SWINDON Town's U18s will be looking to maintain their 100 per cent Merit League record on Saturday when making the short trip to face Oxford United today (11am).

Alan McLoughlin’s youngsters sit joint top of Merit League One with Exeter City after beating Luton and Stevenage – both games on the road – in their opening fixtures.

A postponement due to the snow against Gillingham last weekend halted Town’s progress, but they return to action against an in-form Oxford side.

McLoughlin, who watched his Town youngsters suffer a 4-0 defeat against an experienced Plymouth side in a reserve game on Tuesday, expects their rivals to field a strong team.

He said: “They (Oxford) normally put out their strongest side possible.

“It will be a good test after a physical game against men on Tuesday. But we matched Stevenage physically last time which was important.”

A lack of fully-fit first team players has forced McLoughlin to use the depth of his youth squad for Town’s reserve games.

And while the reserves sit bottom of the Central League, the club’s U18s are flying high in the Merit League following a successful regular season campaign in the Merit League.

McLoughlin said: “We have some talented young players, it’s about taking our time with them and developing them at the right pace where possible.

“Our performances and results show we have a capable youth team.

“On Tuesday we played six first-year scholars, one first-year pro and the rest were second-year players.

“They’re playing men, and it’s great experience for them.

“It was similar for me at Manchester United. We used to play the first team every Thursday and they didn’t hold back just because we were 16.

“You had to learn to cope with the physicality, otherwise your time at the club would be limited. I said that to the players after Tuesday’s game.

“I told them not to worry about the result. If they improve by one or two per cent from anything we’ve said to them then it’s a positive.”

Scott Twine, who was recalled by Town following a loan spell at Chippenham, didn’t play on Tuesday against Plymouth due to first team training commitments while Joe Romanski played 82 minutes and it is possible both youngsters will feature in Town’s 16-man squad for today’s first team game against Cheltenham.

McLoughlin added: “Scott was down to play on Tuesday but Matt (Taylor) needed him for training. They’re thin on the ground.

“It’s why I took Joe (Romanski) off too, in case he was needed for the weekend.

“Also, players want experience. Jay Digweed has worked very hard and been patient. Harry Drag too.

“They’re being exposed to aggressive football and it’s important to drip feed them this knowledge so they’re prepared for next year’s games.”