THIRTY-SOMETHING strikers might be leading the way in Sky Bet League Two this season but York City boss Russ Wilcox is happy to carry on placing his faith in youth.

Wilcox will cross swords with a man he released last summer when much-travelled 31-year-old Paul Hayes lines up against his City side for table-topping Wycombe this afternoon.

Nine-goal Hayes is one of five forwards, who have waved goodbye to their 20s forever, currently placed in the division’s top-ten marksmen list, alongside evergreen quartet Marc Richards, Matt Tubbs, Adebayo Akinfenwa and Kevin Ellison.

Jamie Cureton, now 39 and playing for Dagenham & Redbridge, is also only one goal short of joining that group.

Ex-Barnsley and Brentford forward Hayes was allowed to leave Scunthorpe after helping Wilcox win promotion with the Iron last term, scoring four goals despite only starting five games after joining the Lincolnshire outfit for a third time halfway through the season.

But, despite confessing Jake Hyde and Wes Fletcher, who were both born in the 1990s, benefitted from 38-year-old Deon Burton’s loan spell from Scunthorpe earlier in the campaign, which was cruelly cut short by injury, Wilcox has no immediate plans to follow the example of many of his League Two counterparts by bringing in an ageing hitman during the transfer window.

“It was a shame what happened with Deon because he made such a difference in the dressing room,”

Wilcox admitted. “He was an older and wiser head for people to look up to and for the likes of Wes and Jake to learn from.

“But I’m quite happy with the youth and enthusiasm Wes and Jake are giving us at the moment and they’ve both got quality to add to that. Although Carlton Morris hasn’t started for us yet, he’s also playing his part and will only get better at 19.”

Nevertheless, Wilcox confessed his team will need to be aware of the threat posed by Hayes today with the Dagenham-born forward having plundered 127 goals in 513 appearances during his career.

“He’s a very intelligent footballer who plays the number ten role a bit like Teddy Sheringham,” the City boss pointed out. “He drops in little pockets of space and has great feet, touch and awareness.

“We will have to be on our mettle to stop the supply into him and get tight when he does get the ball and be aggressive with him. He’s been there and done it and got promo - tions with Barnsley and Scunthorpe, so he’s tried and tested.

“But they’re not just a one-man team. They’ve had a good season.”

This weekend’s match will represent the second that City have played since vanishing spray was introduced to Football League fixtures to discourage encroachment at free-kicks with Wilcox welcoming its use with humour and mild support, saying: “It’s something that puts more attention on the referees, which they probably don’t need, but it’s got its place.

“You’ve always had problems with walls creeping forward, but they can’t now. It’s another gimmick that’s been added to the game and I’m surprised nobody’s put a sponsor’s name on it yet.

“Somebody’s missing a trick there - maybe Gillette might be interested.”

Meanwhile, Wilcox added he would prefer a change in the League’s disciplinary rules to reduce the number of dismissals.

The City boss did not contest the recent red cards issued to Brad Halliday and Stephane Zubar for violent play but would like to address the growing amount of sending-offs caused by less serious offences.

“I would like a three-card system, where you can award an amber card as well - so it goes green- amber-red maybe,” he advocated.

“You see so many cheap yellows these days.

“You can get done for one foul and then take you shirt off after scoring a goal and you’re leaving the pitch. There are too many red cards these days and we throw the stats out to the players every week.

“We knew last weekend’s referee had sent off six players and given 30-odd yellows during the last five games and, when you look at how the game was played 15 years ago when there were fewer reds, it’s not as physically competitive.

“There would have been nobody left on the pitch back then if the current rules applied and I would like to see softer offences for players on a yellow, or green if you like, punished with an amber card before a red is issued.

“If there’s a straight-red challenge, then it’s a straight-red challenge. But I also don’t think it makes sense to get the triple whammy of a penalty, red card and one-match suspension when somebody gets sent off for handball.”

Wilcox also reckons football could learn from other sports in its delivery of on-pitch punishment, saying: “The sin-bin is something else I would support.

“It’s a cooling-off period and it’s entertaining for the crowd because game plans change.

“As a manager, if you’ve got ten minutes with 11v10, you might have to go for it, press up the pitch and see if you can get a goal during that spell and, when it’s the other way round, you have to make sure you’re solid and compact so you don’t concede until you get the player back on the pitch.

“People will laugh at that idea and say it won’t work, but I think you have to consider anything that adds to our entertainment of the game and it works in other sports like rugby and ice hockey.”

York Press:

MIDDLE TRIO: City midfielders Russell Penn and Luke Summerfield are presented with their December player of the month awards by Minstermen fan Liam Holmes

RUSSELL PENN has extended his lead at the top of The Press Player of the Year leaderboard.

The City skipper is three points ahead of nearest rival Michael Coulson after winning our man-of-the-match award for helping his ten-man team secure a 0-0 home draw against Plymouth last

Coulson (two points) and John McCombe (one) were also recognised for their efforts as our second and third-highest rated performers during the game.

The two bonus Player of the Month points also went to Penn after he polled the most man-of-the-match votes from visitors to our website and followers of the @daveflettpress Twitter account.

To be in with a chance of presenting The Press’ Player of the Month prize for January on the pitch before a fixture at Bootham Crescent, register your man-of-the-match vote for today’s match at Wycombe by visiting or tweeting @daveflettpress

The Press Player of the Year standings: Penn 21, Coulson 18, Lowe 17, Ilesanmi 16, Summerfield
12, McCombe 11, Hyde 10, McCoy 10, De Girolamo 9, Ingham 8, Montrose 7, Straker 7, Fletcher 6, Zubar 5, Cisak 3, Halliday 3, Jarvis 3, Winfield 2.

The Press Player of the Month January standings: Penn 5, Coulson 2, McCombe 1.

Goals: Hyde 6, Lowe 5, De Girolamo 4, Fletcher 4, Coulson 3, Summerfield 2, Carson 1, Penn 1, Winfield 1, Zubar 1.

Assists: Coulson 8, Hyde 4, McCoy 3, Meikle 3, De Girolamo 2, Penn 2, Carson 1, Fletcher 1, Lowe 1, Montrose 1, Straker 1, Summerfield 1.

Bad boys: Penn one red, four yellow; McCoy three yellow; Halliday one red, one yellow; Hyde, Ilesanmi, Montrose all two yellow; Jarvis one red; Coulson, Fletcher, Lowe, McCombe, Platt, Straker, Summerfield all one yellow.