Chris Wilder described Oxford United’s opening matches for the 2012/13 as “cracking, but tough”, after the npower League Two fixtures were unveiled yesterday.

However, the U’s manager admitted he was disappointed that for the third season in a row – which co-incides with their promotion back into the Football League – United’s first, last and Boxing Day matches are all away from home.

Wilder takes his side to play Bristol Rovers on Saturday, August 18 four days after their season starts with a home Capital One Cup match against AFC Bournemouth.

The match has added spice with Rovers interested in signing United’s leading scorer James Constable.

The Pirates have so far had two bids rejected for the striker, but are likely to come back with an improved offer this summer.

United’s first home league match is against Southend on Tuesday, August 21, with Wilder’s men also at home to Plymouth four days later, but they end with an unglamorous trip to Accrington Stanley on Saturday, April 27.

September looks a particularly tough month, with four of United’s six games away from home, at York, Burton, Cheltenham and title favourites Rother-ham.

But it is the Boxing Day trip to Exeter that will be particularly frustrating for United.

That game is traditionally the best-watched of the season, and another away match means missing out on a bumper gate and a big pay-day.

Wilder said that he thought things might be different this time around.

“It’s a cracking start to the season,” he said, “but a tough one too.

“The bigger games look after themselves, but it is a disappointment – especially for the supporters – that we are away on those three big days.”

He added: “I suppose that the one good thing from the supporters’ point of view is that Bristol is close. I would think we might sell out for that one being the opening day of the season and local.”

The U’s are at least at home to local rivals Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Their first match with Wycombe, which is also away, is on Saturday, October 27.

Fixture chart in today's Oxford Mail