OXFORD United’s season rests on winning at Port Vale tomorrow – but manager Chris Wilder does not yet have a goalkeeper to select.

A frantic search has taken place this week and a deal is expected before the end of the day – with the U’s believed to be closing in on a signing from the Premier League last night.

First-choice stopper Ryan Clarke is still out with an abdominal injury and his deputy Wayne Brown underwent a knee operation yesterday.

Connor Ripley was recruited at late notice from Middlesbrough last week, but the teenager was at fault for the first goal in Southend United’s 2-0 win at the Kassam Stadium.

Wilder released the youngster back to the Championship club this week.

With youth team goalkeeper Max Crocombe not deemed ready for first-team action, the U’s need an emergency replacement on the eve of their crucial final game, which they must win to have any chance of reaching the npower League Two play-offs.

U’s boss Chris Wilder has contacted a host of top-flight clubs to find a signing, with Arsenal’s Manuel Almunia one target they have missed out on.

He said: “It’s obviously a massive game and ideally someone with experience of league football is who we’d look to bring in.

“We have a fantastic relationship with Arsenal, but unfortunately Almunia had something happen on a personal level that stopped him coming.

“The top clubs have been fantastic. We’ve had conversations with Sir Alex (Ferguson) and Arsenal – Manuel expressed an interest to play, but sadly he’s got an issue which he needs to take care of.”

It is the second game in a row United have been faced with the problem, with Brown injured in training last Friday.

Ripley travelled down on the train that night and only met his teammates hours before kick-off last week, something Wilder does not want repeated.

He said: “It’s a pressure-cooker situation and you’re going in with a kid.

“We had to do that last week because our hand was forced, we made countless calls and were unfortunate on two or three players.”