Oxford United's official statement read: "Having had time to consider the Oxford United situation during a period away in Spain, Jim Smith has recommended to the Board that the time is right - before this season's promotion opportunity disappears - to make a change in first team manager. Nick Merry and Ian Lenagan have accepted Jim's recommendation and, as a result, Jim has stepped down with immediate effect and Darren Patterson has been appointed as manager.

Nick Merry, United's chairman< said: "We have always maintained that Jim Smith would put the interests of the club before his own and decide when it was time for him to step down as manager and concentrate on his director's role full-time. "Whilst Jim still feels there is a good chance that he could turn the season round, his experience has led him to recommend that a change in manager now is more likely to produce the required result."

Nick continued: "We respect and thank Jim Smith for his efforts for Oxford United and look forward to his future with us as a long-standing and valued member of the Main Board."

Darren Patterson takes over as Manager with immediate effect reporting to the Board and will have his first match in charge of the current First Team squad on Saturday. Discussions have started as to his Assistant but may not be concluded for some weeks.

Jim Smith said: "Managing in The Conference is very different than at the higher levels and, consequently, has been more difficult, less enjoyable personally and unfortunately less successful than I would have liked for the Oxford United supporters. We came very close last season but not close enough. I feel the time is right for Darren to have the opportunity to manage the team in his own way and I'm delighted to be asked to continue to contribute to Oxford United as a Director helping with overall strategy."

Nick Merry, Chairman added: "Concern about performances has caused many Oxford United fans to call for this change. Results and - particularly - reduced attendances have become a serious financial concern to all the Board including Jim. Having made the change, we would ask Oxford United fans to demonstrate in the most significant way their commitment to the Club by attending in large numbers starting with tomorrow's important FA Cup game."