IAN Lenagan says he will not allow any immediate concerns over Oxford United’s promotion challenge to interfere with the job of finding the right manager for the long-term.

It is five weeks since Chris Wilder left to join Northampton Town, when the U’s chairman made it clear there would be no rush to appoint a successor.

While the side were getting results under caretaker manager Mickey Lewis, there was little concern among supporters.

But after picking up just one point from their last three games, United have slipped five points adrift of the automatic promotion places.

A top-three finish remains the target for Lenagan, but speaking after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Rochdale, he stressed there would be no knee-jerk reactions.

“Obviously it’s important we carry on and attempt in the 12 remaining games to get the promotion that we want,” the U’s owner said.

“Whilst I want promotion this season, just the same way as every Oxford fan does, the long-term appointment of the right manager is more important and that’s what we are going to do.

“There’s no deflection because of Saturday, which isn’t to say it’s not very important and high in my priorities, but I’m more concerned to get the right manager.”

There was little detail about what stage the search had reached and whether any interviews had taken place already, with Lenagan only saying that the club were “more than 50 per cent” through the hunt.

United do appear to have drawn up a shortlist of candidates from the 60 who applied for the job.

They will be supplemented by contacting other targets already in employment, which is where the process is at the moment.

“You naturally put together a list of people who are in higher level clubs and who are capable of managing a club like Oxford United,” Lenagan said.

“That’s what we call the proactive list, because we know, without them even applying, from our research they are the type of people we are interested in.

“They are not necessarily names that fans would instantly think about.”

Lewis, who has now been in charge for eight games, is a candidate.

He retains the backing of the board, but keeping United’s top-three hopes alive will determine whether he is still in the hot-seat at the end of the season.

Lenagan said: “Mickey Lewis stays in charge until we appoint a new manager.

“If that’s in two weeks, four weeks’ time or indeed at the end of the season.

“It will only be at the end of the season if Mickey gets us back on the winning trail, obviously.

“But one swallow doesn’t make a summer and one horrible, dreadful afternoon, because that’s what this (Rochdale) has been, doesn’t deflect us from doing the process properly.”