Chris Wilder saw signs during Oxford United ’s pre-season tour to the United States that the squad are capable of improving this season.

The U’s flew back from the ten-day trip to New Hampshire yesterday with two wins and a draw from their three tour games.

Preparation time is running out and there is now less than a fortnight until the season begins with a Capital One Cup tie at home to Bournemouth. But Wilder was encouraged by what he saw both on and off the pitch in the US.

The U’s boss returned home optimistic the squad has what it takes to improve on last season’s ninth place finish in npower League Two.

He said: “The tour’s reaffirmed our beliefs.

“We knew a little bit about the players we signed and you always hope they do well – I think they’ve been excellent and hopefully they can carry on doing that. “We spoke to the senior players at the back end of last season about where they need to come back and improve for next season and hopefully the signs are showing they are doing that. “Deane Smalley’s come back and scored a couple of really good goals to get his confidence back a bit, because he can be a player for us. “We’ve had goals from all the forwards in pre-season and the general play has been good.”

Another major plus has been the lack of injuries.

With the exception of Simon Heslop sitting out the final game with a sore back, the squad did not pick up any new problems.

Jon-Paul Pittman also came off the injury list, while Harry Worley is close to starting full training again.

Wilder admitted it was a relief to come through the trip unscathed, given the fact four senior players will miss the start of the season.

He said: “It has been a major concern because if you look at the numbers, you can see it’s not a massive squad.

“You want to make sure you cover a lot of things in pre-season – you want them to be competitive but you don’t want them to be put in a position where they get injured. “I’ll be delighted if we get through Saturday (when Cardiff City visit the Kassam) and keep the same standard and numbers.

“I know that Liam (Davis), Dubes (Michael Duberry), Lev (Peter Leven) and Whingy (Andy Whing) won’t be available for the first part of the season. “Hopefully, we’ll have Harry back, but we can’t really afford to sustain any more injuries really.”