CONOR McAleny has been given until this weekend to give Oxford United an answer to their contract offer.

The forward was a big hit during his loan with the U’s in the second half of this season, scoring ten goals in 14 starts.

Michael Appleton has long been an admirer of the 24-year-old, who is out of contract with Everton this summer and is expected to be released.

An offer has been made, but the U’s boss has warned that the club will quickly turn their attention to alternative targets.

He said: “There’s an offer gone over to Conor and his representatives and we’ve given them until the end of this week to come back with an answer.

“You can’t let things run and run.

“Ultimately you want players who want to play for the club.

“I wouldn’t say it would be finished (if the deadline was missed), but we would then aggressively try to find someone else and almost put it to bed.

“It might come back at the end of the summer, but the reality is with those type of players from a budgetary point of view you’re not going to be able to do that at the end of the summer.”

McAleny’s form in the closing months of the season, which included hat-tricks against Chesterfield and Bury, is expected to have attracted interest from Sky Bet Championship clubs.

While Appleton knows United do not have the financial resources to compete with clubs in the second tier, he is hoping the prospect of regular football for a player who has started fewer than 40 senior games outweighs the pay cut.

He said: “I felt we were very good to Conor and looked after him very well.

“We gave him an opportunity to almost resurrect his career, because he is 24.

“He took that with both hands and did fantastically well.

“I suppose he’s got to make a decision whether he earns more money and finds himself a possible Championship club at the risk of maybe not playing every week, or being one of the more important players in a League One side where he gets the opportunity to hopefully further his career anyway.

“I say this to a lot of those type of players who score and create goals that sometimes having a couple of fantastic seasons for a League One club enables you to miss the Championship out.”

McAleny’s decision also looks set to have an impact on United’s approach with Chris Maguire.

The Scot, who finished last season as the club’s top-scorer with a career-best 17 goals, is out of contract this summer.

He remains a potential option, but after negotiations took two months to conclude last year, a quick resolution is not expected.

Chairman Darryl Eales, when asked about Maguire’s position after this week’s AGM, said: “I think Chris Maguire would love to stay.

“The decision on him depends on where we get to with Conor McAleny.”