Eddie Hutchinson headed home a superb Alex Jeannin corner at the Kassam Stadium last night to bring Oxford United a 1-0 victory and a prize pre-season scalp.

Although Premiership new boys Birmingham were without many of their stars, they still included two or three players who are likely to be facing Chelsea in Sunday's opening fixture.

Jim Smith's side produced a very good second-half performance with half-time subs lifting the tempo of the game.

And they were well on top when Eddie Anaclet and Joel Ledgister combined down the right to win a corner in the 65th minute.

Jeannin delivered the set-piece perfectly and Hutchinson, running in, headed home from close range.

The flags at the front of the stadium were at half-mast following the shock death of groundsman Dave Wedge, and there was a subdued atmosphere around the ground before kick-off.

Wearing their new all-blue away kit, United's starting line-up was not far away from what it will be on Saturday.

The second-half subs who came on and changed this match may, however, make Smith think again.

Marvin Robinson was rewarded for his battling display in the last 25 minutes against Wycombe with a starting place.

And it was he who nearly drew first blood on 15 minutes with a sharp turn and 22-yard drive which flashed wide.

By then, City's Rowan Vine had already fired a low drive wide from 20 yards and the visitors often showed their class by moving the ball at speed from one area of the pitch to the other.

However, James McPike displayed distinctly less than Premiership finishing when he blazed over an open goal from ten yards after turning away from Arthur Gnohere, Billy Turley having already dived to one side.

Michael Standing was trying to pull the strings in United's midfield, but without a lot of help from those around him, often gave the ball away.

But so too did Northern Ireland goalkeeper Maik Taylor who, having collected Jeannin's corner comfortably, then failed to control his attempted throw out and was almost embarrassed.

An excellent block from Matt Day denied Neil Danns when he struck a fierce shot from the edge of the box after a silky dribble from Sone Aluko.

Barry Quinn had to go off five minutes before half-time after he took the full force of a driven free-kick on the edge of the area, and Luke Foster took over in the middle of United's back three.

Standing delivered one delightful through pass to Gary Twigg to set up a shooting chance for Robinson, but he delayed too long.

There was a plethora of substitutions at half-time, with Rob Duffy and Ledgister replacing Robinson and Twigg up front, and the two new strikers were immediately in the thick of it.

Phil Trainer's 20-yard drive forced Taylor into a low save, and soon after the visitors' keeper saved Duffy's header high above his head, and just below the bar, from Anaclet's good cross.

Twenty seconds later, Ledgister had his angled shot beaten out, with some difficulty, by Taylor.

Quick-thinking by Ledg- ister, who anticipated a poor clearance by Taylor, created another chance for the home side, Duffy heading his strike partner's cross narrowly wide.

United had been playing well in the second half, and when they took the lead in the 65th minute, it was no more than they deserved.

Ledgister's pace had provided the attack with a new dimension, and the rest of the team with an easy get-out ball when under pressure, while both Mickey Corcoran and Carl Pettefer impressed.

f=Helvetica s=5.8Oxford Utd: Turley (Tardif HT), Day (Corcoran HT), Quinn (Foster 40), Gnohere, Anaclet, Hutchinson (Malloy 79), Standing (Pettefer HT), Trainer, Jeannin, Twigg (Ledgister HT), Robinson (Duffy HT).

Birmingham City: Taylor, Howland, Jaidi, Tebily, De Ridder, Danns, Kilkenny, Aluko (Hall 87), Quedrue, Vine, McPike (Moses-Garvey 66).

Referee: J Farries (Oxfordshire).

Attendance: 2,497.