Deane Smalley is hoping last night’s stunning winner against West Ham United is the start of a rich vein of form as he aims to make up for a poor start to his Oxford United career.

The 23-year-old smashed in the only goal of the game as Chris Wilder ’s side beat their Barclays Premier League opponents 1-0 in the first friendly of the summer at the Kassam Stadium .

Smalley was delighted to find the net, but admitted there was an element of luck to it.

He said: “I was a bit lazy to be honest because I didn’t get myself in the box for the cross and luckily enough the ball’s come back out to me.

“I found myself in a good position in the end, I just had to get a good connection on it and fortunately for me it went past the keeper and into the back of the net.”

The striker endured an underwhelming first 12 months to his United career, but is desperate to turn it around this season.

He said: “I’ve not just got to prove it to the gaffer and the players, I’ve got to prove it to the fans and everyone around Oxford.

“Last season was disappointing for me, but hopefully now I can kick on and show everyone what I’m made of.”

The game was played with more of an edge than most pre-season games and some full blooded challenges saw the two sets of players confront each other in the first half.

Wilder was encouraged by the display.

He said: “Sometimes pre-season friendlies are flat and can fizzle out, but that was competitive – both teams had a go and there were a couple of tackles which livened it up, which I don’t mind. I thought we competed and I thought we played.

“It wasn’t a great first season for Deane, but he took his goal extremely well and if that’s the start and it kicks him on then we’ll all be delighted.”