games.”