Danny Hylton became an instant fans’ favourite at AFC Wimbledon last night.
But boss Neal Ardley revealed there was a time he feared he had lost the chance to bring the striker to the Dons.
Hylton came off the bench to score the winner in a 2-1 victory over Hartlepool and give Ardley’s side a second win in 72 hours following success over Exeter on Saturday.
Ardley claimed the Rotherham loanee’s strike was an illustration of why he had hunted him long and hard through the January window – a quest he had feared would prove fruitless.
He said: “Danny’s goal showed the last two and a half weeks of pain I’ve been through trying to sign him have been worth it.
“The deal took a while and a couple of times I felt we were getting near the end of the window and I might have to look elsewhere, but I didn’t want to.
“Steve Evans at Rotherham does things the way he does them so it took a while to get the deal over the line but it is done now.”
Former Aldershot front-man Hylton’s appearance from the bench at half time along with Middlesbrough loanee Charlie Wyke transformed a Dons side who trailed at the break to Luke James’ 43rd minute close range effort.
Will Antwi’s first goal for the club levelled matters before Hylton wrote the night’s headlines with a low 20-yard strike 15 minutes from time.
Ardley was man enough to shoulder the blame for the first half showing, admitting he should never have set up narrow, something he apologised to the team for afterwards.
“Danny was excellent second half and he and Charlie Wyke struck up a nice partnership when they went up there, but it was easier for them than the team in the first half because we had the width that stretched the opposition’s back line and gave us more spaces to play in,” he said
“I take the rap for the first half as I tactically got it wrong and I said sorry for it to the boys for that.
“They played a diamond and in hindsight Jack (Midson), Kevin (Saint-Luce) and Charlie Sheringham were on a hiding to nothing really and they looked ineffective because there was no space for them to run into as we did not have enough width.
“We ended up hitting straight balls down the middle which suited their two centre-halves, so we switched to an old-fashioned 4-4-2 for the second half to give us width and though they looked dangerous with us chasing the game and we had to ride our luck at times, ultimately it was a good three points for us.”
As for Hylton, Ardley knows there is more to come from his new striker, who has struggled for match time and fitness up north this term.
He added: “Danny had a double hernia operation in December after his loan spell at Bury so he is still not fully match-fit yet, but we’ll get him there.”