DEANE Smalley's terrific individual goal was the highlight of an encouraging display as Oxford United drew with Birmingham City in pre-season.

The striker received the ball with his back to goal on the halfway line, but showed strength, pace and composure to open the scoring on 25 minutes.

City, who had controlled the opening exchanges, were briefly under pressure but hit back to level just before half-time through Adam McGurk.

Asa Hall twice came close to restoring the hosts' lead after the break, but they needed a smart save from Ryan Clarke in stoppage time to avoid what would have been a harsh defeat.

It rounded off a good afternoon for Chris Wlder's men, who matched their Championship opponents on the newly relaid Kassam Stadium pitch.

Matt Bevans was given a chance at right back after David Hunt was ruled out with an infected knee, while Danny Rose and Andy Whing were paired in central midfield.

City did not name their strongest possible side, but, led by former U's striker Matt Green the visitors quickly asserted themselves.

Neal Eardley had an early sight of goal, letting fly with a vicious swerving shot which Clarke spectacularly tipped over.

The Championship side looked to be building up a head of steam, but despite controlling the opening 20 minutes they were unable to fashion a clear chance.

United worked hard to deny City space and gradually began to retain possession.

James Constable fired one effort wide before his strike partner superbly opened the scoring on 25 minutes.

Smalley was not favourite to get on to a hopeful ball forward, but he showed excellent determination to win the ball and get away from two challenges just inside the City half.

The 24-year-old sprinted clear, before sliding a delicate shot under goalkeeper Colin Doyle and into the net for his third goal in pre-season.

United went on to push their visitors back for 20 minutes.

Doyle needed to be alert as he parried a dangerous cross from man-of-the-match Tom Newey clear as the hosts went in search of a second goal.

City were subdued, but they equalised against the run of play two minutes before the break.

Mitch Hancox got the better of Scott Davies in the penalty area and squared for McGurk to blast in from close range.

City nearly struck again on the stroke of half-time when Eardley got in down the right, but Michael Raynes made a vital clearance in his own six-yard box.

Both sides made changes at the interval, with U's manager Chris Wilder giving triallist Matt Heath a chance to impress.

Liam Davis, released by United in May, came on for the visitors and his first contribution was a late tackle on Bevans.

Mark Little, City's other half-time substitute, briefly worried Clarke with a wayward cross which struck the outside of the post and bounced out for a goal kick.

The game lost its way around the hour mark as the two teams continued to make changes.

It took until the final 20 minutes for the hosts to build some momentum, when Hall's volley over the bar was the cue for a decent spell.

Alfie Potter took advantage of some dithering defending to wriggle clear of three players and whip in a cross which was hurriedly turned behind for a corner.

The set piece came to nothing, but neat work from Hall gave the midfielder another chance, which was fired wide with his left foot.

City rallied late on in search of a winner.

The closest they came was in stoppage time, when Clarke did well to tip an Andrew Shinnie header over the bar.

Next up for United is a trip to Oxford City on Tuesday night.

Oxford Utd: Clarke, Bevans, Raynes (Heath ht), Wright, Newey, Davies (Hall 67), Whing (O'Dowda 78), Rose (Marsh 78), Rigg (Meades 67), Constable (Kitson ht), Smalley (Potter ht).

Subs not used: Crocombe.

Birmingham: Doyle, Eardley (Little ht), Bartley (Higgins 72), Hancox (Davis ht), Burn, Mullins, Reilly, McGurk, Green (Shinnie 67), Allan (Arthur 58), Adeyemi (Lee 58).

Subs not used: Randolph, Robinson, Elliott.

Referee: Graham Scott.

Attendance: 2,394.