A CHANCE to establish a genuine Merit League title challenge will present itself to Swindon Town U18s this morning as they welcome league leaders Southend United to Stanley Park in Chippenham (11am).

A draw against former pace-setters AFC Wimbledon last weekend has placed David Farrell’s youngsters three points short of today’s opponents, with a game in hand.

Dependant on last night’s result between Stevenage and Oxford United, a win could even see Town go top of the table on goal difference.

A training approach largely focused on consistency has helped Town’s cause, according to manager Farrell – who has been pleased with progress in the second part of this season.

He said: “With ourselves and Wimbledon dropping points, it allowed Southend to go to the top of the league.

“It will be another tough game this morning. If the boys continue to listen to us and apply themselves on the training ground, then the performance should be consistent, as it has been in the last few weeks.

“Southend are a strong side, they’ve got some talented players in there that will be pushing for professional contracts.

“They’re well organised and pass the ball well. I look forward to every Saturday now, it’s the best day of the week.”

Current second-year scholars’ contracts for the future are yet to be confirmed, although Farrell remains in regular discussion with members of Town’s first-team staff.

Ralph Graham and Luke Haines have proven themselves as consistent performers this season, but Farrell stated no player has stood ‘head and shoulders’ above the entire squad.

He added: “Ralph (Graham) is playing very well at the moment, as is Luke (Haines).

“Aside from Sam (Smith) having a world class game last Saturday, there has been consistency amongst all the players.

“No one has really stood out and been heads and shoulders above the rest. All the players are performing to a decent level at the moment, that’s probably what is getting us decent results.

“There is no set date, really (on contract decisions).

“It’s about keeping in touch with first-team staff and people above that. Decisions will be made eventually, but there is no set date.”