JAMIE Mackie is confident of being on track to be fully fit for the opening day of the season as he prepares to make his first pre-season appearance this afternoon.

The 33-year-old is Oxford United’s only specialist centre forward, but has been kept out of the friendly matches by a back problem.

But after returning to full training this week, Mackie has been earmarked to play 30 minutes against Queens Park Rangers at the Kassam Stadium.

And while the hiccup has not been ideal, the veteran believes there is time for him to get ready for the start of the Sky Bet League One season at the Stadium of Light in a fortnight.

He said: “I’d have preferred to play, but the pre-season games are very different to the way I’m going to play against Sunderland.

“I feel that with my experience I can do enough in the next couple of weeks to force my way into the side and be in good shape.”

Mackie would have been hugely disappointed to miss out on a reunion with QPR, where he spent six seasons across two spells.

“I’d say that’s where my career was defined and I loved every minute of playing for them,” he said. “It’s a special club.

“It will be great to get out there.”

Mackie’s fitness takes on added importance given United’s failure so far this summer to bring another striker.

The three bids, one of which was for a front man, which went in earlier this week are still being negotiated.

And the former Scotland international is as keen as anyone to see the squad strengthened, having reaped the rewards of sharing the burden last season once Jerome Sinclair arrived in January.

He said: “I think having Jerome in the second half of the season with the gaffer managing us both really well benefitted me.

“I know they’re busy at the moment trying to get players in.

“It’s a hard one. I still get the hump if I’m coming off or not playing, but at the same time I want to play well and I don’t think I can do that any more by playing every single minute.”

Gavin Whyte will not feature today after United took the decision to give him an extra week’s break following his summer exertions with Northern Ireland.

The winger is due to be back in training on Monday, with the U’s hopeful Rob Hall will join him after picking up a knee injury against Thame United earlier in pre-season.