Jim Smith believes the resurgence of Eddie Hutchinson means that it's like Oxford United having a new player.

Hutchinson, who missed so much of last season with a succession of injuries, has been one of the U's most consistent players of pre- season.

And the powerful midfielder ensured Oxford will go into the new season on Saturday on a high by heading in a second-half winner as they beat Premiership new boys Birmingham City 1-0 last night.

Steve Bruce's side may have had only two or three players who will face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, but they had seven or eight fringe players fighting for a first-team place.

Yet Blue Square Premier outfit Oxford outplayed them in the second half of the game at the Kassam Stadium.

Smith said: "I'm del- ighted Eddie scored and that will do his confidence the world of good.

"We never saw Eddie last season because he was pretty much injured for nine months last season.

"But he's come back strongly, had an excellent pre-season. He's probably played more minutes pre-season than any other player, playing for virtually every game, which is hard, and it's a real bonus to have him around."

Hutchinson said: "It was pleasing to get that goal. It's not that important because it's only pre-season, but it's nice to get it under my belt."

Smith says he knows 90 per cent what his team will be against Forest Green Rovers on Saturday . . . the one area he hasn't totally made his mind up about being up front.

"There's strong competition for places and it's just a question of what partnership I go for now," he said.