SWINDON Town under 18s manager David Farrell says his side have their eyes firmly fixed on winning the Merit League ahead of the competition’s first game on Saturday.

Town host Portsmouth at Chippenham’s Stanley Park aiming to kick their campaign off with a victory as they look to go one step further than their equivalents managed last term.

Swindon could have won the Merit League last season but fell on the final day to arch-rivals Oxford United after a 3-0 defeat, handing Southend United the title.

But after finishing their Youth Alliance League campaign in fine form with a 3-0 victory over Newport County, before warming up for the next round with a 4-0 win over Queens Park Rangers, Farrell is tasking his side with picking up where they left off against Pompey on Saturday.

He said: “We know it will be a bit tougher now, but our mentality doesn’t change and neither does what we set out to do.

“Everything in terms of the planning stays the same, it’s just that the games are a bit harder now.

“The guys really want to win this league because it’s big kudos to winning the Merit League.

“We learn something every year as coaches, but we’re improving every week and we’re still on a good run anyway.

“Hopefully we can take that form into the Merit League and see how we go.”

In the pair’s Youth Alliance League clashes, both home teams won out in their respective matches.

Pompey won 3-2 in September before Ollie Case, Anthony Lynn and Harry Parsons wrapped up victory for Town in late November.

Farrell knows there is not much to choose between his side and their counterparts ability wise, therefore he knows it is likely to come down to who has the superior mentality on the day.

He said: “Portsmouth beat us at their place in the Youth Alliance and we beat them at our place, so we know it will be a hard game.

“But they’re all going to be hard games now – that’s what this league is all about.

“The five top sides from each division means every game is going to be a challenge.

“It’s a good league to have at this time of year, and everyone is just looking forward to playing in proper games now.”