CROSS Keys could find themselves on the brink of relegation from the Principality Premiership after tomorrow’s must-win clash with Newport at Rodney Parade (kick-off 2.30pm).

With four fixtures remaining, Keys are odds-on to go down, and defeat to the Black and Ambers plus victories for Bridgend, Bedwas and Llanelli would all but leave them stranded.

They currently sit 14th, 18 points adrift of Llanelli in the first guaranteed safe spot, and 17 behind Bedwas, who would face Pontypool in a play-off should things stay as they are.

Tiaan Loots’ first-half dismissal away to Llandovery last time out put paid to any hopes of a Keys triumph at Church Bank, with the Drovers eventually running out 43-21 winners.

“The scoreline didn’t really reflect the whole game,” said head coach Morgan Stoddart.

“Llandovery scored a couple of tries from first phase possession, which is something they can always do with their backs.

"On the whole, I was pretty pleased with the way the boys performed and dug in, especially after having a player sent off 20 minutes in.”

Despite his side’s beleaguered position, Stoddart is not prepared to throw in the towel just yet.

“Obviously, mathematically, staying up is still possible, but we know we’re right up against it,” he added.

“One win can change your fortunes, but we’ll probably need three out of four and we’ve got some tough games left.

“It’s looking unlikely, but if we do go down it won’t be for the want of trying.”

Looking ahead to this weekend’s Gwent derby, he continued: “The players shouldn’t need to be motivated for a game like this, it’s easy to get up for.

“It’s a great place to play rugby and the boys should go out and enjoy it.

“I can’t see Newport taking their eye off the ball. They’ll want to win the derby and kick Cross Keys while we are down.”

Newport chief Craig Warlow, who announced this week that he will step down as head coach at the end of the season, insists the hosts can’t let Keys’ predicament affect them.

“Keys are in a dark hole,” he said. “It’s not nice to see, but we’ve got to be professional and focus on what we do.

"We’ve got to be patient in possession and without the ball, and make sure we don’t cough up opportunities.

“Keys will be desperate for chances and we’ve been too generous to teams and individuals in the past.

“I was disappointed we didn’t get anything from the Merthyr game.

“I thought we played lots of good rugby, which was completely different from the week before. We’ve got to give a nod of approval to the boys who started.”

Elsewhere, Bridgend entertain RGC 1404, Llanelli host Swansea, Bedwas go to Ebbw Vale, and Bargoed, in a similar position to Keys, visit leaders Merthyr.