By Tony Leighton
Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway is targeting automatic promotion after a long awaited away win, a hard-earned 1-0 Friday night success at Derby County, put his team within two points of the npower Championship's top two.
The Eagles' victory was their first on the road in 10 matches stretching back to 10th November, a week after Holloway took over following the departure of previous boss Dougie Freedman to Bolton Wanderers.
Winger Yannick Bolasie hit the only goal of the game but a superb performance by goalkeeper Julian Speroni, whose late penalty save from striker Conor Sammon assured the visitors of all three points, was the key to victory.
"Our goalkeeper was inspired," said Holloway. "He was absolutely outstanding and he was the difference. He got his body in the way of at least two shots they should have scored with. To do well you need a good goalie and he proved that.
"Derby probably deserved better than they got, but we've got to take that after the way things have gone against us in some of our away games. We looked a bit nervous at times, me included, but it's so nice to get that monkey off your back.
"This away win has come at the perfect time because we've got two fantastic home games coming up [against third in the table Hull City and Play-Off hopefuls Leeds United] and our home form has been excellent."
Palace's home form is indeed excellent - only leaders Cardiff City have collected more home points than Holloway's team and, with six of their remaining 11 matches at Selhurst Park, automatic promotion is within their grasp.
The Eagles have won their last three home games and Holloway added: "We've got all the teams around us to play, all at home and not away, and whether that works with our home form at the minute who knows?
"We needed that win tonight, it underpins a bit more confidence and it will give our boys a lot of belief. We've got an extra day to rest for the game against Hull on Tuesday and with this result we've put pressure on the teams above us.
"We've had a little spell where we've drawn and not won as many games as we did before, but this result might mean we've turned the corner. Now we start again, we're in on Sunday getting ready for Tuesday and I'm loving all this.
"I'm excited because we've got 11 games left and we're in with a shout for automatic promotion, which is fantastic for everybody at the club. Even if we hadn't got this result tonight I'd still be buzzing because of what's ahead.
"It's now about believing in yourselves and being able to produce a performance when you need to. It's also about getting some fortune - and if this game tonight is an indicator of that then we might be on the right lines."
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