COACH Saul Nelson admits that Cross Keys are suffering from a relegation hangover but believes their young squad's appetite for learning gives them a shot at avoiding the drop from the Championship, writes Chris Kirwan.

The Pandy Park side were one of four clubs to go down from the Premiership last season and the amount of departures in a summer of change has led to them starting the current campaign slowly.

Keys have lost all four fixtures and head to title hopefuls Bargoed, the last team they beat in league rugby on January 19, this weekend.

South Wales Argus:

Their cause is not helped by an injury to prop Richard Cornock with the club legend, one of their few experienced players, set to be out for another month with a hand injury.

Keys are realistic and recognise that avoiding the bottom four and retaining their Championship status is prime target.

"The results have not been what we wanted but we have to take into consideration where we are as players and coaches," said Nelson, the former Bristol, Exeter and London Welsh hooker who joined Morgan Stoddart's management team this summer.

"We only have a handful of players that were at the club last season but I still think there has been a bit of a hangover even though 95 per cent of the squad are new.

"A lot of them are young in their rugby journeys and haven't played at this level but they are definitely moving in the right direction.

"Last Saturday's game against Glamorgan Wanderers could have gone either way and we are riding out some bad luck at the moment.

"The boys are training well on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we just have to help them to get better game to game and for them to not repeat their mistakes.

"We are remaining positive and there will be times when the ball bounces our way."

Last season Bargoed took the spoils on home soil 20-13 before Keys earned revenge with an 18-17 win at the start of the year.

"We know that it will be a tough encounter and there are no expectations on us," said Nelson, who is head of rugby at Filton College. "Everyone expects Bargoed to beat us comfortably but the boys are positive."

The Bulls suffered the disappointment of a draw at Cardiff Met on opening weekend but have since climbed to third with convincing wins against Maesteg Quins, Glamorgan Wanderers and Tata Steel.

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Pontypool are leading the way after a super start to the defence of their title and they entertain Trebanos.

Pooler faced a stern test of their promotion credentials with a home encounter against Neath and trip to Narberth.

They came through with flying colours, hammering the Welsh All Blacks 59-5 and the Otters 50-8.

The size of those successes will have shortened the odds of Leighton Jones' men winning a fourth crown on the spin and finally returning to the Premiership.

Bedwas have also enjoyed a perfect start to the campaign, although they trail Pooler by two points after having to battle to away victories at Beddau and Neath.

This weekend they entertain a Narberth side smarting from their hammering by Pooler, which was the men from the Lewis Lloyd Ground's first loss of the league campaign.

Fixtures: Bargoed v Cross Keys, Bedwas v Narberth, Cardiff Met v Neath, Glamorgan Wanderers v Beddau, Maesteg Quins v Ystalyfera, Pontypool v Trebanos, Tata Steel v Ystrad Rhondda.