Michael Appleton admitted to being surprised by Danny Hylton's goalscoring exploits following Oxford United's 1-1 draw at Southend United.
Striker Hylton fired home a 67th minute spot-kick to cancel out Jack Payne's opener for the Shrimpers.
It was the former Aldershot man's sixth goal of the season after joining the U's in the summer, with the rest of his team-mates combined having only scored two so far.
Appleton said: "He's surprised me massively in a good way and I've told him that.
"He was almost like a talisman for us and took it upon himself to step up.
"He can play three of four positions and has done well.
"I know Southend had a bit of a problem with the penalty he scored today but for me it was a stonewall one and the lad's brought him down.
"But I still feel a little bit hard done by that we haven't gone on to win the game because we were magnificent in the second half.
"I know I haven't been here that long but that's definitely the best 45 minutes of football we've played since we came to the club."
Southend looked far brighter in the first half and took the lead in the 36th minute with Payne netting his third goal in two games.
Oxford hit back strongly with Hylton twice being denied by Shrimpers goalkeeper Daniel Bentley b ut Hylton was not to be denied and he soon netted with a penalty following a foul on him by Luke Prosser.
The spot-kick decision angered Southend boss Phil Brown.
"Their lad has admitted he hasn't been touched and it's just a very soft penalty," said Brown.
"In the first half Jack Payne went down and if that had been given it would have been soft as well.
"If he had given that penalty and then given theirs I would've perhaps understood it a little bit more.
"I questioned the decision and went to see the referee at the end of the game.
"But I still think it was a great point because Oxford were by far the better team in the second half.
"They got on the end of things more than us. They had nothing else to lose and got their tails up.
"It's disappointing not to have won but the bottom line is we got a point and it could've been nothing because Daniel Bentley has had to make a couple of great saves."