SWINDON Town Under 18s will face their biggest challenge this afternoon when hosting Exeter City in their final Youth Alliance South West Division fixture before the league breaks in half.

Eight wins, three draws and eight losses mean Town sit fifth in the table, six points clear of seventh-placed Bristol Rovers, who occupy the highest bottom-half position, but have two games in hand.

A win for Dave Farrell’s youngsters today would require Rovers to win all three of their concluding league games to knock Swindon into the division’s bottom half – and force them to play in the competition’s lower tier for the second part of the season.

However, a loss against the Grecians would mean Rovers would require just six points to overhaul Town, while Cheltenham Town – who sit sixth – would need just two points to secure their position in the top half.

Under 18s boss Farrell recognises the importance of the tie, and has called on his players to improve their consistency.

He said: “Consistency is often the difference between top and bottom. There’s not a huge difference between teams in terms of ability.

“We’ll be playing different teams in the second part of the season, and that’s always good for experience.

“It’s good experience to get on the training ground and work on different teams. We’re looking forward to it.”

Naturally, players are keen to secure full-time professional contracts with the club amid their Youth Alliance commitments.

But Farrell insists focussing on short-term targets – including securing their place on the teamsheet – is key to aid their development.

Farrell said: “Securing a contract is something that’s always on their mind.

“We’re trying to focus them on their short-term goals.

“Getting their name in the team for the next game is what they should be aiming for.”

Town’s youngsters have perhaps rescued their season with four wins from their last six league games.

A 2-0 win over Forest Green Rovers to start 2019 pleased Farrell, who praised on his side’s battling ability as Mass Giamattei and Sonny Haynes got the goals.

Farrell added: “The performance is the most important, and it was battling rather than spectacular.

“We played some good football in the second half and defended very well against some good attacking players.

“That battling element is a sign of good development – it’s something we try and install in their game early.

“That certainly helped us get the result.”